Is your landscaping as fresh as your broccoli? In other words, has your restaurant’s plate appearance been undermined by a lack of curb appeal? Your restaurant’s exterior may be an inaccurate reflection of the food and service quality that’s been mastered inside. Studies have shown that a customer’s satisfaction with a dining experience can be influenced by factors such as service quality, waiting time, menu selection, prices, food quality, convenience and ambiance. However, it’s important to note that a customer’s experience begins long before they’re seated…The experience begins the moment a patron sets foot on the property.
With over 30 years of experience in the Exterior Services Management® (ESM) industry, I can tell you that a location’s exterior is a crucial factor in establishing a company “brand.” Regardless of the type of establishment, the exterior appearance communicates what customers can expect from products and services within. For restaurants, the exterior conveys a message about the level of service, quality of food and cleanliness, and will eventually attract or deter customers. It’s imperative that the location’s attributes reflect your restaurant’s brand and exceed your target market’s expectations to make a memorable impression. Visually pleasing, welcoming exteriors have the tendency to attract new customers, increase customer counts and enhance check averages, ultimately influencing the bottom line. Furthermore, by implementing a consistent exterior design across numerous locations nationwide, facility managers can establish a brand image for the business that’s reinforced by each location. A recognizable image differentiates the company from its competitors and helps build customer loyalty.
Every restaurant must have instant curb appeal, and depending on whether the location is freestanding, inline or an inline endcap at a shopping center, various maintenance strategies can be utilized to enhance the exterior appearance of the particular facility. Top notch curb appeal is the product of essential components, including but not limited to the parking lot, landscape, lighting, signage, updated design elements and overall cleanliness. Let’s analyze several of these exterior attributes on your property as they’re seen by a hungry customer. I have some tips that will help spruce up a restaurant’s exterior, cater to your target customers’ tastes and increase those check averages!
The Parking Lot & Hard Surface Areas
Your asphalt is a major investment, which significantly impacts curb appeal, and is the first interaction a customer has with your location. As illustrated by the charts below, taking a proactive approach to your pavement maintenance will help save you time, money and frustrations in the long-run. Your dedication to curb appeal will be evident to your valued customers and increase the aesthetics and safety of your property. These charts depict two similar views of what happens to pavement over time and the costs to maintain it.
Customers expect and appreciate a clean, welcoming parking lot and walkways that are free of debris and parking hazards. A clean black lot with bright yellow striping indicates an attention to details, which is essential for success in the food and beverage industry. Regular maintenance inspections for signs of wear and tear will help maintain and extend the life of hard surface assets, while reducing any potential liabilities and meeting customer expectations. Here are a few tips to consider when evaluating your parking lot and implementing a well-planned, budgeted preventative maintenance program:
- The design must support good visibility to main traffic corridors for safe ingress and egress by your customers and employees.
- Maintenance schedules will vary slightly by region, but it’s important that seal coating is completed every 2-3 years and parking lots are painted annually.
- Immediately address signs of wear and tear like small and large cracks, birdbaths, loose asphalt, discoloration, ruts or dips in the surface, and weeds or moss.
- Implement a regular parking lot sweeping program. Sweeping supports proper drainage, cleanliness, improved traction for patrons’ vehicles during inclement weather, and makes parking lot maintenance easier.
- Employ a consistent pressure washing program to keep hard surface areas clean and to reduce the risk of slip and fall accidents.
- Depending upon your geographical location, prepare for snow and ice removal during late summer to help guarantee a consistent management program with a reputable provider. Regular service will improve traffic patterns, help prevent vehicular accidents and reduce liabilities associated with slip and fall accidents.
BEFORE: Parking lot prior to re-striping.
AFTER: The freshly striped parking lot.
Landscaping is one your site’s greatest attributes for communicating your restaurant’s brand and catching a customer’s eye. A landscape must be aesthetically pleasing, functional and safety-oriented. With proper design and maintenance, landscaping can also function to create privacy, block street-level noise, allow for better visibility, provide a safe environment and create exterior appeal.
