The impact of a redesigned venue can be “immeasurable”, say design firms.
In addition to prompting renewed trade, a refurbishment can give venue owners the chance to set their outlet apart from competitors.
“Interior and staff have the two biggest impacts on passing trade,” said Scott McIntyre, interior designer at Nicoll Russell Studios in Dundee.
“The interior should be used to ‘set out your stall’ on what you are about, what you offer and what separates you from the rest.
“If you can create an inviting and interesting interior and couple that with efficient, friendly staff you will have a successful business.”
Norman Laidlaw of Edinburgh-based Laidlaw Contracts said a refurb can provide a window of opportunity, attracting customers who want to check out the newly-refurbished premises.
But he also acknowledged that the timing of any revamp is crucial, with many operators keen to continue trading while work is carried out.
“Obviously if the premises is dirty, drab or untidy it has to be upgraded quickly,” he said.
“But we understand that our customers don’t want to close and lose money and their customers.
“So what we do is to make sure that we keep disruption to a minimum by working long hours so the publican does not lose the weekend trade.”
Mark Brunjes, managing director of CM Design Consultants, whose recent projects include Atlantic Bar and Brasserie in Glasgow, said it is vital to seek professional advice before embarking on any major refurbishment of an outlet.
He recommended publicans and restaurateurs plan ahead and check if any aspects of their project require a building warrant, planning or licensing permissions from the local authority.
“Operators are usually unaware how long permissions can sometimes take, and should plan accordingly,” said Brunjes.
Angus Alston, director of Glasgow-based building and design firm Hugh Stirling, agreed operators must ensure the required paperwork is in place and sufficient detail available as early as possible.
He said: “From a contractor’s point of view the key things the operator should consider are: making sure that enough design information is made available to properly price and programme the work, and obviously that the local authority permissions are in place.”
The timing of a redesign or refurbishment is crucial for venues.
“January is probably the best month to start a project when business is recovering from Christmas and New Year rush,” said Brunjes.
“Unfortunately January is the most popular month for operators to look at their premises and they can get frustrated when they realise that they can’t start work immediately. Plan ahead.”
Design firms suggested refreshing the interior every three to five years in addition to ongoing general maintenance.
Simple changes, such as branding and frontage, can have a significant impact without redesigning the whole interior.
But areas such as the entrance, toilets and bar should provide a “wow factor” even if operators’ budgets cannot stretch to a complete overhaul of the premises.
Alston, of Hugh Stirling, whose recent projects include Frankenstein’s Bier Kellar in Edinburgh, emphasised the importance of lighting in a refurbishment project.
“Operators should consider investing in good lighting and lighting controls – so often a good ambience in a premises can be created by good lighting set at the right level,” he said.
“LED and low-energy bulbs have been tremendous from the point of view of saving energy and maintenance costs, however if the correct ones are not installed (warm white) they can ruin an interior, giving a cold ‘flat’ light that can kill any atmosphere.”
In between complete refurbishments, a simple paint job and new furniture can breathe new life into an outlet, said McIntyre of Nicoll Russell Studios.
But he also emphasised the importance of “functionality” when creating a redesigned space.
“A nice interior is pointless if it doesn’t actually work, ie. the flow of people through the space, efficiently operated and planned bar/kitchen, access/egress, sight lines and way-finding,” said McIntyre.