Five questions to ask before you decide to renovate your restaurant

By Diane Chiasson
Restaurant trends come and go, especially when it comes to design and décor. Your restaurant operation obviously cannot afford to jump on every trend’s bandwagon, but renovations, whether small or large, are a necessity in order to remain competitive and relevant in today’s society.

Depending on the state of your operation, a small refresh may be all that is necessary – updating the graphics, minor upgrades to the décor and a fresh coat of paint, without the need of a permit.

Or perhaps your restaurant may need something bigger to address repairs and maintenance issues as well including new floors, new upholstery, new walls or partitioning.

Or your operation could be in need of a complete renovation that will require demolition, rebuilding, and perhaps a brand new concept.

Diane Chiasson, FCSI, President of Chiasson Consultants Inc., a restaurant and foodservice consultancy firm in Toronto, asks the following questions to see whether or not your operation is up for a renovation:

1. How is business?

First and foremost, you need to evaluate the current state of your business including your location, concept, food, menu, atmosphere and flow. Make a list of all the things that are working and all the things that are not. If your business is doing just fine, you may not want to fix something that isn’t broken! However, if business could be better, there is probably a need to make some changes. A restaurant renovation can definitely help to increase sales, but you also have to consider the food that you offer, as well as the level of service you provide.

2. Does your location work with your concept?

The location of your operation plays a huge role if you are considering a renovation. First, are you happy with your location, and do the demographics of the neighbourhood work with your concept? Is the building in decent shape, or would a renovation end up costing a fortune due to structural issues? Do you own or lease your space? If you rent, do you have a good relationship with your landlord? Would he/she be willing to put up some of the money for the renovation? These are some of the issues that you need to address before you decide to spend the money.

3. What is the competition doing?

It is always important to keep an eye on the competition to see what they are doing. Take a look at the design and décor, atmosphere, lighting, and concepts of their restaurants, and the type of clientele they get, and compare it to your own. You need to create a unique identity for yourself to attract customers to your operation rather than the competition.

4. What are your long-term goals?

There are several good reasons why a restaurant operation should embark on a renovation. Apart from wanting to improve sales or attract more customers, perhaps you are looking to sell the operation, or preparing to hand off the family business to the next generation. How much longer do you see yourself running your restaurant? It’s better to embark on your upgrades sooner than later so you can reap the benefits instead of holding them off.

5. What can you afford?

On average, a restaurant sees an increase in sales of 25 per cent after a renovation. But embarking on a costly renovation must yield positive returns on your investment in your operation, so do your research to ensure that upgrades will make a positive impact on your business. Also take into consideration how long you will need to shut down to execute the renovations, and how much lost business you will experience, and work out a number that you feel comfortable with. Regardless of what you can afford, be realistic about the final outcome.

About the author:

Diane Chiasson, FSCI, president of Chiasson Consultants Inc., is recognized as the world’s best restaurant, foodservice, merchandising, hospitality and retail consultant based in Toronto. She has been helping restaurant, foodservice, hospitality and retail operators increase sales for over 30 years.Her company provides innovative and revenue-increasing consulting services including restaurant and retail merchandising, interior design, marketing, brand identity, menu design and training.