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‘when culture meets catering’  

The theatre world stands on the verge of great challenges. How can the theatre safeguard its position in the world of leisure and entertainment and remain appealing to its audience? The selection of leisure time activities is going through impressive changes; globalisation and digital developments are impacting our society enormously. Internet is the doorway to a world that is becoming increasingly ‘smaller’. We have access to the worldwide web whenever and wherever we want and have news, information and entertainment at our fingertips.

This means that entertainment is always available at our own convenience. People are no longer bound by theatre show starting times for example. This provides enormous freedom, since every individual can decide to take relaxation when, in whatever form and at the hour they want. This individualisation also brings new challenges. Given that every individual can arrange their lives around their choice of leisure time activities for example, it creates the risk that people will become isolated. Every change creates new developments, action is reaction. Of course, this freedom of choice in leisure activities presents countless possibilities, after all humans are social creatures. It is precisely the interaction with other people that is important for the development and the well-being of the individual. For humans, partnerships or marriage and having a family are crucially important to happiness. Joint activities and especially friendships are deemed, by the majority of people, to be the most important factors for happiness. So as well as freedom of individual choice, participating in group experiences is enormously important. 

Catering facility in the Deventer Schouwburg: the adage: ‘see and be seen’

That is why the cultural world, in which the theatre performs an important role, should certainly respond to those needs. Theatres should offer more than just the facilitation of the programming.
Museums with window displays in the facade, theatres with transparent rehearsal rooms and cultural buildings where the partitions between the interior and exterior are eliminated as far as possible and where people would happily spend the whole day.

As it now stands, we have excessively tucked away art in impenetrable boxes. Since: ‘Theatre is performed in a black box and visual art hangs on snow white walls.’

Theatres should not be impenetrable establishments but should be more a continuation of public spaces; with low-thresholds and various facilities appealing to the needs of people seeking entertainment. ‘You must of course acknowledge that theatres and pop music need black boxes, places for the concentration that performances or concerts require.

As architects, we hold the opinion that the surrounding spaces and the connection to the rest of the city should be designed in such a way that they become exciting places that evoke curiosity about what’s going on inside.

Transparent façade of the Chassé Theatre Breda – the Netherlands


Catering plays a significant role within this philosophy and can contribute to the distinctive positioning of the theatres; by using hospitality formulas that are aligned to the theatres and that function as additional, unique selling propositions. In turn, the hospitality formulas can make use of the positioning of the theatres; a complete, mutually reinforcing concept.

We recognise these opportunities in our theatre architecture and strive to bring the experience and emotions from within the black box to the forefront, visible and accessible. Seeing and being seen is the motto for theatres and their hospitality formulas. Going out for dinner is one of the many possible leisure activities and what could be more appealing than being part of the cultural program. A cabaret performer in the Netherlands once said: ‘More theatre is performed in the foyers than on the boards’. By utilising the ambience and qualities of the theatres and giving the food and beverage formulas well-considered interpretations then the catering and the theatres will reinforce each other. In the design for the Brasserie for the Chassé Theatre in Breda we used the theatre’s added values and applied them to the interior architecture.

The Brasserie has a centrally placed bar, positioned as a centre piece in the space and with seating grouped around it. Part of the space is raised so it can also be used as a stage. The theatrical aspect has been translated into a variety of light fixtures positioned above the bar turning slowly until they disappear into the pantry, so the space is continually changing. The light fixtures are the props in the theatre show performed by the catering employees and guests.

Brasserie light fixtures positioned above the bar turning slowly

Experience restrooms as a part of the theatre concept

Another challenge is using the theatre buildings more intensively. So not only when there are performances but also at other times. The theatres can benefit in this way by opening during the daytime and making their hospitality facilities available. The foyers could be locations for corporate presentations, debates and also, predominantly, as open stages where upcoming talent can present themselves. Theatres can offer opportunities for students and the corporate world to get together, hold meetings or share knowledge in, for example, ‘seats to meet’ types of settings. Theatres should facilitate fast wireless internet and become special, inspiring meeting places .Theatres are generally easily accessible, centrally located and have sufficient parking facilities. In short, offering ample opportunities.

Catering can perform an important role, for example with breakfast and lunch provisions. The challenge lies in choosing a well-thought out product mix, distinctive from other venues. For example, by using unexpected combinations, nothing too complicated but certainly special. For the food and beverage concept for the expansion of the foyer in the Chassé Theatre they opted for a food experience by positioning the chef centrally at the bar: front cooking. 

Front cooking: positioning the chef centrally at the bar

The dishes are various snacks inspired by ‘street food’ that can be bought on streets around the world. All dishes are offered at the same price. The various dishes hang on the lamps in the interior. 

The theatre world will have to change. Art has become alienated from society, also literally: we have hidden art away in black and white boxes. If you improve the architecture then the public will feel more connected and proud of the culture created within. I believe that a large proportion of people’s engagement is determined by buildings and their appearances. The total concept: whereby the architecture, the programming and use of the theatres and the hospitality formulas are all components for determining success. Unique and distinctive and appealing to a broad audience. An apparent contradiction, however, lies precisely in the challenges within the theatre world for architects, designers and food & beverage concept creators, ‘when culture meets catering’ ●

Ticketbox Chassé Theatre Breda, open from 10 am until 10 pm


Deventer Schouwburg

Chassé Theater Breda

Chassé Theater Breda - Front Lounge

Theater de Leest Waalwijk
Beeldmerk M+R
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