We eat with our eyes but that doesn’t just count for the food we eat.
The interior design also makes a huge impression on diners yet too few restaurants really pay attention to it or do it correctly.
Restaurant Management speaks to Tony Lutz, the new president and CEO of Interior Systems Inc., Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Lutz offers advice; talks about the biggest mistakes restaurateurs make in their interior design; and discusses the latest trends.
Interior Design How-To
- Partner with a firm that you feel comfortable with, a company that shares your vision. It’s particularly helpful to look at design firms that have experience in not only restaurants but in similar concepts to yours.
- Work closely with someone whom you can trust and who understands the scope of the project. “Restaurateurs often select an interior design company poorly because they opt for firms that have done high priced or high profile projects and may not, therefore, understand the scale or scope of their project.”
- Visit the restaurants designed by firms you’re considering. Or look at restaurants that you look to emulate.
- Make sure you understand the market and don’t underestimate the sophistication of the market. “To today’s customer it’s irrelevant where in a country a restaurant is. They enjoy and expect higher levels of design.”
- Find the person or the group of firms that you’re comfortable with and have them pitch to you how they see your operation. “It’s incumbent to put the onus of the research onto the firm you’re working with. It doesn’t even need to be drawings and renderings at that point.”
- Be decisive and once you’ve selected a firm, start creating that partnership.
- Make sure you get on with the people from the design team, personally. “Restaurateurs should always remember that this is their investment and they need to feel comfortable making the decisions as it pertains to their restaurant.”
- Restaurateurs should have a keen eye and send the message they know what they want.
Interior Design Mistakes
- Don’t design the interior of your restaurant to suit your taste, but your clients’ tastes. This is the biggest mistake restaurant operators make. So do your background and know whom you’re trying to attract in the first place.
- Do not get too far into a project without understanding all costs upfront. “The No. 1 tragic mistake is that people double or triple their budget and it happens a lot. That’s a tragic financial model to start with before you open your door. Know your financial budget and never lose sight of that.”
- Create a contingency fund and plan on spending less than you really have. “You can have all the best plans lined up but there are things that come up and there’s a rabbit hole. So having a contingency or a cost overrun fund is essential.”
- Have an approval plan for any cost overruns.
- Don’t allow yourself to get caught up in the emotion of having everything before you open your doors. “You need to make sure your initial vision comes to life and that you have everything operationally. But at some point you’ll be asked by someone to make additional changes. Have the discipline to stay within your budget and know that in the future you’ll be able to complete those little details.”
Trends in design:
- Lighting. It’s one of the most impactful elements of a great design.
- Natural materials and juxtaposition them with sleeker, non-natural materials like tiles or hard surfaces.
- Graphics and large scale graphics continues to be a trend and a very impactful one.
- Green materials and materials from sustained sources. The difficulty today remains the cost balance of using those materials. This can be an expensive endeavor, but it can be a great marking opportunity for restaurants that want to be known for doing the right thing.
By Amanda Baltazar