Office to Residential Conversion Symposium

view video

Portal: World’s Fare

  • Insights

As bigger, better, and bolder technologies emerge, unremarkable experiences are becoming obsolete. Interesting dishes and well-designed menus are hardly enough to attract diners to a restaurant anymore, let alone distinguish from the ever-growing pack. Portal is a proposition for an immersive and educational new-age restaurant concept that combines authentic global cuisines with deeply engaging augmented reality technology.


Ten weeks ago, the Streetsense summer interns of 2017 gathered together for the first time and were tasked with creating an innovative, viable, and community-oriented restaurant concept for the competitive DC market. To land on a concept that had real staying power, the intern team looked outward to identify relevant trends in the local and national food scene that could support and inspire the project.

We identified an opportunity to tap into the growing pop-up culture as it continues to garner astonishing success in the DC retail scene, with thousands of concepts popping up across the city. Likewise, restaurant diners young and old are becoming disenchanted with the overabundance of ethnically-inspired fast casual dining options and are seeking out more authentic international experiences that spark meaningful intercultural exchange. Finally, decades of research and development have brought augmented reality technology into the mainstream, with these technologies being applied in a variety of inspiring ways. With these foundational market trends in mind, an imaginative project idea emerged:

Portal is a regularly-rotating community restaurant and bar serving authentic international cuisine and immersive global experiences.

For three months at a time, Portal hones in on a specific country, its cuisine, and its traditions, sharing the rich cultures most have never experienced. To fully immerse diners into each location, Portal pairs inspired meals with the latest spatial augmented reality technology to transport patrons across the globe using stunning 360-degree video projections.

To understand more about each element of the concept, read on for some thoughts from each member of the intern team who made Portal a (virtual) reality.

Nick Shafik On Brand

Establishing a strong and compelling brand identity for the concept laid the foundation for the rest of the project. To differentiate the concept and develop its identity, the brand pillars highlighted the authentic, empathetic, and forward-facing elements of the Portal experience. Portal’s brand story gave the restaurant a distinct voice that engages directly with the audience.

Marissa Nicholas On Logo + Name

When exploring different name options for the concept, we wanted the name to embody the international, technological and transportational aspects of the restaurant, ultimately landing on the name Portal. We presented our client with four different logo options, each offering a distinct direction for the restaurant. In the end we chose a logo that complemented the interior architecture of the space while reflecting the change in perspective that diners will experience inside the restaurant.


Joel Cooper On Marketing Strategy

We created an incredibly exciting and unique concept and brand, and the marketing strategy was focused on translating that vision outwards to consumers and the media. A brand launch campaign would primarily use earned media to spread the word about Portal, while a consumer launch campaign would focus on social media to build buzz and ensure a long line out the door on opening night.

Denine Cheesman On Potential Sites

We spent a full day of immersion conducting site visits to potential restaurant locations across DC. The first site was located in Petworth, a neighborhood whose diverse demographic makeup is often reflected in its restaurant offerings. The second was located at The Shay, surrounded by considerable new development and adjacent to the bustling nightlife of the U Street corridor. The third site, also located in Shaw, was nestled in City Market at O. We clearly had three solid options.

Samuel Spikell On Financial Feasibility

We prepared a feasibility analysis to determine which site would work best for our concept. We worked with Adam Williamowsky from Eat + Drink to better understand what we would need to incorporate into our restaurant design to make it economically viable.

Andy Seguin On Site Selection

It is also important to understand the market conditions before identifying a suitable site location. To achieve a better understanding, we defined trade areas, performed neighborhood demographic analyses, and performed accessibility studies. With this information we were able to select the site at The Shay as the best location for our concept. Our restaurant now had a home.

Monica Medrano On Customer Journey

Interior architects are constantly considering the users — their comfort level, how they interact and engage, and how accessible their needs are in the given space. By utilizing our individual experiences and prior knowledge, we were able to simulate what some of our customer’s reactions may be in our space.




Maria Manzek On Floor Plans

Nailing down the design concept of this open forum allowed us to focus our efforts on creating a completely uninterrupted, totally immersive restaurant experience. We placed a high importance on the customer journey, defining unique areas and touch points within this space which individually seek to enhance the brand pillars of this concept. The stunning 360-degree views, modern yet artisanal finishes, and community activation points all seek to provide diners with an authentic, cultural experience.


Luke McLindon On Renderings

In translating our strong brand identity to the built environment, we thought it would be most beneficial to focus on a singular concept in our visualizations – Hong Kong. The primary focus of the renderings was giving a look and feel to the spaces. The watercolor treatment of those renderings allowed us to produce the renderings within the short time constraints of the project.


Portal is redefining the restaurant experience, offering signature tastes that transport, one bite at a time.



You’re in!

"Thank you for choosing to receive updates from across our global creative collective of placeshapers, brandbuilders, and storytellers. Learn more about Streetsense."

be in the know