When the owners of Session Kitchen in Denver opened in late October, they aimed to create a new way of dining. Adding a twist to traditional tapas, they zeroed in on the idea of consumers spending time together and sharing new foods through a “portion revolution” in which communal dishes are tailored to any number of diners. The idea: guests define their own experience, or session. To design a space that matched this mission, Creative Concept Director Lisa Ruskaup created three distinct areas under the same roof—each with its own vibe, but all drawing inspiration from the community. Using lighting to enhance the experience, she chose features to boost dine-in time and drive revenue. The result: a one-of-a-kind food and art space that reinforces the notion of gathering.
Session Kitchen features 13 original art installations, including this piece below, painted on a pillar in the upstairs Back Bowl, a bar inspired by “bowls” and half pipes at a skate park. The most intimate and most requested of the three bars, it offers a bird’s eye view of the venue below.
Bringing the outdoors in
The urban vibe of skate parks, a favorite of Denver natives, defines The Park, the largest of the three bar areas. Its communal tables, while “not universally appealing,” have proven to be popular for lunch, casual gatherings and drinks, specifically with younger guests. Service is “a bit trickier,” though, as the long high-tops function as either traditional or cocktail tables during different times of the day.
High-end experiences sell
Designed for “elevated cocktailing,” Session, a bar within a bar, is elevated about four feet inside The Park. Also elevated is its ambiance. From the marble and wood finishes to the seats, this upscale area, with a private bartender on hand to upsell, “does drive higher ticket averages, particularly from beverage sales. Guests tend to linger longer,” says Ruskaup.
Sensory elements affect mood … and spending
The light sculpture, made from 450 recycled flourescent tubes and LED strips, ties all three bar areas together. The light constantly changes color; Ruskaup found that cool colors appeal more to guests during the day, while warm colors appeal more at night. The operator also can control the speed at which colors change, slowing the light show in the evening to match the more laidback flow. The result of this attention to detail: seats in direct view of the light tend to be higher revenue seats, with guests staying longer and spending more thanks to the visual stimulation.