Developing the first food hall in Toronto with a dozen local chefs
Toronto has many food courts, but no food halls. We took a two-pronged approach to our research. Firstly, we fully immersed ourselves in the city, its people and their love for Toronto over a summer to learn what makes the city tick. Secondly, we mapped global precedents of food halls around the world and uncovered design and operational insights.
At its core, the concept of Assembly is authentically connected to Toronto and tapped into culture as a chef-driven, art-forward group dining experience. Through a considered approach to design, the space fosters discovery, and simultaneously invites people to stay and enjoy delicious local food. Assembly lowers the barriers to entry for a downtown business, and enlivens a formally 9-5 only streetscape.
PLANNING & DESIGN
We set forth on a mission to create an all day dining experience centered around the customer, the chef, and the staff through user journey mapping. Unlike a food court, kitchens at Assembly are designed to fit each chef rather than a lifeless box. The furniture invites people to linger and enjoy good food and fun drinks, year round.
We partnered with Jiani Lu, Toronto-based graphic design, to create Assembly’s brand. She applied our concept and our name to a space where community meets culture, and shifts seamlessly between uses. The logo relates to the concept, signifying a community of people coming together. And its application was cohesive, spanning menu-boards, signage, wayfinding, environmental graphics and the full digital experience.
To create Assembly from the ground up, we hired designers, builders and content managers. The team was truly interdisciplinary and collaborative working from a shared brief. By managing the development of the physical space from top to bottom, we allowed the operator to focus on developing strong systems and business relationships.
The goal of Assembly’s launch was to inspire in our neighbors a great sense of pride for local chefs, artists, and community space. We set forth to tease out Assembly’s Opening Day via earned media, social content, website launch, and physical signage. These efforts helped ignite the spread of word of mouth, and excite those tapped into local cultural activities. Today, Assembly is one of the most socially engaged venues in Toronto.