cafe fit out melbourne, interior designer melbourne

Top Tips for Renovating a Cafe, Bar, Restaurant

While there have been many new bar, café and restaurant openings recently, many hospitality businesses had to close permanently due to an extended lock down periord in 2020.  Walk or drive down any high street for example; Lygon Street, Carlton or Burke Road, Camberwell and you can’t help but notice these spaces. Once thriving cafes or restaurants just sitting idle in the dark.  These spaces are simply and sadly gathering dust, with for sale or for lease signs plastered on the front window. They are ripe for renovating, so I wanted to share my top tips for renovating a cafe, bar, restaurant.

As we hit mid 2021, for some people 2020 seems like a life time ago.  For other people, they are still feeling the repercussions from nearly a year in lock down.  The repercussions could be issues relating to unemployment or more personal health related issues.  The consequence of 2020’s lock down also means that Melbourne’s once vibrant hospitality industry remains stagnant.

For some hospitality entrepreneurs this may be an ideal opportunity to enter the hospitality industry.  This once operating hospitality business attracts a lower start up cost because the existing space already has operable kitchen and dining areas.

A space like this would then require refurbishment, rather than a completely new fit out.  A few smart hospitality interior design selections made to an existing space, can make all the difference so that your brand and food dream are realised.  Considering, the cost of kitchen equipment alone, buying an existing business with an operable space is worth serious thought.

So this month I thought I’d share some insights into how hospitality interior design can have a huge impact on an existing space to transform it into completely different and vibrant business.

What’s your vision for your cafe, bar or restaurant

What’s the dream?  We hear that question get asked a lot on every season of Masterchef and for good reason.  It’s important to have a vision for your hospitality business.  Your vision will ensure your café, restaurant or bar will stand out, giving you a competitive advantage.

My client’s visions come from a range of ideas, experiences and sources.  Sometimes travel is the source a client’s vision.  Such as the rock n roll vibe in Los Angeles for my Sycamore Meadows project.  The sea side city of Alexandria, Egypt was the inspiration for another client, Stanley Burgers. 

You can see this inspiration in our interior design at Stanley Burgers, through the blue colour of the walls and façade of the counters.  The yellow of the pendant lights and the coastal styling of the table tops. 

interior designer melbourne, hospitality design
Stanley Burgers

Your vision may be inspired by your family’s heritage, your local community, a way of life such as veganism.  Wherever your vision originates from, it’s something you have to be passionate about.  It’s also important that your vision is easily communicated to your customers and realised through a number of touch points in your business.

Touch points such as the ‘About Us’ section of your website, your graphic design and definitely in your interior design.  Not being clear about your vision is one of the top mistakes we see in hospitality interior design projects. You can click here to read about the other top mistakes to avoid in your hospitality interior design project.

Bottom line is your vision is what feeds and inspires our interior design solution.

Treating key surfaces

There are four key surfaces to any space.  These are the floors, two walls and ceilings.  The walls generally take up the greatest volume of surface space in the overall space.  So tackling and changing the walls is key to refurbishing a hospitality interior design project.

What wall treatment your interior designer decides on will be based on style/vision, colour scheme and budget.  An example of the options available for treating walls includes, wall paneling, cladding such a fake brick work or fluted timber walls, which is on trend at the moment.  Other options include; wallpaper, paint, a paint effect.  For example, a distressed or stone effect paint.  There are lots of options.

There are really creative options too such as art or a neon sign, banners, fabric panels etc.  The walls are really the perfect opportunity to rebrand an existing hospitality business into your place.

Here’s an example of the dramatic difference a creative wall treatment solution made to our project Autumn Leaves.  The walls were simply white.  My client wanted a cement look on the walls.  We spoke to a painter, looked at wallpaper and even cement effect tiles but in the end I convinced my clients to work with an artist to create this effect.

The end result is dramatic, interesting and completely transforms the space and creates an Insta worthy photo opportunity for customers and a talking point in general.

hospitality design
Autumn Leaves

Selecting key pieces of furniture

When refurbishing an existing café, bar or restaurant the key piece of furniture to consider replacing is the chair.  The reason for this is that between the chair and the table, the chair is more ornamental or decorative.  Also, the chair is repeated many times in the space, so it has to tick a few boxes.

The chair in a café or restaurant or stool in a bar need to be good quality to withstand commercial usage.  The chair also needs to be comfortable.  Sometimes, it needs to be stackable.  It needs to fit with interior design strategy and the right chair has to be the right price.

Generally speaking we don’t like to and don’t think our hospitality design clients need to spend more than $100 on the chair.  Still even if you have a space only accommodates 20 – 30 customers, that’s $2,000 – $3,000 already spent.  I don’t advise skimping on the chair.  Personally and professionally I feel this is disrespectful to your customers who deserves to be comfortable, it’s the hospitable thing to do.

An example of where we kept the table tops and bases but changed the chairs was a refurbishment project we worked on, transforming an Italian restaurant into a Vietnamese restaurant called Little Brother Vietnamese Bar and Kitchen in the CBD. 

interior designer melbourne, cafe design, hospitality design
Little Brother

Design and install the right signage

Another important aspect to a refurbishment hospitality interior design project is signage.  As the new business owner, with a priority of communicating your vision and brand you need to ensure that all the old signage is removed and the new signage is prominent.

For this we recommend working with a graphic designer to create your brand in the first instance and then a signage business to recommend suitable solutions.

An example of where signage played a key role in a refurbishment project we worked on was Autumn Leaves.  The neon sign was an important part of our client’s vision for the space. The client wanted the neon sign to act as the primary signage in the front window to a) emit a glow onto the streetscape that attracted customers to the space and b) communicate clearly the change in name of the business.

The colour, the font, the size were all on brand to realise the client’s vision.

cafe fit out
Autumn Leaves

Buying an existing hospitality space presents really enticing opportunities.  But to be successful in refurbishing this space into YOUR place and a vibrant successful food business, there are some important business and interior design things to consider.  To get both aspects right you may need to seek out professional support.  If you have a hospitality space in mind that you want to refurbish, let’s have an initial chat, for free, with no obligation.