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To ask my brother to change his restaurant design 3 weeks from opening

(184 Posts)
msmacd Sat 11-Jul-15 03:11:57

Hi there, require the input of the mumsnet jury on this one. My brother is opening a cafe/restaurant/bar. It has cost a huge amount to construct and fit-out. My mother's money (she is 70) is also riding on it's success as she is the primary investor, and has mortgaged her home. I took a sabbatical to come back to my country of origin for 4 months to help him in the critical weeks. I have also invested in it.

My brother says his intention is to target the 30-50yrs demographic in particular. He now has 700 Facebook 'likes' for his restaurant Facebook page, and tellingly the majority are woman. There is a fairly trendy man tavern/sports bar close by, so he (claims) he is trying to appeal to the women (who would then bring their partners/ families). As it is in a suburban area, he also envisages getting business from the mothers after school drop off etc, as he will be open from 7:30 and acting as a cafe with cake, coffee, breakfast etc in the mornings.

The architects created it with a bit of an industrial chic vibe, with concrete floors (which i appreciate are on trend at the moment). However, there will be some banquets and some soft/more casual seating in the cafe area at the front, as well as a more formal dining area towards the back. It also has a small garden. A large bar is in the centre of the venue, as the central/focal point.

Yesterday i saw the bar go up. I have attached a photo. That is the finished product/look. The panels are fibreglass made to look like concrete. I took the photo just after they had installed part of the front, but it spans the entire bar and curves around into the cafe area (not in photo).

I'm not a fan (to put it lightly). However, it will cause a massive uproar if I ask him to make changes. His restaurant manager (who he has been working closely with to set it up) already thinks i'm an interfering cow (ha!). It is 3 weeks from opening to the public.

Given my brother is trying to appeal primarily to women (allegedly) and attract families. i must ask... what do you think? Am i being unreasonable?

HeiressesGiltnor Sat 11-Jul-15 03:17:09

I'm a woman, I wouldn't not go there... Looks fine to me.

Scotinoz Sat 11-Jul-15 03:21:59


Three weeks before opening is not the time to decide you don't like something. You should have read the plans, looked at key details/focal points in more depth during the design phase and put forward an opinion then. This is why design projects often fail - key stake holders don't take an interest until the end.

I'm female, I have children, I like the 'industrial chic' look.

Providing the coffee is good, they serve babycinos, and I can fit the pram through the door, I'd go.

PosterEh Sat 11-Jul-15 03:26:08

Looks fine to me. Prefer it to the current hipster love of chipboard and exposed wiring which seems to do alright with family business in N London. I expect it'll look less harsh when the rest of the furniture fittings are in.

I also think YWB (a bit) U to request changes at this stage. If you felt your investment gave you a say in the aesthetic then you should have asked to sign off the plans at the design stage.

Want2bSupermum Sat 11-Jul-15 03:29:19

Don't like it at all. My kids would hurt themselves if they brushed against it. Does he have a gated area for the kids to play in with some appropriate toys like puzzles and the activity cubes. Should put machine washable rubber tiles on the floor too in the play area.

I take my kids to McDonalds for the sole reason that they have an indoor play area which is designed to appeal to children aged 2 to about 10 years old. When you have 3 ft of snow and it's -20C I am not standing in a playground like a human icicle!

Yay4may Sat 11-Jul-15 03:35:31

It looks unfinished but it would not stop me from going there

msmacd Sat 11-Jul-15 03:39:36

Thanks all. The initial plans for the internal fit-out were for something a bit different (think sofas, comfy seating, more traditional bar, warmer colours - probably a bit more hipster chic) that my mother and him had agreed on. But in recent weeks (since his manager came onboard) decisions around the bar, tables chairs, the garden etc have changed. And we've been a bit shut out.
My mother has just seen the new bar, and is freaking out a bit, that she's going to have to sell her house etc (she is a bit of an overreacter!).

So just trying to mediate this, in terms of whether it is perhaps just not my (or my mother's) particular design aesthetic, but really nothing to worry about. My brother has been working his arse off and is very stressed, so i really don't wish to add to his stress unnecessarily. I guess its just that so much is riding on it's success, i wanted to gauge a few more opinions (thank you ladies) as a sanity check.

msmacd Sat 11-Jul-15 03:46:31

And just to clarify, i say 'a lot is riding on it' for my mother and brother's sake. I'd hate to see it fail, as it would knock my brother's confidence, and my mother would have a financial burden (which i'd help her with admittedly). The investment i've made, i can swallow as such.

