Restaurant Development & Design

MAY-JUN 2017

restaurant development + design is a user-driven resource for restaurant professionals charged with building new locations and remodeling existing units.

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The Marker, a boutique hotel in San Francisco. Timing was essential since hotels' business has huge ebbs and flows. Puccini Group decided to operate it as it was (a gastropub) for the final quarter of 2015. That's typically the most profitable time of the year for any restaurant, and December and January are busy times for hotels. In January 2016, the group's in-house designers began working on a new design. After careful planning, the restaurant closed for a month at the end of the winter of 2016. During this time, the venue was converted to an Italian trattoria. The easiest way to figure out when you need to start the initial work on a remodel — finding designers, architects, etc. — is to select your opening day and work backward, says Rafe Gabel, vice president of restaurant operations for Puccini Group. It's important, Gabel says, to "set milestone goals for the design team and accountable dates for the other teams to make sure everyone is aware of the expectations of others. The earlier this happens, the easier it is for sourcing products due to lead times." Gabel admits he did cut things a little fine. "The pizza oven took weeks and weeks to arrive and got here just before we opened. The outside signage also took a long time; all paint colors here have to be vetted, and it's a very slow, bureaucratic process, and I wished I'd started that sooner and had knowledge of city planning." After the Close Comes the Opening The great thing about closing your res- taurant for a short period of time while you remodel is obvious: You get to have a brand-new opening. "Any time there is any construc- tion, you're going to get curiosity," Tay- lor says. "We've seen restaurants who have had a lot of success by shutting down and asking customers to come and see the new look. They can make something of the big reveal, which can be very impactful." Taylor suggests restaurants have fun with their reopening from day one. "Put up signs; put it on your social media. You can even do under- construction specials if you stay open," he says. Klaskala's team hyped up the reopening of Aria. "Restaurants often announce this too far in advance, and then the clientele is confused. We took it right until the end, then fired up our PR and social media. We told everyone we were closing Monday and then reopening the following Monday, so we announced both at the same time," he says. To build excitement about newly remodeled stores, Saladworks runs promotions for the day it reopens — the first 30 people get free salad for a year, for example, and it awards extra loyalty points. The company announces these promotions via social media and through its food truck. Before opening Tratto, Puccini Group put renderings of the upcoming restaurant on the outside of the win- dows and had its PR firm strategically roll out information touting specials and promotions, mostly via social media. Make as much of this as you can, says Taylor. "Build the sus- pense, count down the weeks and so on. Put up banners and signage, and get customers excited about what you're doing." + The transformation from gastropub to Italian trattoria took a month. Photos courtesy of Puccini Group 6 2 • r e s t a u r a n t d e v e l o p m e n t + d e s i g n • M A Y / J U N E 2 0 1 7

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