5 Reasons to Refresh Your Dining Experience

dining refresh
This large refresh at Jansen Pharmaceutical in Pennsylvania clearly demonstrates the difference a refresh can make when the feeling is carried throughout the café.
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Article contributed to by Ivan J. Weiss, Executive Vice President & COO, elite|studio e

If you own or operate a restaurant, corporate café or other foodservice concept, you may be looking for a way to transform the experience. Most of the time individuals immediately jump to exploring the idea of revamping the menu or getting pricing for a gut renovation. But let’s say you’re on a tight budget or you can’t cease your operation for months, then you need to think about other options. Your dining location might be a candidate for a refresh.

By definition the word “refresh” means to give energy to or reinvigorate. In the case of a dining experience, this usually means bringing the environment from the 1980s to 2020. But why would a company select to refresh the space and not go through the process of a gut renovation? elite|studio e, a foodservice design, build and consulting firm, founded its business 20 years ago on retrofitting corporate cafés. Ivan J. Weiss, Executive Vice President & COO of the company, has been with elite|studio e since its inception and explained five reasons why an owner or operator should consider refreshing the location.

1. Most refreshes can happen without closing.

Of course, it depends on what the scope of work entails, but many times a refresh can be completed on off hours to ensure there’s little to no interruption to the operation. For a corporate building, this often means construction happening on the weekend and sometimes during a big vacation week like the one between Christmas and New Year’s. Imagine being a customer leaving the café on Friday after lunch and returning on Monday to a completely different experience.

2. Refreshes are cost effective.

When a space is being retrofitted the project includes updating smaller, less expensive items that help make a big impact. Some of the costliest items in construction are the floor, ceiling and light fixtures. When those items remain the same it immediately keeps the cost down.

3. Refreshes allow for smaller periodic updates to accommodate current trends.

When you elect to undergo a major renovation at your café or restaurant, you’re probably planning on it lasting 15 to 25 years. Electing to refresh your foodservice concept allows for smaller, more frequent updates that embrace the latest trends in materials, equipment and finishes.

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4. Your offering can change as part of a refresh.

In the third bullet, we mention the possibility of changing drop-in or freestanding equipment. This doesn’t always mean that you have to keep the menu at that station the same. Think about the possibility of turning one station into a flexible entrée where every week the offering rotates. You could serve an endless variety from sushi to Mexican to omelets. New equipment provides more flexibility in what can be cooked and often has a smaller footprint that older equipment.

5. Technology can also be included as part of your café refresh.

Depending on your budget, needs and how far you want to take the improvements, digital screens can be incorporated into your space. These provide an easy way to display and update menu boards, share daily specials and rotate signage on a flexible station. Other technology that can be added to a refresh, include mobile ordering and self-checkout.

When individuals are eating in the same café every day, they become tired. The atmosphere becomes monotonous and menu boredom grows. Refreshing the environment and revitalizing the menu can bring a new sense of excitement to your space and your customers. It might not be the glamorous fix that a gut renovation would bring to your space, but it certainly provides much improvement aesthetically and functionally.

dining refresh
This shows the pinch points created by the salad bar at Nestle.

Case Study – Nestle

Nestle renovated its entire building a few years ago but left a 20-year old servery that feeds 500 people. The client wanted a fresh new look without the cost of a gut renovation so elite|studio e had to be innovative, impactful and cost conscious. In addition, several pinch points needed to be resolved.

dining refresh
You can see the impact the refresh made at Nestle. Relocating the salad bar provided better flow and the aesthetic changes brightened the café.

The team removed the salad island and pushed it up against the wall freeing up space. In addition, the beverage station was relocated away from the cashier, so the queue didn’t block the bottled beverage merchandisers. To modernize the space, digital menu boards were incorporated. Lastly, a vinyl wall graphic, introducing the Nestle brand into the café. The graphic and the color palette chosen to evoke the specs found in the infant brand headquarters, making it warm, clean and fresh.


Case Study – Human Resources Services Firm 

dining refresh
The human resources firm’s previously existing café shows dated tray slides and counter fascia.

When this New Jersey site saw an increase in its workforce, the company desired a café renovation to improve the function and aesthetics of the space. When elite|studio e participated in the initial site visit, a refresh was proposed to keep the changes cost-effective and the operation running.

As a result, the scope of the project included the planning and specifying of equipment and modifications to the interior design finishes.

dining refresh
This photo was taken after the human resources firm’s café refresh exemplifies the impact small changes can have on a space.  

In addition, the design/build team at elite|studio e was able to utilize the drawings provided by the original architect to reconfigure the areas where flow was a concern.

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  • AyrKing Mixstir
  • RAK Porcelain
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