Yes Poster i probably did make an assumption that (given he asked me to come help) that the internal fit out and design was going to be more collaborative. But yes i take onboard that was my mistake.

msmacd Sat 11-Jul-15 03:48:54

Thanks want2be, that's a good idea about creating a soft space for children to play. It's a large venue, i'm sure we can find a suitable space. I will suggest it.

stealthbanana Sat 11-Jul-15 03:50:53

It looks fine to me. The only thing I would possibly say is that those ceramic tiles bounce sound around like nothing else, so hopefully they are only behind the bar and not on any other walls otherwise you won't be able to hear yourself think in there!

ThumbWitchesAbroad Sat 11-Jul-15 03:55:01

I don't like it either and I would probably choose somewhere that didn't look so industrial.

I'm sure with 3 weeks to go he could find a more inviting look for the bar, one that is less cold and clinical - but whether or not he wants to is the question. Also, this manager - does he understand the remit correctly or is he just creating something he wants?

Which country is this restaurant/café/bar in?

msmacd Sat 11-Jul-15 03:56:57

Thanks Stealth yes the tiles are only behind the bar. But probably need to think about the sound issue, as it's a bit cavernous currently. Slightly worried it might become an echo chamber. Do you think a couple of rugs might help absorb some sound?

TRexingInAsda Sat 11-Jul-15 04:02:15

YABU. It looks fine, but in any case, investing doesn't mean you can demand a redesign - especially at this stage.

TRexingInAsda Sat 11-Jul-15 04:07:15

God no, you can't go shoving rugs in!! Wow. This will have all been thought about by professionals during design/planning. Back off. These aren't your decisions to make, they are knee-jerk ideas, and you will stress everyone out. Just leave him to it yntil it's finished and up and running. IF there are issues, then you can address them in full knowledge of what they are instead of tinkering when you don't know the effect of the changes you're asking for. fucking rugs??? In a trendy cafe, bar, restaurant??

Mumbehavingbadly Sat 11-Jul-15 04:27:00

Careful here. You've made some suggestions now leave it at that - if you want to help be an extra pair of hands, your most encouraging and an enthusiastic advocate to all friends, family and potential customers.

If you don't do as above and this venture does fail you know how the script will go don't you?

'We would have been successful if we hadn't listened to msmacd idea about the decor' .... 'If msmacd hadn't bad mouthed the bar to everyone we'd have had more customers' ... 'If msmacd hadn't cheesed off the bar manager s/he wouldn't have walked out at first sign of trouble' ... etc etc.

It's not your business - it's theirs. You've given constructive feedback - now let them get on with it.

Want2bSupermum Sat 11-Jul-15 04:28:57

Hell no to rugs. I'm no trained designer but you have dark wiring for the lights above. I would darken the wood, think chocolate brown, and cover the fiberglass faux concrete with bright red leather/pleather cushioned panels that fill the rectangles. That sort of change is not expensive to implement.

It's vital that all surfaces in a restaurant be easily washable/ disinfected. How the heck are you supposed to clean those concrete blocks? The wood also looks unfinished rather than industrial. I love the white tiling but I think it needs a bright colour. I am partial to red but I think blue or orange could also work too.

LaLaLaaaa Sat 11-Jul-15 04:32:47

Rugs are a nightmare to keep clean in a cafe/restaurant. Floors should be easily mopped

Do any of you have hospitality experience? If not I'd suggest hiring a manager who has, so that they can advise your family on what will/won't work from practical sense

You want to make it cosy which is nice but cosy becomes shabby v quickly if it cannot be cleaned easily. I can't see the photo unfortunately but I agree with the others who say as long as food and service are good, access and spaceis available for prams and toilets/baby changing is plentiful then you will attract your target market. A play/toy area is not very practical in a cafe/restaurant and again is unhygienic. I don't think you need to provide this, but make sure you have enough high chairs and kids seats.

Have worked in hospitality for many years. The service is the key. Make them welcome with the right facilities and food/drink (kids menu) and they'll come. But you need to consider practicality of getting your hygiene certificate and cleaning down quickly between customers.

You can add comfort through squashy chairs, finishing touches such as hand written menus and boards. I would go down this route if it were me

Ilovecrapcrafts Sat 11-Jul-15 04:35:32

I can't imagine for a second deciding whether to go somewhere based on the design of the bar. It just wouldn't factor.

I agree that you can't remake suggestions now and that the demographic they are aiming for might be very different to MN. None of my friends would go somewhere with an indoor play area, for example

ThumbWitchesAbroad Sat 11-Jul-15 04:36:12

Can't have rugs anyway as they're a trip/slip hazard and an utter menace, never mind the design implications.

