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Five Tips to Follow When a Restaurant Renovation is on the Menu

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Five Tips to Follow When a Restaurant Renovation is on the Menu

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Take a walk through your restaurant. Do things feel a little stale? A bit dated? Are you looking to reinvigorate the buzz it had when it first opened? The good news is that the change you need may be right in front of you: the restaurant design. Yes, it just might be time for a renovation.

According to experts in the hospitality industry, to stay relevant and profitable, a restaurant should freshen up its look every 5-7 years. Yet renovation isn’t a step to be taken lightly. Renovating a restaurant can be costly, time-consuming, and change longtime customers’ perception of the business. Carefully balancing a fresh new look while staying true to your brand will likely result in an uptick in business. However, making your restaurant unrecognizable by chasing the latest interior design trends can be detrimental.

With that said, let’s look at five basics to keep in mind when you’re deciding if a renovation is right for your restaurant – and how you should go about it.

1) Streamline Construction by Pre-planning 

Before the first drop of paint is applied to your walls, conduct some research. First, stop by nearby outlets to determine what you like and what you don’t about their designs. Search the Internet for appealing ideas on Pinterest and similar sites. Next, talk to current clients about the renovation, asking them for ideas on improving the customer experience in terms of lighting, décor and seating. Finally, before hiring a contractor, make a list of your firm non-negotiables, such as adding a larger kitchen area with new commercial-grade appliances or altering the front-of-house layout so it’s more comfortable for staff and customers to use the space.

Pre-planning is the time to establish your total renovation budget, from A-Z, nuts and bolts. Bringing in an experienced general contractor at this point, rather than later, will help you create, manage and maintain a realistic budget. Oftentimes a contractor can “value engineer” renovation plans, pinpointing areas where you can save money on materials or processes. In addition, a qualified contractor will come up with a construction schedule that may allow you to keep the restaurant open by working only during off hours. Maintaining cash flow during a major renovation makes it possible to afford additional needed work, such as refreshing your landscaping or repaving the parking lot.

2) Know and Understand the Market 

If you don’t know who your customer is, it is impossible to design a restaurant that appeals to them. As part of the pre-planning stage, analyze demographics and trends in your local area from the past five years, at least. Are younger people moving in, gentrifying older houses, and wanting restaurants that feel exotic and out of the ordinary? Or are more families moving in, requiring additional seating and more traditional menu items? Knowing your market is critical in making informed business decisions.

3) Floors, Furnishings and Lighting 

Creating a new visual aesthetic for your restaurant is as easy as 1-2-3. One being floors, two being furnishings, and three being lighting.

  • Floors take a beating in restaurants from heavy foot traffic and spills. Invest in high-quality floors that are low maintenance yet durable, such as acrylic-infused engineered hardwoods. Traditional hardwood flooring is easy to scratch, dent or otherwise damage. Acrylic-infused hardwood, as the name suggests, is manufactured with acrylic resin, making it extremely durable as well as resistant to moisture, dents and scratches. Another great choice is natural cleft slate tiles. It is slip-resistant, rugged, and most tiles are gauged on the underside for faster, easier installation.
  • Next, let’s move on to furnishings. In theory, the more tables and chairs in your dining room mean the more money you make. However, crowding people into a dining room or bar can make for an unpleasant experience. Select a front-of-house layout and furnishings that keep guests apart so they can eat and converse comfortably. What about the mood or tone you want to communicate with the furnishings — eclectic, traditional, bold, regionally-inspired? The mood will determine what materials you ultimately select for chairs, bar stools, tabletops and more. Solid wood and stone present the highest quality in upscale establishments, while inexpensive laminate and melamine are better for casual restaurants.
  • Finally, it’s time to mull over lighting choices. There are three main kinds of lighting: ambient, task, and accent. Each type serves a different purpose in a restaurant. Ambient lighting is the main illumination source in a room consisting of both overhead fixtures and natural light. Task lighting lets your staff and customers comfortably perform functions like reading a menu. Accent lighting constructs focal points around the front-of-house area, directing attention to specific artwork or acting as decorations themselves. Talk to your contractor about each kind of lighting and how energy-efficient LED technology can save money on your utility bills.

4) Give Staff Room to Work 

When remodeling, it is natural that you factor in the needs of paying customers first. However, you should also consider the needs of your employees. Providing employees with ample space to smoothly perform their responsibilities will ensure a superior dining experience for guests. For example, install custom half-walls so servers can see guests, but the patrons won’t be distracted by the inner workings of the restaurant.

5) Choose the Right Contractor 

Your contractor can make or break the renovation. Hire the best one possible. Shop around, look at reviews, talk to past customers, and make sure you are comfortable with them and the timeline they’ve established to perform the work. The lowest bid is rarely the best. An inexperienced contractor desperate for work is virtually always prone to problems that lead to costly construction delays, expensive change orders, and administrative issues with local code requirements and obtaining the correct building permits.

There are over 600,000 food and drink establishments in the United States. Each one is fighting for customers. To compete in the restaurant business, you must stand out. Renovating your restaurant will generate excitement and help set your restaurant apart from local competition.

Cicero Construction Group is here to bring your renovation vision to life, whether you own a five-star upscale restaurant or a local sandwich shop. Learn more at

Article by Sam Cicero, Jr., President, Cicero Construction Group



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