Plotting the right refurbishment

A measured approach must be taken to ensure an outlet redesign pays off, firms say

CUSTOMERS continue to expect ever more from the on-trade, be it pubs, bars, restaurants or hotels. And while a quality food and drink offer is paramount, the look of a venue’s interior can be integral to its success.
That was the view taken by Mark Brunjes, managing director of CM Design Consultants, who said a venue’s interior can have an “immeasurable” impact.

He reckons a design refresh can have a number of positive effects on a business, including helping to boost footfall and raise awareness on social media.

Angus Alston, director of shopfitting contractor Hugh Stirling Ltd, took a similar stance but emphasised that different venues require different approaches.

On the one hand, he said that “some traditional pubs can go for years with little or no change and that’s what customers love about them”.

But on the other hand, if an operator wishes to further develop and grow their business (such as introducing a food offer), Alston said “customers [then] have a higher expectation” and more attention must be paid to the condition of finishes, lighting, table sizes and seating arrangements.

In terms of timing, Brunjes of CM Design Consultants reckons “refreshing and small changes should be looked at every year and a major overhaul, say, every five to ten years”.

Operators must also keep an eye on design trends, according to Alston of Hugh Stirling.
He reckons “the fashion for the earthy, shabby chic look appears to be slightly waning”, and is being replaced with “lots of natural finishes”, as well as an increasing use of mirrors, polished metals and hardwoods.

Alston also emphasised the importance of seeking professional advice before undertaking any type of renovation project.

He said operators must ensure that “enough design information is made available to properly price and programme the work, obviously that the local authority permissions are in place (virtually any change to a licensed premises requires permission), and, most importantly, if there are any physical changes to the premises then a refurbishment and demolitions  asbestos survey must be carried out”.

“A competent contractor will not commence works without having sight of this first,” he added, warning that if the survey is not carried out, and asbestos is discovered, “the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) can close a premises down for weeks without any works being allowed to be carried out”.

Echoing this view, Brunjes warned that licensees shouldn’t underestimate the time it can take to get the necessary planning permissions.

“Operators are usually unaware how long permissions can sometimes take, and should plan accordingly,” he said.

Compliance aside, and ensuring the design vision is realistic, Alston advised operators to “seek professional (via a quantity surveyor) or experienced (via designer and/or contractor) advice on the likely cost of the refurb to ensure you have adequate budget set aside”.

He added that allowing a 10% contingency budget for any unforeseen costs is “imperative”.