Whether you want to modernize your look or update your furnishings (or a little of both), the time will come when your restaurant will need renovations to its front of house. With so many different demands in your dining room, it can be difficult to narrow in on the areas that need the most work. Walk through your restaurant and evaluate these six major target areas to decide what needs updating right away — and what can wait until your next financial cycle.
Tables and Chairs
When it comes to new seating, you need to be able to answer three important questions about the chairs and tables you choose for your restaurant.
- Are they comfortable? You need to be able to accommodate the comfort of your average and non-average sized customers. Think about whether a person at 300 pounds will feel supported by the chairs you’re choosing. Will an exceptionally tall person have enough leg room at the tables you’re picking? Will a shorter guest be able to sit with their feet on the ground in your chairs (or be able to place their feet on the stool bars of your bar seating)?
- Are they durable? Consider longevity when picking out your new seating. You want any seating renovations you make to last you as long as possible. Are the tables sturdy? Are the chairs durable? Is the fabric on your chairs’ upholstery stain resistant? Are the chairs easy to stack and store away without damaging them over time?
- Do they fit your brand? Look at your restaurant’s atmosphere and aesthetic to make sure your new chairs and tables fit cohesively within your brand. Also, look how your seating physically fits within your space, whether that means booths, long family-style tables, or intimate two-guest tables. Even conversational couches around low tables could be appropriate for certain restaurants (especially cafes and lunch spots). Don’t be afraid to mix and match different table styles to fit within the space – that way, you can accommodate groups of different sizes.
When updating the paint on your restaurant’s dining room walls, matte paint is not very durable against moisture, and it’s also difficult to keep clean (which is already a challenge along the high traffic areas of your dining room). Glossy paint is the better choice for durability and ease of cleaning, but be careful about going too glossy. If there’s too much of a shine on the paint, your walls will more easily reveal smudges, fingerprints, and dirt. A satin or semi-gloss paint is your best bet. Ask your local hardware store for recommendations regarding price point and quality.
If you decide to go with a wallpaper, it’s okay to go with something unique and fun, but make sure whatever you choose fits your restaurant’s style. Keep an eye on what other online customers (especially other restaurants) have said about the particular wallpaper in comment threads. If you see product reviews mentioning the wallpaper peeling, or that it’s difficult to clean, you’ll want to know that upfront.
Concrete can be viable for restaurant flooring, since it’s paintable, easy to wipe clean, and is often what’s already in the space when you lease or buy the building. However, concrete also has some safety issues—for both your guests and your employees walking the floor. Besides potential trips and falls, concrete can put a lot of strain on your servers’ bodies over the course of a shift.
Carpet is another option, but make sure to keep up with cleaning. Choosing a medium to dark colored carpet with dense fiber will help hide any stains from dropped food or foot traffic. You’ll still want to have your carpeted areas professionally cleaned at least twice a year. Helpful tip: invest in carpet tiles instead of a full carpet spread so that you can easily replace tiles in high traffic (or high spill) areas that get the dirtiest over time.
A middle ground between concrete and carpeting could be hardwood, vinyl, or laminate. As long as you invest in cushioning—vibration-absorbing underlayment below your flat flooring of choice—your employees should find it easy to walk and stand for long periods of time in your dining room. And all three are much easier to mop or wipe clean than carpeting.
Yes, style is a big part of decorating your restaurant. Obviously all the elements of your dining area design must be cohesive, and that includes the lighting. However, focusing on how a potential lighting fixture looks instead of how a fixture makes everything else look can lead to major problems for the dining experience of your guests.
Make sure whatever fixtures and bulb styles you choose are as practical as they are stylish. Think about the kind of color you want from your lighting. Bright, crisp white light is good for fast food and fast casual settings, while warmer color lights work for a fine dining atmosphere. But be aware: it does no good to get a light bulb with the right brightness and color, only to have your fixtures block the light and leave you still in the dark.
Echoing and escalation of noise is a huge problem for restaurant spaces, especially restaurants with a good amount of bare, hard surfaces. It’s not just a matter of your customers’ comfort—it’s about your employees’ comfort, too. Spending long hours every shift in a very loud dining room can cause significant damage to your employees’ hearing, and at the very least, noisy distractions can make their jobs much harder.
When trying to control the volume in your restaurant, it’s not as simple as just turning down the background music. Think about how every sound from footsteps to guests’ conversations gets amplified by the floor and ceiling and wall-to-wall. Consider hiring a soundproofing contractor to evaluate where your space can integrate sound dampening.
There are paintable acoustic sound-absorbing panels on the market that work well for dining room walls. If your ceilings reverberate considerably, acoustic drop ceilings provide great reduction and can be used to hide unseemly plumbing and wiring. If you want to make a quick adjustment, adding canvas paintings or large plants can help absorb some of that sound, too.
Bathrooms are often the trickiest areas to upgrade and remodel in your restaurant because there are so many different aspects to consider: the toilets, the sinks, the tiles, the ceilings, and directional signage. But far and away, the positive feelings your customers have about your dining room can be undone in an instant by a disappointing bathroom.
To start, figure out what you can do yourself, such as replacing old toilet seats, applying a couple coats of easy-to-wash paint, installing simple light fixtures, and what will need to be done by a professional, like plumbing and electrical work. A good thing to remember is that while you want your restaurant restroom to look beautiful, function trumps decor. After all, a beautiful new wallpaper for the restrooms won’t do any good if you’ve neglected the plumbing and your staff find themselves treading water.
Ultimately, every choice you make is going to come with a price tag, and weighing that cost against the potential return on investment is key to prioritizing any remodeling. Sure, the direct ROI might seem low when it comes to remodeling, but take into account what you might already be losing in terms of revenue due to putting off nessesary updates to your dining room. Ask yourself: which update is going to increase my sales and deliver results with a minimal outlay? And which updates may require restaurant funding designed specifically to assist in cash-flow sensitive conditions?
For more insight into planning your next renovation, Rewards Network has a free eBook that takes restaurateurs step-by-step through the process. Download “The Secret to Remodeling Your Restaurant” today.