CapitalReal Estate

Restaurant Renovations on a Budget

This is the exciting part. You have a blank slate, or a slate you’re ready to wipe clean, and start anew. As any restaurateur knows that has worked in the industry for any length of time, ambiance and setting is as important as the quality of the food and service. Unique concepts are all the rage. How do you create your vision on a budget?

The Cost

According to professional designers in the restaurant industry, remodeling a restaurant starts at $100,000. If you’re designing from scratch—triple that. Fortunately, there are ways to reduce these costs while still creating your masterpiece.


Consider leasing equipment if you are on a budget. As your business expands, you can buy, sell and trade to produce better margins. This initial reduction in cost can help you get a foothold. In addition to leasing, there are, unfortunately, an abundance of restaurants going out of business and more than happy to sell their second-hand equipment. Here are a few average costs for new equipment to consider that might steer you toward leasing or buying used: exhaust system–$15,000; walk-in refrigerators–$20,000.

The Kitchen

Refurbishing updated items to keep them up-to-code and installing energy-saving models can save you tons of money down the road. On the other hand, when you are just starting out, this is one part of the restaurant where your employees’ abilities matter much more than the décor. As long as your kitchen is clean and has the necessary equipment to allow your kitchen staff to do their job well, and your food to be kept fresh, the make and model are not as important. Consider a full renovation on this part of the restaurant last on your remodeling list.

The Dining Room

Here is the first impression—the piece de resistance. However, I have seen some beautiful restaurants that took my breath away that were created with one-tenth of the funds that the upscale restaurant down the street required. Ingenuity and imagination can make $100 stretch to $1000.  Consider exposing existing features like brickwork, wooden beams or cement flooring. Painted cement can be both beautiful and otherworldly. Experiment with design and dimension, always keeping your voice and brand in mind.

An innovative, yet cheap, idea: tropical plants are making their entrance into restaurant design. If a tropical design is not your brand, consider other plants or aspects of nature that can be included in your budget. This one touch can create a totally different atmosphere, and it is definitely cost friendly. Another area to consider that can make a big impact for low cost is lighting.  Remodeling helps you stay relevant. Add track lighting to a wall with a newly painted mural and you have altered the focus of a room entirely. In addition, lighting can change the entire mood of a dining room from one of magical intrigue to romantic mystique to fun and fanciful.

Consider your Patrons

When Formosa Café, an icon in West Hollywood that has stood the test of time for over 90 years, decided to change its image from memorabilia and nostalgic-filled to stark and modern, many of its customers felt abandoned. Here’s a late-night spot they’d been going to for years suddenly transformed without a word. Learn from their mistakes and get your loyal customer’s opinions before getting out the chisel and hammer.


CapitalReal Estate
  • Subscribe to our latest insights


Are you capital raise ready?