Modern design of a restaurant car


The LINK service design team was show what they are made of when they were invited to breathe new life into a cornerstone of Finnish travel, the VR restaurant car.

The result was the world’s first two-storey restaurant car. Our service design focused on the user, with customer and employee experiences at the core.

VR’s wish was to offer its customers new experiences in the restaurant car and to provide a more modern and flexible service. Our development brief was to enable VR to better meet the various passenger needs and to improve the conditions for work, service and maintenance. The green colour in the interior design came from VR’s new green look, while environmental values were our guideline when designing energy solutions and recycling.

Involving users in the design process

The project was based on focus on the user, remodelling of the services and developing the customer experience. For this reason, we invited different user groups, employees and the car manufacturer Transtech to participate in the process.

Background interviews revealed that a practical layout and adaptability to different passenger needs are key aspects in the design. The design focused on three core elements: the working employees, the moving customers and the practical aspect of service and maintenance operations.

Two levels of services

As a result of our design work, we created the DuettoPlus restaurant concept, the world’s first two-storey restaurant car. We make good use of the two levels when serving different customer groups from business travellers to holidaymakers.

We designed a new café bar on the lower floor. To add flexibility and ease busy times, we added a kiosk near the entrance. Upstairs, we created a new service concept, the DuettoPlus passenger compartment to meet the different customer needs. Features include turning single seats that are great for socialising or admiring the views in peace. For business travellers, we designed a private meeting room with seating for 12.

Plywood model used in testing

In order to conduct user testing and facility assessments, we applied our product development expertise at LINK and used plywood to build a robust model in line with the concept. Later, we used it as a support for technical 3D design.

The testing phase lasted six months in total, and the participants included sales staff from Avecra, the restaurant service provider; loaders; conductors; train cleaning staff and representatives from maintenance. As well as passengers recruited via the VR loyalty programme, representatives of a disability organisation tested the restaurant car. Based on the tests, we developed the space and dimensions further.

Top experiences on rails

Once the base model was finished, LINK designed tailor-made solutions for the restaurant car, along with a unique interior, with the materials and signs manifesting the green look of VR. Ecological values are highlighted by the reduced energy consumption that was achieved through solutions, such as the aluminium frame of the car and the LED lighting used inside the car.

Recycling and sorting of waste, the use of porcelain tableware and biodegradable takeaway cups also promote the environmental values.

In 2014 and 2015, we handed over to VR 26 restaurant cars. Restaurant cars providing top-of-the-range service enhance the VR brand and improve the customer experience of different groups. The cars operate on InterCity trains, entertaining passengers from Helsinki all the way to Kemijärvi in the north.

Which tailored experiences would you like to offer your customers? Contact us to see how we can improve your services.