Once you’ve figured out what you want for your restaurant renovation in Part 1 of this two-part series, you can start making it a reality:
Team up with the right contractor
It’s important to look for a contractor experienced in restaurant renovations. By now, you already know what you want done, but it takes a commercial restaurant contractor to instinctively understand how to transform your ideas into a functional restaurant space. Communication is crucial in this working relationship so feel free to go in detail about what you’d like to see happen in your restaurant. Make sure to also ask your contractor what their thoughts are on improvements. They can identify what works, what doesn’t, the timelines as well as the estimated costs. Seeking your contractor’s input makes their years of experience a part of your restaurant design.
Keep in mind though that the cost options will always be different from what you expected. To deal with higher costs, honestly ask yourself whether you’re financially comfortable with taking on the difference. If not, work with your contractor to cut back on non-priority ideas. After you’ve arrived at a good number, nail down the renovation timeline with your contractor. It’s best to schedule the renovation during your restaurant’s slow season to minimise the financial impact of lost business on you and your staff.
Putting the money to work
Once you have a solid budget number, adjust the financing amount with the bank. The financing should have been pre-approved by now since you’d started the process with them early on. As soon as adequate financing is in place, confirm with your contractor that renovation work can start at the scheduled time you agreed on. Discuss what materials to order right away. It’s a pain to have renovation held up by waiting on shipments to arrive.
Updates and reinforcing staff loyalty
Update your staff on the renovation timeline as soon as it’s finalised. Post signs around the restaurant for both your staff and your customers on the restaurant’s closing and re-opening dates. Update your restaurant’s website and social media as well with that information.
Find opportunities to talk with all your staff individually and see if there’s anything you can do to help them out while the restaurant is closed. You can go as far as referring them to temporary work for other restaurant owners you know. You can also encourage them to go on a vacation if you already offer vacation pay to your employees. The main point is to start that conversation with your staff and show that you care about how they’re affected by your decisions. Often, that gesture in itself is enough to cement their loyalty to you and even help keep on most of your staff after the renovations are done.
When it looks like the renovation will finish on schedule, set a soft opening day/night where invited guests are treated to a free meal. Send invitations out to family, friends, investors, associates, and vendors to fill the restaurant to capacity on that date. You can even invite regular customers, too, if there’s space. Mention on the invitation that this is your way of thanking them for their support over the years. Ask for their patience as well during their soft opening experience as your staff is undergoing training. The soft opening will give your staff a chance to get used to the new layout of the restaurant and to the new changes in its workflow. You can also tell whether the renovation changes work well in a simulated peak customer rush. This will give you the chance to smooth out any issues before the grand-re-opening.
Hype up the grand re-opening
While renovations are ongoing, use social media to update your customers on the progress. Take lots of before-and-after photos, too, and send some of them exclusively to the regular customers who took the time to give you renovation ideas in the beginning. As you get closer to the grand re-opening date, ramp up the social media marketing campaign to remind everyone when that is. Again, make your regular customers feel special by inviting them to the grand re-opening and offering them a discount that day. Not everyone will love the new renovation at first, of course, but the special invitation and discount will give them an extra opportunity for the renovation to grow on them. Once that happens, they’ll work just as hard as you to promote your restaurant.
The great thing about taking care of all these details outside of the renovation itself is that you get the best of both worlds in the end. You’ll keep most if not all the people loyal to your restaurant and still give the restaurant a fresh, new look.