Our most recent bi-weekly Business Examiner has a story about South Sound Restaurant Group remodeling its eateries. Think it might be time for you to remodel? Take a look at our Q&A with Arnold Shain, a well-known restaurant consultant and founder of Restaurant Group Inc.

How can restaurant owners know if it's time to remodel?
I always like to look at the sales trends for this as well as any guest/staff comments. If the sales trend is not going up and this is a sound operation, it might make some sense to take a hard look at the décor and environment package. It is better to be ahead than get behind the remodel curve. Sometimes one lets the environment go for too long and it can make for just that much more loss in sales as well as capital cost to rehab a facility.

Is now, given the economic upswing and the fact that people are more willing to spend money, a good time for all owners to think about remodeling their establishments?
You know, the interesting thing is most operators are in fact operators and not necessarily looking at their environment and trying to make it better. I have seen where it takes an outside influence for them to see it. They generally focus on service, cleanliness and the quality of the product, so it is almost like they have blinders on to the environment.

How can owners know how much and what to invest in when remodeling?
It depends upon the scope. I would say the line items to look at that make impact to the public eye include coloration, lighting, fabrics, flooring and restrooms. Chairs can stay and even tabletops. If the HVAC is not working well, it should be fixed. How about the outside as well? Take a look at it. Is it tired looking, or is it fresh and crisp? Maybe it is just landscaping. All of this is not a fortune but well worth it. The staff is happier as are the guests making for more frequent business. Management cares, so we care.

What are the risks of waiting to remodel?
It is just deferred maintenance and the guest and staff see this, and so why should they have such a good attitude if the management doesn't?

Is there ever a good reason to wait or put off a remodel?
Cash flow, but then do it incrementally. Put back in what you take out. You reap what you sow. Call friends and enemies in to give you an honest look of what they think of the place. Have your staff ask the guest. You will get good feedback.