How do I freshen it up my business?

10 August 2006
How do I freshen it up my business?

My business is starting to look rather tired. I want to freshen it up, but have a very limited budget. What are my options?

Carl May, Catered4 Customers' initial perceptions are critical. How many of us have driven down the road and dismissed a pub or restaurant because "it doesn't look quite right"?

Always remember to look at your business with a customer's eyes. Better still, ask a mystery customer company to reveal the things you cannot see because you are too close to the business.

  • Keep all areas clean. Being clutter-free speaks volumes.
  • Keep windows clean and make sure your customers have good views both in and out.
  • Don't bombard them with A-boards and signs promising the world.
  • At this time of year, plants are a must, as long as they are regularly maintained and watered.
  • Is your signage clean and well-lit?
  • Internally, spring clean from top to bottom and add a splash of colour to the decor.
  • Declutter any objets d'art that have been collecting dust for years, and put in some fresh flowers.
  • Put your staff into some style of uniform, but don't make it drab or stuffy.
  • Strip the back bar of products that never sell and use it as the point-of-sales area that it is.
  • Is the style of pictures and artwork to your taste, or that of your customers?
  • Look at your menu covers: do they invite guests to spend? If you use blackboards, repaint them and keep the writing clear.
  • If the budget is there, look into introducing some new crockery and glassware instead of the standard sets we all see.
  • Check your toilets. Make sure they are spotless and put a personal touch of decor and colour in them.

Above all, never stand still with the development of your property, and keep your "customer eyes" always open.

Robbie Bargh, Gorgeous Group Bar or restaurant businesses do get tired. Concepts are designed to last for a period of time, but one way of making them last a little longer is by refreshing the look and feel every couple of years.

There are various ways of doing this: a touch of paint here and there, looking again at the lighting, changing the table set-up. These changes don't need to cost a fortune. You should look through publications such as Elle Decoration, World of Interiors and Wallpaper to gain some inspiration. Even looking at shop windows such as those of Habitat or the Conran Shop can give you ideas.

A coat of paint needn't be expensive. There are some fantastic products on the market: try Dulux, Crown or Farrow & Ball for something a little special. Doing it yourself will be kind on the wallet and more satisfying.

Changing the lighting can also give you a completely different look and feel. There are some fantastic products out there, ranging from Tom Dixon copper balls to Chameleon LED lights. You can even pick up some beautiful old chandeliers from antique stores which, with one bulb, can glitz up any room. Even table candlelight can change an entire room's look and feel.

Tablecloths, table lights, runners, place settings and colourful glassware can all be as cost-effective as you want, and at the same time refresh your bar and restaurant areas.

All businesses get tired-looking. The key is to change things before your guests begin to notice.

Daniel Hopwood, Daniel Hopwood Interior Design You're in luck: the least costly options are the most effective.

  • It's time to tidy up. Scan your restaurant with different eyes. Start stripping out what you think is fab and personal to you - I promise, it's not special to anyone else. Avoid ornaments or pictures of yourself with celebrities, or even restaurant reviews, especially if they are more than a year old.
  • Flowers are a winner, but don't spread them thinly. Place a simple, large vase in a prominent place, such as the reception. In it, place a very large bunch of just one type of flower, no mixes - peonies, lilies, rhododendrons. Make sure they are of one colour and have no greenery. The result will look expensive and have great impact.
  • The toilets are where you will really come under scrutiny. They reflect the whole ethos of your restaurant. Don't use hand-driers or even paper towels; instead, go for little flannels. Retiling can be expensive but, if you need to do it, don't get carried away with patterns or borders. Porcelain tiles for the floors will look better for longer than marble or stone.
  • Lighting. A small candle on each table is always welcome. This will avoid an expensive rewiring job, as long as you don't have any fluorescents anywhere. Or you could go for some table lamps. You can't go wrong with what they offer at BHS, honestly.
  • Don't be tempted to change your chairs if you are running on a budget. A decent chair should not cost less than £250. To reupholster might be slightly cheaper, but don't scrimp on the fabric. Whatever you do, don't buy cheap chairs.

Remember: your restaurant should be comfortable and all about aspiration - a place that offers inspiration for customers to apply to their own homes. Above all, keep it simple.

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