resaurant renovations

Whether you just found a new space for your new restaurant or you’ve been in business for a long time and need a reboot, a restaurant renovation might be in order. But don’t let those reality TV shows fool you, you’re not going to be able to completely makeover a restaurant in 24 hours on a shoestring budget, no matter which celebrity chef is advising you.

Instead, you’re going to have to do some deep analysis to figure out a restaurant renovation cost that you can handle before you can move forward with your vision. A restaurant renovation calculator can help, but it’s also wise to seek the advice of some experts so that you don’t blow your budget.

Here are some key considerations to think about before you decide to take a sledgehammer to your restaurant.

Do you even need a restaurant renovation?

According to the National Restaurant Association, it’s typical for restaurants to do some kind of a renovation every five to seven years. Reasons why might include wanting to add more seating, updating the layout to accommodate different sized parties or events, adding a bar area, or simply to rebrand and adopt a fresh look.

Ideally, you don’t want to wait until your business is struggling to move ahead with a renovation. You want to try making improvements when things are going well so that you’ll have the resources to get it done. What you’ll have to decide is how extensive you want your renovations to be – a coat of paint and fresh linens, or breaking down walls?

You also want to consider the reason behind your desire to renovate. Perhaps you’re noticing a shift in the types of customers you’re attracting, and you want to add updates to reflect that. A younger crowd might warrant adding in technology features and flat-screen TVs. Or, perhaps you realize that your look is dated, prompting customers to leave you behind for hipper locales. Maybe your upscale menu options are the biggest drivers of revenue, so you want to add more of a romantic ambiance and become the hottest date spot in town. Your reasons could be more practical, like adding a bigger waiting area, reflowing the layout so it doesn’t feel cramped, or tackling the wear and tear that’s developed on the furnishings and fixtures.

No matter your personal taste, it all comes down to what you think your customers will like. You want to attract new clientele, yes, but you also don’t want to alienate your loyal base. Once you have a gameplan in mind, it’s time to think through the logistics of your restaurant renovation.

Step 1: Find the right contractor

This is perhaps the biggest restaurant renovation cost you will have, so you want to be sure you find someone reputable and trustworthy who does excellent work. It should also be someone who has specific experience in restaurant design. As tempting as it might be to hire your handyman neighbor (which is OK for small jobs), a full renovation requires a bit more expertise.

Look online for reviews, and be sure to ask for referrals and references.

Step 2: Crunch the numbers

If you’re doing a complete overhaul, you want to be sure you’re financially prepared. Especially if you have to close down or scale back your operations for a set amount of time, you want to be sure that the lost revenue and total cost of your restaurant renovation won’t put you too deep in the hole.

A restaurant renovation calculator and a contractor can help you figure out the cost per square foot for your renovation. While it’s difficult to find exact statistics on the average restaurant renovation cost since there are so many variables, just know that the range can be anywhere from $150 – $750 per square foot, depending on the quality of materials used, construction costs, and other factors, as one global restaurant consulting company explains.

If you’re not upgrading the kitchen with a lot of equipment, that will help keep costs in check. But if the estimates you get are overwhelming, you might decide to do your renovation in stages, perhaps updating the kitchen, restrooms, and bar first, and then tackling the dining room separately.

Just be sure to overestimate the time and money needed to complete the project since setbacks are inevitable.

Step 3: Figure out how to get the most bang for your buck

If you find that you ultimately can’t afford a complete overhaul, you can still make a dramatic impact with a few key upgrades. You want customers to notice the changes, but you also want it to fit within your budget. Think about which affordable changes are most important to you.

Maybe it’s adding sophisticating lighting, or adding in some nooks and booths for a more cozy feel. Or, you might want to add some brightness by changing the color scheme throughout. Some restaurants are able to add an inexpensive modern look by exposing brick walls or ceiling beams.

Step 4: Stay in control of the process

Restaurant renovations can be time-consuming and stressful, but they can also be exciting as you watch your business transform before your eyes. Be sure to keep on top of the process so that the rebuild happens efficiently and in a timely manner.

If there will be heavy construction, painting, or structural changes of any kind – aka, noise, dust, and smell – you should expect that you’ll have to close for at least part of the restaurant renovation. In order to minimize the length of your closure, you’ll want to have a definitive plan from your contractor team, and stay on top of them.

By thinking through each detail of your restaurant makeover, you can come up with a plan that will attract new customers and wow your old ones. And, you’ll keep restaurant renovation costs in check, so you can achieve the end result of a brand new look without harming your bottom line.

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Dawn Papandrea is freelance writer based in New York. Her work has appeared in numerous publications including Family Circle, WomansDay.com, and more. She loves trying new restaurants with her family and friends in her spare time.