How to Update an Out-of-Date Restaurant
In this era of online restaurant reviews, you may be amazed at some of the criteria by which your restaurant is judged. You would expect comments about food and service; even criticism regarding noise levels probably wouldn’t surprise you. But did you know that a restaurant’s outdated décor can negatively affect a diner’s experience? In this day and age, all the senses must be satisfied at a restaurant. A Cornell University study found that ratings for food, décor, and service are all associated with a restaurant’s top-40 rating on Zagat’s listings, and it takes a combination of all three to land a restaurant in the top 40. Therefore, for the price of a good meal, today’s discerning restaurant-goer wants top-notch service, fantastic food, and an environment that has not been left back in the last century.
Make a Good First Impression with an Updated Ambience
Even before your diners meet your wait staff or see your food, they are taking in the atmosphere of your restaurant – that’s how their first impressions are formed. Your customers will quickly notice peeling paint, old-fashioned furnishings, worn carpeting, chipped dishes, out-of-date lighting, or a combination of all of the above. A first impression based on outdated décor may not make customers turn on their heels and leave, but it can certainly prevent them from returning. Therefore, if your restaurant décor is outdated, you should go about changing it as soon as possible. You may want to turn to an objective observer to notice what you may be overlooking. This can be a professional, like an interior designer, or a seasoned restaurant- goer. Regardless of who you consult, your restaurant should be viewed with fresh, keen eyes before you undertake an update.
Lighting is the Window to Your Restaurant’s Decor
Lighting is a vital design element in a restaurant’s décor and one that can affect the ambience in an instant. The wrong low lighting can give a depressing and dismal impression, while the right low lighting can be romantic and evocative. Alternatively, bright lighting can be perceived as garish if done badly, or young and hip if done well.
Two aspects of restaurant lighting can outdate your restaurant: the look of the fixtures and the light that is emanated. As an industry, lighting is constantly evolving, so what was up-to-date a mere 10 years ago can look unappealing today. The light from modern fixtures such as LED bulbs, mini-fluorescents, focuses, and spots, can bring together and enhance all the other elements of your restaurant’s design.
Keep Your Walls Current
Think of your walls as an artist’s canvas – a way to express what you’re trying to say about your restaurant’s décor and ambience. Your restaurant probably has a concept (it’s pretty much standard these days), so your wall space should match that concept, keeping with the overall theme and mood. If you have a good-sized expanse of wall, you could add a mural or artwork to make it more interesting and, if you do it right, turn that into a conversation piece.
One of the least expensive ways to update your restaurant is with a fresh coat of paint. Crisp whites and grays give off a modern vibe, while darker browns and greens lend a rustic feel to your restaurant. Regardless of what you’re aiming for, however, fresh paint will spruce up your restaurant, as nothing says, “old,” like faded or peeling paint – of any shade. Wallpaper, especially one that dates back 20-plus years, screams, “Outdated” in an instant. So rip it down or cover it up – either way, if it’s got to go, it’s got to go.
Flooring is an Essential Restaurant Design Element
You can drastically modernize your restaurant by upgrading your flooring. If your carpet is old and tired, rip it up to discover what lies beneath. If there’s nothing there but cement, look into parquet or tiles for a change of pace. A natural wood floor – if you’re lucky enough to have one – can be transformed just by giving it a new stain. Wood floors reflect light and add a warm touch to your restaurant. On the other hand, if you’ve had wood floors ever since you opened for business – or if you’ve inherited them from a previous owner – change things and opt for carpeting, which adds a level of elegance that is hard to achieve with anything else underfoot. Carpet has its pros and cons of course: along with the elegance factor, it’s great at absorbing noise; on the other hand, carpeting needs constant maintenance.
Choose the Right Tableware to Make a Statement
If you’re running an elegant restaurant – one with real china and glassware – you have to ensure that your tableware is kept current. The importance of the right dishes cannot be overstated: it is the backdrop for your food and an important part of its presentation. White dishes are appropriate and modern-looking for all but the fanciest restaurants, while colorful dishes make a statement that tells your diners that they’ve come to a bright and bold place. Fine china is appreciated by even the most discriminating customers, especially when they’re paying for a night of high-class dining.
Glassware – from water glasses to wine glasses – should be as up-to-date as your dishes; scratched, discolored, or chipped glasses will not do. With glasses, style is not as critical as condition: what is important is that your glassware is clean and blemish-free for the best impression.
Up-to-Date Furniture and Accessories are Vital
The furnishings in your restaurant are a key design element, and choosing modern tables and chairs is just as important as selecting a trendy menu. From high stools at a sports bar, to booth seating at a diner, and on to chairs for an upscale restaurant, there are chairs to fit every type of décor and mood. Ensure that your new contemporary chairs don’t just look good, but that they are comfortable, as well; nothing can ruin a meal like an uncomfortable chair, no matter how stylish it is.
Fresh flowers at the entrance to your restaurant – if you have the space for a lobby – add a beautiful touch, but they are expensive, and must be changed frequently. Realistic-looking artificial plants are acceptable, but only if they are kept clean; dusty, outdated, plastic “greenery” is a sure turn-off. Live plants add instant class to your restaurant (as long as you’re committed to their upkeep), and changing the style of the planters from time to time can also update the décor.
Clothes Make the Restaurant
If you like your restaurant staff to dress in a certain fashion (even if they don’t wear actual uniforms), take another look at what they are currently wearing. If the wait staff is wearing the same style of outfit that they wore a decade ago, it’s time for a change. This is also a good opportunity to consult your staff and include them in your plans; they are probably more aware than you are regarding how an up-to-date restaurant – and staff – should look.
Stay Current with Restaurant Design Trends
Your interior décor has a big influence on your customer satisfaction, and bringing your restaurant’s outdated design into the 21st century is an important step. Look around with an objective eye and take a closer look at your restaurant, flaws and all. Keeping your restaurant’s décor current will keep your customers coming back, and that’s what the Big Three – Food, Service, and Décor – are all about.