When Doris Hager enters a restaurant, food might be the last thing on her mind.
As an interior designer, she notices everything from the location and surrounding businesses to the details on the ceiling.
Founder and principal of Hager Design International (HDI), Hager BSHE ’80 has made a name for herself in the hospitality design industry. Based in Vancouver, British Columbia, her design firm helps clients marry their business identities with their space presentation.
“The beauty about hospitality design is that it’s not personal,” she says. “It’s not someone’s house where there’s an attachment. It’s very creative, and there’s always something new to learn.”
Residential design often caters to a homeowner’s styles and preferences. Hospitality design decisions, on the other hand, are largely business driven. Companies trust that Hager and her team will not only make smart financial choices, but that those choices will contribute to the success of the company, its customers, and its employees.
“Trust is the key to any business relationship,” she says. “There’s so much riding on their trust in us. It’s not just their revenue; it’s their reputation. It’s their jobs.”
Before a single coat of paint is applied, Hager’s team produces detailed drawings that consider building code, egress, safety, and overall space planning.
“We are always fighting the stigma that interior designers are just ‘decorators,’” she says. “We’re not interior architects, but we’re highly technical.”
Hager has worked with hundreds of brands, including Marriott, Johnny Rockets, and Fairmont Hotels and Resorts. And her hard work is paying off.
In 2021, HDI became the first international company to land a spot on the Bulldog 100 list as one of the fastest-growing businesses owned or operated by University of Georgia alumni.
“I’m thrilled to be recognized among so many other successful businesses,” she says. “I have very fond memories of my days at UGA.”
The beauty about hospitality design is that it’s not personal. It’s not someone’s house where there’s an attachment. It’s very creative, and there’s always something new to learn.” — Doris Hager, founder of Hager Design International, the first business based outside the United States to make UGA’s Bulldog 100
Among those memories is a final project she submitted for an interior design course that piqued her interest in hospitality design. She laughs when recalling the floor plan she created as an undergraduate.
“I was so proud of the work at the time. But thinking back, the tables and chairs were so far apart that you could drive a truck through them!”
Hager has come a long way since her days on campus. And while her work spans Canada and the U.S., Georgia is never too far out of mind. Born in Canada, she spent her teenage and early adult years in Georgia and still regularly visits family in Augusta.
“It still feels like home,” she says.