A Guide to Restaurant Renovation in Connecticut
The decision to renovate any business can be difficult for owners, who must look at the bottom line before making decisions. In general, restaurant renovations are done under one of two circumstances: when restaurant ownership changes, or when a current owner decides that the time has come to update the look and functionality of their existing restaurant.
Why Renovate Your Restaurant?
For new owners, the benefits of renovating are usually quite clear. Updates to a restaurant signal to customers that a change in ownership has taken place. This often generates new business and can renew interest from old patrons with the promise of exciting new changes.
For restaurant owners who are re-investing in their own establishments, the decision to remodel is more uncertain. After all, if it works, why change?
The benefits of restaurant renovation are numerous and varied. Between recent innovations in commercial kitchen technologies and updates in plumbing, lighting and heating/cooling systems, restaurant owners have their choice of energy efficient fixtures and appliances. Updates like this can lead to a decrease in monthly bills and increase staff production and efficiency. In addition, changes that emphasize sustainability can improve the reputation of a restaurant.
Clients come to restaurants for two things: good food and good atmosphere. An old and tired environment can be off-putting to your clientele, so the longer that your restaurant goes without an aesthetic update, the more likely you are to lose customers.
Yet remodels can accomplish more than aesthetic improvements: a restaurant remodeling project can also present the opportunity to expand your business size and scope, allowing you to serve more clients effectively and efficiently. If you feel that one or more of these priorities would benefit your business, then it may be time to get started on your commercial construction project.
Learn the ins and outs of restaurant renovation and remodeling.
Signs You Should Renovate Your Restaurant
It's easy to get caught up in the day-to-day details of managing your establishment. If you're not seeing the bigger picture, your restaurant could be losing money by the day. Think about the last time you renovated your restaurant. What year was it? How long has it been? The following 7 signs can help you determine when it's time to renovate your restaurant.
Customers are Dwindling
Restaurants depend on their ability to fill their seats with new customers. If your restaurant is currently surviving on a steady but dwindling crowd of loyal regulars, it's time to take dramatic action. A renovation will generate interest in your restaurant and bring new people from the community into your establishment.
Fixtures Need Constant Repair
Your restaurant's lights, plumbing, wiring and appliances should not break down on a regular basis. If this is happening to you, this is a sign that your restaurant is surviving on old, outdated fixtures in an old, outdated building. Although renovating and replacing old appliances does require an up-front investment, it pays off quickly as your repair costs decrease.
Wobbly tables, torn chair cushions and other cosmetic defects are an indication that your restaurant should have replaced its furniture a long time ago. Chances are, if your furniture is in a bad state, there's room for improvement all over the business.
Your restaurant's online reviews should not start with the words: "The food's great, but..." If your clients are reporting environmental discomfort, your restaurant is in trouble. Restaurants rely on the strength of their ambiance and positive word of mouth to fill seats and sell food.
Read the online reviews for your restaurant. If your customers are reporting that your restaurant is "dark," "drafty," and "outdated," then your restaurant is losing business and needs to change.
High Energy Bills
Old appliances and old buildings have a way of wasting energy. Poorly insulated walls, broken plumbing fixtures, outdated appliances, unreliable lights, leaky ducts and an old HVAC system could be wasting your restaurant's hard-earned money every month. Updating your building and appliances can save you hundreds or thousands of dollars on your utility bills.
Parking Lot Jams
Think about the state of your restaurant outside as well as inside. If your parking lot is frequently backed up, or if your customers have a hard time finding a place to park, then it's time to rethink your use of outdoor space. A parking lot renovation can make it easier for your customers to access your business.
Peeling Paint, Broken Signs
The parking lot isn't the only part of your restaurant's outdoor space that needs to be maintained. If your restaurant's exterior shows signs of age like peeling paint or a broken sign, then it's time to make some changes to the exterior of your establishment.
Where Should You Start?
Knowing what to remodel first and how to identify areas of need can help ensure the success of the project. The following tips will help you get your renovation project off the ground.
