Renovation envy


I serve homestyle food and know my place is dated. Is it wise to try to renovate by taking a loan or is it best to close and move on? I have struggled with declining sales, no management team, and working seven day weeks. It seems like the efforts I make to improve my business aren't successful, whereas across from me, McDonald's just did another $750k remodel. I don't even have enough cash flow to cover day-to-day expenses. I have worked seventeen years and am still trying to find right mix of things.

– Asma, Owner, S&S Restaurant


I feel the pain of your renovation envy. I know the frustration of working hard every day and feeling that if you just had—you name it—a better oven, more seating, new flooring, or some new equipment, it would drive sales.

The bottom line, however, is it sounds like you have a concept and operations problem more than a design one. Investing in a renovation if your core business model of providing great food, beverage and service at good volume while controlling costs is not on strong footing means you’ll have all the same problems you do now, complicated by loan payments.

That said, if you are committed to a renovation, do it on the cheap.  James Feustel, Assistant Professor at Kingsborough Community College and a restaurant designer says,  “Renovations don't have to cost a lot of money.  Lots of things can be done on a cosmetic level to give a restaurant dining room an entirely different feel. Changing light fixtures, replacing worn flooring/carpeting, new paint or wall coverings, re-laminating finishes on tabletops, new furniture (or any combination of [these things]) can all be inexpensive ways of refreshing a space. It would be a good idea to consult an interior designer, at the very least for a visit and consultation.  Designers won't give too much away (and definitely won't do any drawings for free) but it's always good to get a designer's eye on a space before moving ahead.”

Yes, the restaurant across the street may be shiny, new and expensive, but at its core, there is a strong business model in play that justifies the costs of the renovation. Feustel adds, “If this operator hasn't already done so, I would also suggest a real hard look at the items on the menu that just aren't working.  She mentions not having a management team, so how are food costs being tracked? How is labor being managed/scheduled? Definitely things that need to be looked at.”

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