How to plan your bar or restaurant refit

Ideas to consider

How can I make the most of my refit/ fit-out of my bar/restaurant? Whether you are an existing bar/restaurant looking to renovate or expand or if you are someone new to the industry, who has a blank canvas, the planning stages are key to your fit-out and the following advice will be invaluable. Although there is an obvious initial outlay, the result of a new fit-out will help you to increase your overall revenue. It is believed a refit can improve revenue by as much as 20% through improved efficiency, allowing better service. Ultimately, this makes the customer experience more enjoyable and again they are more likely to return, spread the word and spend more money in your establishment.

Giving your restaurant or bar a new lease of life can also give you the edge against your competition in an increasingly competitive market; however, you must have clear goals in mind in order to have the kinds of positive outcomes mentioned above.

Meticulous planning of your fit-out/ refit is one of the biggest indicators of the success of your next stage in your business. In the planning stages, you need to remember it is an opportunity to provide your customers with an exciting new surrounding in which to relax and socialise and in turn they will spend more money. You need to think of how to be unique in the market and use your space creatively; all whilst complying with all the legal requirements for health and safety executive and the disability discrimination act.

Where do I begin?

This article will predominantly address the designing and planning elements of a project like this. If you want to find out more about other sections, please see our other articles.

Research is instrumental in your success and there are a number of questions you need to know answers to before moving forward such as, what is your target audience? Who are your competitors and what do they already offer? You do not want to create the same so your design needs to offer something different to ensure you entice customers to your establishment and that you generate loyal customers because of the experience you provide for them. Learn about the laws and any inspections you may experience; identify your budget and establish the timeframe you would ideally like to work within. Following this, you can begin on your conceptual plan of your project.

Can I do this whole project on my own?

Whilst being self-sufficient in the projects we undertake might appeal to some, the thought of it can terrify others and even though you could do a number of things yourself, it is highly likely that if you do go it alone, you will hit a multitude of problems that will require you to seek professional help at some point down the line. If you do not do things in the right order, it could also prove even more costly than getting professionals in at the very beginning.

Whilst you can begin the process of creating an inspiration board and a mood board on your own, it is advisable to begin with a designer who can help you to get the best from your space and help you to keep on point with modern looks, advising about what is on-trend. Conveying your idea to one another is one of the hardest things, so having a variety of ways to communicate is recommended.

An inspiration board is a good place to start as it allows you both an opportunity to play around with different ideas, create a collage of images that stimulate your imagination and eventually helps you to arrive at your decision about what you do and do not like, identifying your chosen theme and/or mood of your bar/restaurant.

A mood board however can be a good way to share images, materials and pieces of text that evoke your chosen style so you can fine tune your decisions down to the tiniest of details.

After consultation with your designer, you will need to compile a comprehensive list of your chosen furniture, fixtures and equipment (FF&E). On this list, it is recommended that you identify what built-in FFE will require mechanical or electrical connections (such as taps, drink stations) and those that do not (eg. shelving); what stand alone FFE will require connections (eg. ovens, drip infusion equipment) and those that do not (such as chairs and tables). This will help you both identify where your FFE will need to be positioned in the bar/restaurant.

Alongside your mood boards and inspiration boards, it is vital that you are both looking at the same and most current version of your proposed floor plan.

How will you create a bar/restaurant that encourages your customers to return?

Use your senses as a guide to help create the atmosphere you desire and more importantly a space that will excite your customers. From the moment they walk through your front door, your customers will be using all their senses so provide them with an opportunity to continuously enjoy, discovering new things about your bar/restaurant, providing them every reason to stay longer, return and spend more money.

Ask yourself how you can be unique in your industry in your area. Will your establishment have high ceilings to give a sense on calm and tranquility; what will you do with your tables in order to create opportunities for your customers to have the choice of isolating/comforting/socialising/romancing etc? What kinds of tables and chairs will help to create the mood you are looking for? These are small items on your budget but can impact heavily.

Another thing to consider is your restrooms. Not only must you pay careful consideration to the law and provide sufficient access for disabled customers, the aesthetics of this area is very important. How can this be yet another special discovery? What will give it a luxurious feel and help your customers feel revived coming back into your bar/restaurant? Furthermore, consider how many toilets, basins and, if any, electronic equipment like hand dryers your bar/restaurant will need.

