Restaurant renovations: Does your facility need a facelift?

● Decide whether the time is right. When it comes to redesigns, stay ahead of the curve. “If you wait until it looks like it’s time to remodel, you’ve waited too long,” says restaurant consultant Aaron Allen, who recommends a facelift every five to seven years. Allen heads up Aaron Allen and Associates, headquartered in Orlando, Fla.

● Establish your goals. “Decide what your target is,” says Lisa Kong, a studio director and project manager for hospitality projects with the Los Angeles office of Gensler, a global design firm. Are you trying to freshen up your decor or to rebrand yourself? Are you retaining your basic blueprint, or do you want to add revenue-generating space, like more seats, a bar or a private dining room?

● Define your restaurant’s personality. “If your restaurant was a person, how would it dress, talk and behave?” poses Allen, who serves clients in more than 100 countries. “Is it carefree and funny or serious and refined?” Defining your operation’s personality will help guide your decisions, down to paint colors and fabrics. For example, De Alba Bakery, with four units in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, recently turned to Allen for help with a rebrand and redesign. As a first step, President and CFO Ana De Alba established that she is striving for an authentic Mexican bakery/cafe that reflects her family’s Spanish heritage. A new exterior featuring traditional Spanish architecture and Mexican tile is in the works to help set the mood.

● Track the trends. If you haven’t remodeled in years, you might need a “reboot” rather than just a tweak, says Allen. Use this opportunity to examine industry trends and to see where you fit in, while also differentiating yourself.

● Poll the people. With Ray’s Boathouse in Seattle turning 40 this year, the management team decided it was time to strategize ways to keep the restaurant relevant in a changing marketplace. “We wanted to be a young 40,” says General Manager Maureen “Mo” Shaw. With the help of a brand management specialist and a survey company, the restaurant polled the locals, including current and former guests. When the results indicated that many consumers perceived the restaurant as dated, management used the data to drive their rebranding, introducing a sleeker, more contemporary design.

● Determine your demographics. Examine local population shifts when determining your target. For example, Kong is renovating the patio of a fine-dining downtown L.A. restaurant to attract an emerging young, hip crowd. She is creating a “loungy,” casual atmosphere to complement a new, lower-price point tapas menu recently launched specifically for the patio.

● Pick the right partners. Look for architects, designers and consultants who are experienced in dealing with the unique challenges of restaurants. Make sure that you have a collaborative exchange, says Allen, so that together you can fashion a redesign that will position you for success. – Source: The National Restaurant Association.

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