Get more bang for your buck

Expert advice and careful planning makes money go further

A REFURBISHMENT can represent a big investment for any licensee, so it’s crucial operators make the most of their money.
But publicans shouldn’t be put off from investing in their premises, say design firms, as careful planning paired with professional input and practical thinking can produce strong results.
Ronnie Burns of Clydebank-based Burns Design said the market for refurbishments is “picking up” in the on-trade, and includes those starting out on new ventures.
“We are seeing activity from private clients and larger plc groups all looking for new sites,” said Burns.
For operators looking to spend on new or existing premises, Burns suggested seeking out professional help and to make sure no stone is left unturned when assessing the practicalities of a revamp.
“Ensure you are getting the right professional advice,” said Burns.
“Establish a realistic budget beforehand [and] ensure functional aspects of the premises are also addressed: fire safety, electrics, heating, ventilation, kitchen, storage, toilets, as well as more visible front of house design aspects.”
Mark Brunjes of CM Design Consultants agreed that operators should turn to the professionals when planning their revamp, and highlighted how a designer can have a big impact, even on a smaller budget.
“It is possible to make a significant difference to a space on a limited budget, but great care must be taken when deciding how the budget can be best used,” he said.
“This is when a good, experienced designer can help maximise design impact within the budget available.”
Operators may not have the finances available to perform regular major overhauls. But Brunjes claimed it is still better for licensees to carry out regular revamps than to hold off for too long.
“Some operators constantly maintain high standards by refreshing premises on a regular basis, while others wait until the premises become run-down, which ultimately affects trade,” he said.
Once a decision has been made to go ahead with a refurbishment, Brunjes advised operators to take a look at the competition while in the planning stages.
“Have a look at other premises which match their operational and visual aspirations, compile photographs and highlight what details they like,” he said.
“When appointed this will help the designer understand what they are trying to achieve.”
It’s not just aesthetics that operators should focus on when explaining their vision to a designer, according to Brunjes.
Licensees should also consider the practical necessities when embarking on a revamp.
“Always consider what operational aspects can also be carried out to improve efficiency and increase profits,” he advised.
“Local authority permission requirements vary enormously, dependent on if new premises require change of use, or if substantial alterations to existing premises require a building warrant.
“Licensing should also be considered as the existing layout forms part of the operating plan.”
And there are elements of the design process that combine aesthetics with practicality.
Angus Alston, director at contractor Hugh Stirling, highlighted seating as a crucial aspect of any revamp.
“It’s the one part where the customer has direct physical contact therefore they are more likely to be conscious of dirty or torn seating,” Alston.
“For similar reasons toilets are very important and often can be underestimated in terms of the negative effect that poorly maintained, sometimes smelly, toilets can have.
“Why expect customers to have any less of a pleasant experience going to the toilet in a pub than they would in their own house.”
Jan Dammis, of hospitality furniture supplier Go In, agreed on the importance of purchasing appropriate seating, and said there are several key considerations when choosing furniture for an outlet.
“When choosing furniture, look for a comfortable, elegant and practical range of seating and tables,” said Dammis.
“Start at the bar and select suitable bar stools – these provide a key waiting area for guests, but will usually not be occupied by the same guests for the whole evening.
“A matching design can be carried through to other seating, or a contrast can be chosen.
“Choose stools and chairs that give seating flexibility. Mid-height seating is currently very popular and benches/banquettes offer a flexible solution in different heights. Consider providing some comfortable, relaxed seating areas as well – sofas, armchairs and perhaps individual ‘signature’ pieces for visual impact.”
Once a refurbishment is complete a pub “generally has a shelf life of between three and five years,” according to Scott McIntyre of Nicoll Russell Studios, who added that a new paint scheme and changes to lighting “can buy you extra time”.
When it comes to longevity, McIntyre claimed that “a little money can go a long way if spent correctly”, and highlighted the importance of purchasing quality.
“Contract quality is a must for commercial premises; you can get a lot of cheap stuff online which is fine for domestic use but does not cope with the demands of a commercial business, especially licensed leisure,” he said.
And selecting the right fabrics for the environment is crucial.
“Some fabrics look the part but if they are in an environment where they are subject to a lot of use/abuse then they wear very quickly and the maintenance regime and management should be in line with the specification – flooring, furniture, fabric, etc,” said McIntyre.
“Flooring systems and innovations in laminate have improved dramatically and made specifying alternatives to natural timbers much easier and cost effective and generally less volatile in commercial environments.”