Design and Cultural Adaptation – 3 steps

design restaurant

Designing a commercial space requires a deep understanding of the target clientele – even more so across borders. So, in designing a space for a Montreal clientele, Saguez & Partners, a global design agency based in France, turned to ACCULTURA to learn more about Canadian, Quebec and Montreal cultural values.

Like any form of artistic expression, design is intimately linked to culture. One cannot design a space or a product without understanding the habits and behaviours of the target audience or market. The Paris-based agency, which has designed several retail spaces for major international brands such as Ritz Comptoir, Hilton, and Google, knows this. So naturally, it called on local cultural expertise to commence its work on a food court project – or food hall, as the French say – for RoyalMount, an upcoming urban development in the center of Montreal.

In this cultural consulting mandate, ACCULTURA is called upon to help the agency’s representatives seeking inspiration and authenticity Made in Quebec “live” the Montreal food experience. What a pleasure to play Canadian culture ambassador – in person, thank you very much! Especially when we are passionate about food and lifestyle trends! 

To immerse our client in the Montreal culture, we collaborated with their teams in Paris to organize and execute the mandate in 3 steps:

1) Select and visit popular restaurants, innovative boutiques and commercial spaces, collaborative workspaces, and other witnesses to the local lifestyle.

2) Plan and conduct interviews and roundtables with people from diverse experiences and perspectives.

3) Write a manifesto summarizing highlights to outline the proposed design concept master plan.

Step 1 — Select and visit pertinent and delightful addresses

Although it was challenging to identify trendy – and still functional – restaurants, shops, and businesses after a devastating pandemic, we could still extract a healthy list of must-see places. After verifying the status of each address (open or closed!), we created an itinerary of visits while considering variable opening hours, geography that spanned several neighbourhoods, and limited turnaround time.

We explored more than 30 addresses that offered a design perspective of interest and a good look at current and anticipated trends. These addresses included our iconic favourites, namely Olive & Gourmando for its enduring popularity, Crew Collective for its innovative exploitation of a magnificent historic site, the newly opened Holt Renfrew for its showcasing of luxury brands, Hotel Germain for its decidedly Montreal-esque façade, and McKiernan, welcoming newcomer to the popular Joe Beef-Vin Papillon-Liverpool House trio (world-renowned ever since a certain president elected the hangout to meet with our prime minister). A tiny sample of the lifestyle hangouts explored in Montreal, of course, but already an excellent overview of cultural perspective diversity.

Step 2 — Plan and conduct interviews and roundtables

What a delicious mandate it is to explore the city to discover its charming restaurants and beautiful businesses! And as though that was not delightful enough, we engaged in lively discussions with a distinguished line-up of guests with diverse perspectives. Organized into one-on-one interviews, panels, and roundtables, we gathered several views on the cultural aspects of the Montreal food experience and its design trends. To avoid limiting the conversation to the “native” Montrealer’s perspective, we met with locals and expats of varying ages, genders, and professions.

To the testimonies of these passionate consumers of Montreal culture, we added those of design and restaurant experts. These included the generous testimonials of renowned Quebec chef Dyan Solomon and famous Canadian fashion and lifestyle designer Jean-Claude Poitras. These exchanges allowed us to explore the perspectives and understand our target clientele’s significant trends and behaviours.

Step 3 — Writing a manifesto

To complete the process, all that remained was to put the observations and, of course, the ideas inspired by this local research on paper. This insight summary – which our French clients call manifesto – highlights the key cultural elements to consider in the food court design.

By accompanying the French agency to explore Montreal’s culture, we helped our design clients quickly and accurately immerse themselves in it.


Knowing the trends, behaviours and cultural habits of a target audience is essential to the success of any cross-border business. Contact us for more information on ACCULTURA’s cultural consulting services.


Photo: Crew collective café, Montreal by Boris Gentine




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