With the environment being at the forefront of many people’s mind, do you want to aim to be as eco-friendly as possible? How can you achieve this? Should you invest in solar panels to support your supply of electricity? How could you heat and cool your establishment in an eco friendly way? Your professional team should be able to help you answer all these questions too.

Even things such as the decisions you make with regard to the angles of the walls all play their part in promoting your customers’ mood and the more positive they feel, the more they will return to your establishment. Allow your designer to help you figure out how modern trends might help you address this?

What will you do with the space behind the bar? It will be a focal point even if you hadn’t thought it would... and focal points are a great idea as you will find customers use them as backdrops for their selfies and post online giving you free publicity. Will there be any other focal points? Remember to make your theme and mood seamlessly flow through your bar/restaurant. This includes items such as your menus, uniforms, website and social media platforms.

Colour and lighting can increase or decrease your customers mood significantly and it can be a deciding factor in whether they choose to stay or move on. Obviously your goal is for them to stay, spending more money in your establishment so give time to consider the temperature of the room through your placing and use of light as well as paint and materials. Where do you want ambient and spot lighting? What colour paint will promote the mood you are looking for?

Also whilst allowing all your customers to hear music in your venue, you might want to consider your neighbours to avoid animosity, so do you need to soundproof your bar or at least be mindful of the construction materials, acoustical absorbers, diffusers and sound barriers. Whatever you need, the decisions need to be made at the planning stage. This is where having a professional team at hand to answer these questions and provide honest and reliable advice really helps.

Having big screens can be a huge pull in for some sports fans and help to drive up your revenue but you should consider if this will be appropriate for the mood you are creating and if so, where they are best placed to avoid efficiency issues at point of service.

How can I make my bar/restaurant more efficient through a refit/fit-out?

When deciding your floor plan and position of equipment and furniture, you should consider inviting your employees to have their say. They may have some vital experience and information that could lead to a bar/ kitchen area running more efficiently. Customers don’t like waiting, so how many points of service (POS) are you going to need? The position of these could lead to big clusters of customers making it difficult for your employees to get meals out to the customers or if you have too few tills, your customers will be queueing up at the bar. Before they have even spent anything, they are likely to become so frustrated at the long wait and possible leave, without even spending any money.

In either a bar or restaurant, you are going to need a certain amount of space for storage. Where will you position this to make it easily accessible for your employees but not too visible so it distract customers from the new atmosphere you create? The position and number of cooling lines are often planned for however many underestimate the position and number of power outlets needed. In the digital age we are now in, it has become almost an expectation from customers that there will be power/usb outlets. By offering these, you are accessing customers who might be running business meetings or simply working away from home, not to mention providing general customers with a place to recharge their devices, again giving you an opportunity for free publicity should they decide to post your location or a photo.

With so many things to consider, trying to communicate this to all parties involved in your fit-out or re-fit can be very challenging; however, having 3D renders of your design would be highly recommended. To obtain these, you will need to visit a 3D graphic designer who will be able to generate a mock-up with 3D images of your bar/restaurant. Not only do these images support communication, they can also be very insightful for you to visualise your restaurant with all of your designs. At this point, you might decide to go back to your designs and alter things because aesthetically something does not look right or if you are really pleased with the outcome, the next step would be to visit an architect.

When you visit the architect, you will need to share with them all of your designs, and FFE. From here, they will then be able to convert all your ideas into very detailed and accurate construction drawings, which can then be handed to and interpreted by construction workers who can then begin your build to turn your dream into reality.

Therefore in addition to your designer, you are going to also need a team of professionals including an architect, interior designer, mechanical, structural, electrical and plumbing engineers. You might also want a lighting designer, audio specialist and an acoustic specialist. The skills of a graphic designer are definitely something you should look into using for your renders, logo, menu and signage designs, ensuring your colour scheme and theme flow through them all. Once again, a professional re-fit/ fit-out company will employ or know all of these people so you don’t have to search for them and be anxious about their capabilities and reliability.

With all of these things to consider, hopefully it is clear that in order to renovate your bar/ restaurant, planning is the key to making the work as painless as possible. Try to be realistic and thorough and whilst we all believe we are capable of leading this kind of thing, if you have little to no experience of this, you are likely to make mistakes. Hiring a confident and professional team of those in the know will take away much of the stress and help you plan for all eventualities whilst helping you to create your new look that will help your business to be unique, competitive and as efficient as it can be, encouraging your customers to recommend and return time and time again which will lead to your ultimate goal of increasing your profit margin.


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