Is the fibreglass textured like concrete as well, or smooth but with a concrete pattern? Because obviously that affects cleanability (and that angle for suggesting change).

It concerns me that your mother and yourself, the women involved, have been sidelined in a design that is supposed to attract women, in favour of the men in charge (who presumably are not women in disguise). Do you still have friends in the area? Perhaps you could ask your brother if some of them could take a look? It would be a shame to miss his target demographic because some designer has a pole up his arse about what it has to look like, rather than actually appealing to the target group. I am actually in his target group, and as I said, I don't like it - but there are lots of other women in the same group who might - it could be a good idea to get some of them to look at it.

msmacd Sat 11-Jul-15 04:40:01

The country is New Zealand. However, worth stating that I've been living in London for 15 years as has my husband (mostly in hackney hipster central. Probably a bit influenced by that). My brother lived in London 4 years. The restaurant manager has recently moved back to NZ, after around 10 years in London as well (15-20 years hospitality experience though, so my brother tends to listen).

Trexing i agree with you about the rugs. I said the same thing to the restaurant manager when he said he wanted a couple of rugs (you want WHAT?). Problem is any of my ideas/criticisms are easily knocked down by invoking the "i've worked in hospitality for x years, and have also taken advice from x many other people i know who have been in hospo for 20 years etc) so i know better mantra. I am just the interfering sister. Rugs,soft furnishings. fabric upholstered furniture (& cream cushions!), faux grass outside etc in a food environment just don't mix in my book. He's planned all of these things. Well his restaurant manager and the designer (his mate) have.

Unfortunately though i arrived here early June, my husband was having a manic episode, so i didn't really start taking a proper interest until a couple of weeks ago. I knew they had an interior designer onboard, so thought there was some coherent design concept for the place. The place looks to cold, stark to me (and it is winter here remember which doesn't help). I'm trying to work out what can be done in 3 weeks to soften the look somewhat to give it some warmth and personality.

musicalendorphins2 Sat 11-Jul-15 04:42:02

I am not a fan of cement, and feel it is not friendly towards anyone working there. They'll have aching backs and knee's ect. And no hope of saving a glass or plate that is dropped on a cement floor. It looks like something business persons would frequent. Hopefully there will be a pretty gas fireplace or two set up, and art, to add some warmth and sparkle. Good luck, hope he does well.

LaLaLaaaa Sat 11-Jul-15 04:44:29

I would perhaps put together a list of ideas for little touches that would be easy to incorporate and see what they say.

My dh runs a bar and staff are all male. I remind him all the time about the need to consider female clientele. He does listen although occasionally I get told to butt out. I find the easier and more practically out the suggestion, the more likely he listens.

ThumbWitchesAbroad Sat 11-Jul-15 04:47:08

"Rugs, soft furnishings, fabric upholstered furniture (& cream cushions!), faux grass outside etc in a food environment just don't mix in my book. He's planned all of these things. Well his restaurant manager and the designer (his mate) have."

Crikey! shock He's going to either have a hell of a cleaning bill, or not get a safety cert! ugh. Especially ugh to faux grass - would that be under where people are sitting to eat outside?

msmacd Sat 11-Jul-15 04:54:17

But on the flipside i agree with what some of you are saying, that i should back off and just be supportive. To that end, i have been doing all the admin, setting up all the suppliers, picking up furniture etc. The IT stuff, website, networking, emails etc.

LaLa My brother has been researching/planning this for about 5 years, though has limited hospitality experience himself. Though my parents (and my brother after my dad passed) have been in business since i was 8, though a different industry. My brother has some close friends who own successful bars and restaurants, so has had them onboard consulting (some formally and paid) to help him in the earlier stages. Since his restaurant manager came onboard however, he's been taking/ influencing things in a slightly different direction. My brother has secured a great chef (well known). All council permits, health, liquor licence etc all duly done and signed off. So hopefully the food/service side should be top class. We do have high chairs for the kids and good access at the front for prams to be brought in etc.

Just the interior design piece, aesthetics...

Any advice all how to make the place warmer. Walls are currently all off-white.. Floor concrete. Paint the walls warmer colours? Paintings/artwork?

My brother has asked me to sort of take over from the designer (who's ideas were generally too big budget) to soften the interior. Not alot of time. Any advice/ ideas gratefully received.

lubitons Sat 11-Jul-15 04:54:28

I really like the look of the bar, but I don't have any hospitality experience so I couldn't comment on how practical the rough surface is.

Where in NZ is it? I live in Auckland and there is a total shortage of cafes with fenced in play areas so if it's near me I'll definitely be in...

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