Expertise Interview /

Quick and Easy Renovations

 

In June, Pizza Hut announced it would spend $5 million to renovate its locations in Jacksonville, Florida. The investment would pay for a “transformation to a more contemporary look and improved customer experience” in the seven dine-in and 23 delivery and carryout restaurants in the area.

If you want to update your restaurant’s look and you don’t have the $167,000 or so that the Dallas-based company will spend on each unit, don’t worry. There are many low cost ways to renovate your restaurant.

Start with the furniture you already have. “We get creative with repurposing,” says Miranda Barnard, who with her husband, Zach, owns Z Pizzeria & Café in Salt Lake City. When they moved their restaurant to a new site this summer, they wanted to update the old wooden tables that they’d bought from a shuttered restaurant fi ve years earlier. So they had the tables covered with galvanized steel. “They look brand new and really modern,” she says. “For 20 tables it cost us only $300.”

Buying used is always a good idea, and you don’t have to wait for a sale. Michele Lavecchia, who owns Pizzeria Amoroma with Hafi z Haidari and Noe Castro in Orinda, California, says he reads about restaurant closures in “Inside Scoop”, a column in the local newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle. “I go knock on their door,” he says of restaurants that are going out of business. “They won’t make more money at an auction, so they are happy to sell to you.”

The three partners opened Pizzeria Amoroma in June of this year. Lavecchia says they bought half the equipment used. Sometimes he stumbles on unusual fi nds. He bought a set of china from a restaurant that was going to go Kosher. “They were going to throw it all away,” he says.

Updating your artwork is another inexpensive way to spiff up the place. Z Pizzeria got free artwork by putting an ad on Craigslist, the online classifi ed ads site. The offer was to let artists display their work on the Z Pizzeria walls for free for a month. Artists get free exhibit space and the restaurant gets fresh paintings every month. “Craigslist is really popular with the art community,” Barnard says. “We had 20 artists respond.”

Wall art is important, says Larry Cukjati, owner of HD Canvas Art in Overland Park, Kansas. “What it allows operators to do is revise that eye level area of the restaurant that people see when they walk in,” he says. The company makes canvas art with high resolution digital photos and an ink and oil combination.

Cukjati’s advice: make sure your art matches the theme of your restaurant. If you want to be the local place, art from area artists makes sense. If you have a Tuscan bistro, maybe you want to put up photos of Tuscany. Also, if the new framed pieces are a different size from what hung before, be sure to clean the wall. Don’t leave a dusty frame outline.

“The first calling card of any place is the cleanliness,” Cukjati says. There are other places in the front of the house where a tidying up will work wonders. If your lobby is cluttered with stacks of free community newspapers, candy machines, and a plastic plant that looks like something from a 1970s sitcom, get rid of it.

Lighting is also important. Tim Trapp, president of the design fi rm Trapp Associates Ltd in Boulder, Colorado, says you don’t have to buy new fi xtures. Sometimes just a different bulb can change the feel of the place. Amber bulbs, or even regular bulbs under a parchment shade, give the restaurant a warm atmosphere. “With an amber soft light, customers say, ‘Gee, I feel so comfortable here and I don’t know why,’ ” Trapp says. Soft pink lights also work well.

Make sure the entire front of the house has the same bulbs, he says. You might get a discount by buying in bulk. Also, workers won’t waste time fi guring out which bulb goes in which lamp. (In the kitchen you might need the stark fl uorescent bulbs. Check with your health department to see if there are rules about the lumens, or the units of perceived power of light.)

Paint is always a low cost fi x-up. Trapp says he consulted on a new restaurant that wanted to look old, so they sprayed the new wood with a stain. “They had light colored natural wood, like you buy in a lumberyard,” he says. “We sprayed it and it looked 50 years old in one day.”

Before painting or starting other work yourself, check with your local health and building agencies about permits and other issues. Lavecchia says for Pizzeria Amoroma, he hired contractors. “I’m sure you can save money doing it yourself, but they know about permits and insurance,” he says. “If something goes wrong, it’s more expensive to fix it.”

Don’t forget tabletops. Barnard says Z Pizzeria used to have fresh flowers on the tables, but that got expensive. Now they have small, succulent plants in steel food cans with the labels peeled off. So instead of replacing fresh flowers every week, now the restaurant has plants that require very little water. “The whole thing cost $15,” she says. “So if someone takes one or if they get dented or break, we can replace them at low cost.”

Check the Bathrooms

If you have a small redecorating budget, consider renovating only the bathroom. Tim Trapp, president of the design firm Trapp Associates Ltd in Boulder, Colorado, says customers often form an opinion of a restaurant based on their visit to the restroom. “People come out and they tell each other, ‘You have to go in there and see the bathroom,’ he says.

Conversely, if the mirror is cracked or the wallpaper peeling, they have the opposite opinion. “You can spend $2,000 on art, but if you have broken tile in the bathroom, you wasted your money,” he says. “Customers get real personal with the space.”

You don’t need granite countertops, he says. Try plastic laminate, which is less expensive. Smell is important, too. Make sure the fan in your bathroom’s ventilation system works well enough that the air flows at 600 cubic feet per minute or more. “It doesn’t have to have an upscale feel,” he says. “It has to be sound, taken care of, and clean.”

(Source: Nora Caley, Pizza Today)

Project Press /

Oskar Blues Considers Fort Collins

Longmont-based Oskar Blues Brewery, just six months after opening a restaurant on the southern edge of Longmont, is considering opening another — most likely in Fort Collins.

