Interior investment can pay dividends

Is now the time to revamp your pub?

Operators should consider reviewing the layout of their back-bar at regular intervals.

EVEN in a tough economy, operators would do well to invest in quality interior design.

That’s the message from specialist design firms, who have argued that a strong design concept can help to differentiate an outlet and move it ahead of the competition.
The message seems to be getting through, according to Jeff Taylor of Select Contract Furniture, who believes that publicans are seeing the benefits of continued investment in their premises.
“The market is still relatively buoyant and owners understand the need to present an attractive package to customers in order to maintain or capture market share,” said Taylor.
“Funding from banks is still a major stumbling block to progress in many cases, however proprietors are now looking at alternative ways of raising capital.”
Kay Brannon, partner at Harrison Ince Architects, said the UK’s recent economic woes had slowed the market for refurbishments, but demand is now picking up.
“It’s been a difficult few years, but the funding for refurbishments specifically appears to have picked up over the last six months,” said Brannon.
“After spending and projects effectively ground to a halt, it has taken a long time for confidence to filter out from the capital and for projects to start moving again, significantly affecting the licensed trade, particularly in the outer reaches of the UK.”
Investment is a positive step according to Taylor, but operators should take care when choosing a refurbishment team.
He said that selecting the right design team can pay dividends.
“So much more can be achieved by selecting the correct refurb team in respect of controlling costs, design element and consequently the effectiveness of the end result, benefitting in both the short and long term,” he said.
Scott McIntyre, designer with Nicoll Russell Studios, echoed Taylor’s sentiments on the importance of the right partnership between venue and design team.

Owners understand the need to present an attractive package to customers.

The working relationship between client and designer is one that can have a real effect on the outcome of a refurbishment, according to McIntyre, who pointed out that operators have their own role to play in the design process.
“Decisive clients are always better to work with and trust in the design team avoids pointless and costly delays,” said McIntyre. The designer said publicans are now more aware of the decisions they’ll be required to make as part of a refurbishment process.
“Clients have a better understanding of materials, walls, floors, tiles and timbers generally, with the design world being more publicised through TV programmes and magazines,” he said.
“Clients are still unsure of softer materials, wall coverings and fabrics. Cost quality and durability still tend to be the key factors to design within.”
Brannon highlighted several key considerations for publicans when tackling a refurbishment project.
“The key factors for an operator to consider would be the condition of the existing premises, whether the fabric of the building is critically deteriorating or whether refurbishment is purely an aesthetic issue,” she said.
“The current customer base and footfall in the area would also be a major consideration as well as assessing what else is going on in the local vicinity.
“A nearby competitor could seriously affect trade if steps aren’t taken to ‘keep up’. Alternatively if the wider area is being upgraded or redeveloped then ‘canny’ investment can be beneficial.”
A current trend for ‘pop up’ bars and ‘speakeasy’ themed venues was highlighted by Brannon as a way for operators to experiment with seasonal changes within an outlet.
Short-term projects offer publicans the opportunity to explore materials and designs that would be unfeasible for a long term project, she said.
“From a design point of view, these schemes, generally themed, can enable the designers to indulge in fantasy from boat houses to ski chalets and ‘historic’ houses without concern for long term viability of the design or materials,” said Brannon.
Timing is also a key consideration for any refurbishment project, according to McIntyre. When it comes to choosing the best time to embark on a project, operators should consider their customer base and avoid carrying out work during peak trading season, he said.
“The best time of year varies, ideally you want to be finished and trading for all major holiday events or times of the year when more people are about,” said McIntyre.

Clients have a better understanding of materials, walls, floors, tiles and timbers.

“In high student population cities, like Dundee, operators tend to do the work when all the students finish up for the summer so they are ready for when they return.”
Angus Alston of specialist design and build firm Hugh Stirling reckons that now is another key time for operators to spruce up their premises.
“Now is most definitely the time to start planning for any improvements to your pub or restaurant in readiness for the Christmas trading season,” he said.
“The simple message is: the earlier you plan the more you can be assured of the best value, best quality and shortest closure period.”