When London’s Dishoom restaurant was opening a new location in Shoreditch, OgilvyOne UK helped to develop a way to incorporate the sense of shared history inherent in the Irani-style cafe with a series of dishes designed with personal stories.

The Yazdani bakery in Mumbai has been selling handmade baked goods since 1953.

Each of the plates at Dishoom is adorned with a tale submitted online. “Whilst we couldn’t fill the tables with the characters from the old cafes we found a way to fill them with their wonderful stories,” Emma DeLaFosse, executive creative director, OgilvyOne UK says.

These Irani cafes were hubs for time spent socializing over delicious, authentic food. Here’s Cafe B. Merwan & Co.

“Black text and line drawings were deliberately selected to juxtapose the color of the food,” DeLaFosse says.

The lively interior scene at Cafe Brittania.

Of the hundreds of online entries, 80 memories were chosen to adorn Dishoom’s plain white plates in various shapes and styles--and there’s still a spot on the site to design your own.

Cafe Kyani & Co.

Ultra-encouragement to join the clean plate club--a story at the end of the meal.

Good times at Cafe Olympia.

Co.Design

Dinner Plates That Make Personal Histories Part Of The Meal

OgilvyOne UK devised a unique way for people to share their stories at a new restaurant in London.

Cafe culture is a strange breed these days. In San Francisco you’ll see as many Macbooks as people at most joints; conversing is, of course, allowed, but most folks are focused on a screen of some sort, sitting alone—or together—and scrolling, scrolling, scrolling. In Bombay, the Irani cafes that once flourished as laid-back hubs of genuine social interaction—long chats, delicious nibbles—have all but disappeared, with locations dwindling to the low 30s (down from nearly 400 less than a century ago).

London’s Dishoom restaurant in Covent Garden modeled its approach to dining after these traditional spots—a comfortable place to while away an afternoon. When it was time to open a new branch in Shoreditch, the owners wanted a way to capture the sense of convivial community in a unique way, so they called upon the gang at OgilvyOne UK to come up with something that would contribute to an “authentic” shared experience. “Whilst we couldn’t fill the tables with the characters from the old cafes we found a way to fill them with their wonderful stories,” Emma DeLaFosse, executive creative director, OgilvyOne UK tells Co.Design.

They set up a site where people could submit their own personal tales: of go-to raspberry sodas, of bhurji so spicy it would make you cry, of charmingly grumpy proprietors. Of the hundreds of entries, 80 special memories were chosen to adorn Dishoom’s plain white plates in various shapes and styles. “Black text and line drawings were deliberately selected to juxtapose the color of the food,” DeLaFosse says.

Bummed you missed your chance to divulge a cherished memory? There’s still a spot on the site to design your own, and hey—if it’s compelling enough, someone else might enjoy a meal over your very words at Dishoom someday.

(h/t Creative Review)

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