Address Functionality First
Before you pay to install new booths and paint the dining room a bold new color, make a list of the more practical concerns that should be addressed during your remodel, including:
- Safety issues. Poor wiring, blocked walkways, lack of exits, outdated cooking appliances and more can all be safety hazards that must be addressed immediately. In addition to being bad for business, safety concerns are often code violations that can lead to a restaurant shut down.
- Accessibility. Poor parking and other accessibility problems can deter customers from visiting your restaurant.
- Traffic flow problems. Having good flow of traffic inside your restaurant is important for the efficiency of your staff as well as the convenience of your customers. That's why it's important to address problems like narrow walkways and lack of a waiting area.
- Functionality of major systems. If you're constantly addressing problems with your plumbing, air conditioner or kitchen appliances, the time during a remodel is the perfect opportunity to address those problems once and for all.
Going green can attract new customers, shrink your business's carbon footprint and save you money over time. Here are a few ways that you can make environmentally-friendly upgrades during your upcoming restaurant remodel:
- Install low-flow fixtures in the bathrooms and kitchen. Doing this can save money on water usage.
- Use recycled and reclaimed materials. Environmentally friendly materials aren't just good for the environment; they also add a lot of character! Pointing out the recycled and reclaimed materials in your dining room may even attract eco-friendly customers.
- Seal holes in your HVAC system. Leaks in your ducts can force you to run your air conditioner and heater more frequently than necessary, which can contribute to the early decline of the appliances and force you to use more natural resources for your heating and cooling.
- Install new energy efficient windows. Installing new energy efficient windows can make your restaurant more energy efficient.
Update the "Look" Of Your Restaurant
If your mauve colored wallpaper was installed in the 1980s, or your pizza joint has had the same velvet upholstered booths since 1973, a remodel may be in order. Your atmosphere is the first thing a new customer notices, and if it is dank and dirty, newcomers may question the quality of your food or service.
You must, however, remember to stay true to your restaurant’s brand. As you decide which aesthetic improvements will benefit your business, it's important to understand what characteristics keep your customers coming back. Your restaurant remodeling effort should make your venue more efficient and safe, while still capturing the essence of your establishment and business. If your restaurant is appealing because of its dark, romantic environment, then take care to maintain that atmosphere in your remodel. Don't risk alienating your loyal clientele.
Perhaps your restaurant was a small operation when it first started out, but now you may be ready to serve more customers. Your restaurant can accommodate new customers (and more of them both) with a larger kitchen, dining room area, outdoor seating, or even a larger parking lot. If your restaurant sits on a small lot and you feel an addition isn't a realistic goal, reach out to a qualified commercial contractor. Speaking with a professional may reveal ways in which your existing space could be more efficiently utilized.
Listen to Your Customers
Your customers may have noticed problems with your restaurant that you've never noticed personally. Use social media to invite your customers to provide feedback and ideas for your upcoming remodel. They may provide you with insight that can help guide you through the remodeling process.
Find The Right Contractor
Having a good contractor will ensure that your remodel goes as smoothly as it can. Your contractor may be able to provide suggestions for keeping your restaurant open while the remodel is taking place, and your contractor may also be able to spot problems with your facility that need to be addressed during the renovation. Working with a good contractor will also ensure that your remodel is performed to code, so your business will be in full compliance when all the changes are made.
Litchfield Builders knows the ins and outs of commercial construction in Connecticut and has completed dozens of prominent restaurant projects over the last 20 years.
Want To Learn More About Restaurant Renovation?
Click here to download your free copy of “A Guide to Restaurant Renovation in Connecticut." In this guide, you'll learn the ins and outs of restaurant renovation and remodeling, including how to improve you customer experience, restaurant ergonomics, and energy efficiency.
About Kevin Ahern
Kevin is the Co-Founder of Litchfield Builders, an award-winning, industry leader with a reputation for managing projects others shy away from. They are known for their high-quality work, customer service, and reliability and though still relatively small in size, Litchfield Builders now competes with some of the areas largest firms in both the residential and commercial arenas.