“This year is starting off with a bang,” said Dale Katechis, founder of Oskar Blues.

In early February, Oskar Blues’ architectural design firm submitted a conceptual review application to the city of Fort Collins for a remodel of 350 Linden St., a 101-year-old building called the Union Pacific Freight Depot, according to city documents.

The application proposes a 300-seat restaurant in the 6,600-square-foot space that is vacant.

“The Fort Collins thing, it’s become quite a buzz up there in the market,” Katechis said. “It’s a little premature. We have submitted plans, but we haven’t secured the site yet.”

Katechis and other Oskar Blues officials are in discussions with the building’s owner on a lease and remodel of the property. The Kluver-Moore Foundation is listed as the property’s owner, according to Larimer County Assessor records.

The prospect of Oskar Blues opening a third restaurant comes on the heels of the company, known for its canned craft beers, seeing triple digit revenue growth last year. It also recently announced plans to add two more 200-barrel fermenters to its Longmont brewery, bringing annual brewery output to 40,000 barrels.

If the talks in Fort Collins work in Oskar Blues’ favor, Katechis said the brewery would move forward with creating a “craft beer bar” and restaurant reminiscent of the Oskar Blues Home Made Liquids & Solids restaurant that opened in Longmont in October. That establishment has 43 craft beers — most of which are hard-to-find — on tap, southern-style food, a host of random adornments on the walls and a neighboring silo repainted as a beer can and filled with a handful of video games and pinball machines. Oskar Blues also continues to operate its original location in Lyons.

If Fort Collins doesn’t pan out, Katechis said he would move forward with a property he has eyed in Boulder.

However, he added, Oskar Blues is fairly far along in the due diligence process for the Fort Collins building.

“(A Boulder restaurant is) an option, but right now, we’re taking it one at a time,” he said. Katechis declined to discuss further specifics of a potential Boulder location.

The microbrewery-friendly city of Fort Collins and the building itself were attractive to Oskar Blues, said Tim Trapp, founder of Trapp Associates Ltd., a Boulder-based restaurant designer that is heading up Oskar Blues’ latest endeavor. The former depot has a “unique personality” to it, with its turn-of-the-century architecture and history as a train depot.

“We all feel pretty strongly about Fort Collins,” Trapp said. “It’s right down the street from New Belgium (Brewing’s) campus … Gee whiz, we sort of sheepishly grin, you’d have to go past us to get to them.”

The restaurant would be three-tenths of a mile southwest of New Belgium’s 500 Linden St. site.

The restaurant also would fill a building that from 1992 to 1995 housed New Belgium’s then under 40-employee operation, said Bryan Simpson, spokesman for New Belgium.

“I surely do think there’s plenty of room (for another brewpub),” he said of Oskar Blues, a “friend” that helped New Belgium in its canning of Fat Tire.

“… It’s a great, diverse brewing community.”

 

(Source: Alicia Wallace, Daily Camera)

Expertise Interview /

Secrets of Successful Outdoor Dining

Creating outdoor dining space has become a sort of collective madness in the restaurant world.

It’s not just the allure of dining outside, enjoying warm sun or soft breezes that drives this trend; it’s also the tangible business benefits of increasing the number of available tables a restaurant has to sell.

The result is outdoor dining just about everywhere – on porches, decks, rooftops, in parking lots, and, in some urban locations, on commandeered stretches of public sidewalk space.

The results can range from delightful to horrific; in the latter category a dining deck located immediately downwind of the restaurant’s dumpster comes to mind.

What does it take, then, to create a truly attractive outdoor dining space?

In a recent article in “Restaurant Hospitality” authored by Gina LaVecchia Ragone, Tim Trapp, principle in a Boulder, Colorado-based restaurant design firm, shared his thoughts on the subject.

One of his primary observations was the importance of making sure that outside dining offered something comparable to what a patron sitting inside would experience – equal levels of comfort and service are essential.

He also discussed the importance of layout and design. Ideally outdoor dining should be accessible without the staff having to march through the dining room, creating drafts and disruption.

Moreover, it’s important than any outdoor space add-ons are within the capacity of the restaurant’s infrastructure – kitchen, warewashing, food storage, and the like.

Putting an “emotional lid” on an outdoor space is also a best practice. Sitting under an open stretch of sky can, Trapp asserts, be vaguely disconcerting. He suggests using latticework or strings of lights to give an al fresco space a sense of overhead definition.

There are some noteworthy outdoor dining spaces here in Western Massachusetts.

Some have spectacular views; the champion on that score is the Golden Eagle Restaurant in Clarksburg, which is located on Route 2’s “hairpin turn.” Its dining room and balcony offer amazing “hundred mile” vistas of the distant Taconic range.

More intimate in terms of outdoor perspectives is Alvah Stone in Montague, with its deck looking out across a wooded glade through which the Sawmill River flows.

I’m also a big fan of two urban spaces. Both are in Northampton, and both are second story dining porches. One is at Mulino’s on Strong Avenue; the second is part of Osaka on Old South Street. Both offer something akin to the sidewalk dining experience but without the street level noise and distraction.

An oasis of elegance created from parking lot space is the outdoor dining offered by the 350 Grill on Worthington Street in downtown Springfield. Linen, attractive furnishings, and an intimate sense of enclosure work to bring the indoors out into the night air.”

(Source: Hugh Robert, masslive.com)