A skillfully manicured lawn adorned with ornamentals and blooms creates a favorable impression for the customer, thereby solidifying a positive image of the restaurant and brand itself. In addition to functionality, aesthetic appeal and safety, take the following factors into account when determining the landscape design. These pointers will help cultivate curb appeal for your restaurant.
- The Customer’s Perspective – A customer's impression is influenced by several variables, such as the speed at which they are walking or driving and environmental conditions. The less time a visitor has to view the area, the less detail and emphasis needed to allocate to the particular area. Paying attention to traffic flow from parking lots, bus stops and sidewalks will help determine areas of high visibility and importance. Walk the location daily, as if you were a customer, to ensure the property is clean, cigarette butts are not littering the entrance and that no problems have arisen.
- The Restaurant Genre – Lawn, ornamental and hard scape selection can provide a clean, welcoming atmosphere or even be designed to reflect the style of cuisine served. For example, customers approaching an establishment with lush tropical plants are transported to a Polynesian setting. Regardless of the theme, your landscape must be kept clean and neat – green shrubs, fresh mulch and neatly trimmed foliage.
- Ingress, Egress & Safety Measures – Aesthetically pleasing exteriors can be designed to establish dimension, texture and lines that draw customers through the property. Hard scaping and walkways can be integrated to clearly define traffic flow, and ponds, fountains and similar assets as blockades to deter unwanted entry. However, the landscaping must be properly designed, installed and maintained because overgrown ornamentals and shrubbery can create hiding spaces, damage the building, harbor pest infestations and block visibility.
- Geographical Location & Site Design – Turf, planting beds and foliage add instant aesthetic appeal to a location, while enhancing an otherwise plain parking lot. When determining the most appropriate foliage for your property, consider the geographical location, available sunlight, location in relation to other exterior assets, pedestrian and vehicular traffic and soil types. Seasonal plantings should be used to maintain color in planting beds throughout the year; however, research plant types carefully to ensure selected plants do not produce an offensive smell.
BEFORE: A poorly designed and maintained planting bed.
AFTER: A fresh, well-maintained planting bed.
In addition to the exterior assets on the property, we must address the proper maintenance of the building’s facade. Pressure washing and building painting are cost-effective and efficient ways to rejuvenate and protect the building’s exterior, providing “curb appeal” that’s essential for making a great impression on your customers. Depending upon the surface materials, age of the facility itself and maintenance schedule, pressure washing may be used to remove layers of dirt, mold, grime, grease and other unsightly build-up, but in some cases a new coat of paint may be required to freshen up the façade. Any graffiti on your property should be removed promptly.
The Dumpster Corral
Restaurants should have stringent cleaning requirements to ensure work areas are safely maintained, long-term operating costs are reduced and facilities are attractive for patrons. The dumpster corral is an area that is neglected by some restaurateurs, however, the cleanliness (or lack of) in a restaurant’s dumpster corral is a direct reflection of the cleanliness maintained within the establishment. Customers do not want to walk by dumpsters overflowing with trash, smell putrid odors or see grease accumulation in this area. Not only is grease accumulation and improper disposal harmful to your concrete and asphalt, but it is representative of a larger issue regarding restaurant operations. This area should be on a daily check list to ensure it is kept litter free, otherwise debris will be blown throughout the property.
Dumpster corrals should not be littered by overflowing trash and other debris.
Benefits of Fresh Exteriors
Regular maintenance of these components should be seamlessly integrated to have a maximum impact on your facility’s image, which will help produce a successful operation and create a cohesive brand image. Statistics indicate that interior cleanliness is paramount to building repeat customers. If you apply the same emphasis in managing your exterior curb appeal, you will be rewarded with new customers and increased customer counts. Remember, your parking lot, landscape, building façade and dumpster corral are all important attributes that may not affect the freshness of your broccoli, but all have a major impact on your restaurant’s success.