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Floral exams

Even with a limited budget, flowers—fresh or faux—can increase exposure.

The six-figure flower budget at New York City’s Le Grenouille restaurant—known for its lavish arrangements—is just a fantasy for most operators. In fact, having floral arrangements at all may be a pipe dream for some as costs of other nonelective items on the P&L rise. Yet many operators who consider flowers an important element of the restaurant’s decor are finding their own ways to make the blooms affordable.

flowers vase

At Dimes restaurant in New York City, a single, sculptural arrangement, strategically placed at the entrance, greets guests and punctuates the stark-white, 400-square-foot space. The arrangement, which is switched out weekly, has become a huge part of the design, says co-owner Sabrina De Sousa. “The concept behind having flowers is to bring something fresh and always changing to the aesthetic of the space,” she explains. “It’s like a little reset button.”

When it opened just over a year ago, Dimes’ owners hired a friend to do the arrangements. “She was talking about how she was really wanting to tap into the whole world of floral arranging,” says De Sousa. At first, they were doing everything at cost, buying inexpensive blooms from the flower market and seeing how it would work out. Once they saw the impact the quality and character of the arrangements had on the restaurant, the owners upped the budget to $100 a week. It was a deal that has worked for both parties. “Doing flowers at Dimes definitely exposed her work,” De Sousa says of the floral designer who continues to do the weekly arrangements.

When Dimes expands to a larger location this spring, with plans to open a market in its original space in the months to follow, the flowers will be part of the new decor, and bouquets from Dimes’ florist will be available for sale. “The [flower] budget will increase, but it’s an experiment at this point,” says De Sousa. “We’ll see what works.”

For an operation with more locations, fresh, hand-sculpted blooms may not be a very practical option. At Texas de Brazil, headquartered in Dallas, silk flowers were the answer.

The giant arrangements that sit above the buffet at every location of the Brazilian steak-house chain have been part of the decor since the first restaurant opened in 1998, says Chief Operating Officer Salim Asrawi. Silk allows for a level of uniformity across the 30 locations. With a $15,000 budget, all flowers are created by the same vendor and follow certain overarching guidelines. Still, the types and colors can differ a little bit based on the restaurant’s decor. “Over the years, the quality of the flowers has increased and the colors have gotten more brilliant … adding to the restaurant’s ‘wow factor,’” says Asrawi.

And that’s the point. Whether dazzling or subtle, flowers to these operators aren’t just about creating a pretty space. The payoff comes when guests take notice. “It’s really gratifying the way people are always commenting on the flowers,” says De Sousa. Even better, the attention is helping business. Dimes posts pictures of its weekly arrangements on Instagram, and customers frequently share their own photos taken inside the restaurant. And when Dimes started catering, photos of events incorporating the flowers led to inquires. Says De Sousa, “It’s amazing how much you can expose, how much information you can give people and how much they get back to you.” 

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