Most companies waste money when doing remodels/rebrands. They don't do it consciously, they just fail to fully consider their guests and, particularly in the current economic enviroment, often put cutting costs ahead of stimluating sales.

They also too often forge ahead without getting full participation and buy-in from the various disciplines that make their brands tick. All are missteps that can cost them dearly.

At the start of any remodeling project we encourage collaboration, bringing together departments in charge of different functions, such as design, culinary, operations, etc. We teach them how to work in unison with a shared vision and a clear understanding of the brand's aspirational expression.

Consider Multiple Senses

I separate refurbishment, which is necessary upkeep, from a remodel, which is meant to enhance an overall environment and experience. Restaurants need to recognize that their guests are multisensory beings and as such they seek and respond to a richer experience — one where the environment becomes just one element.

The human senses work in harmony to translate the material into the immaterial, the tangible into the intangible. For example, three sensory inputs — sight, smell and taste — work to create the overall experience of a food item or meal being "delicious".

When considering remodeling, it's important to measure the quality and intensity of all of the senses and seek to amplify them for guests, recognizing the unconscious interplay of sensations that occurs. A single-sense focused remodel without consideration to the other senses will not generate the needed revenue lift that provides a company with an ROI.

Essentially, the resonance and amplification of many divergent and disparate elements yields a multiplier effect.

In a recent project, we had the benefit of pre- and post-pilot research. Guest sentiment on their experience was measured along with identification of behavior drivers, competitive set and impressions of what they noticed in the restaurant. Based on guest feedback, more than 75 changes were implemented, after which the pilot achieved a greater than 30 percent increase in sales within 6 weeks. The changes ranged from small (a new side dish) to large (lipstick remodel, meaning nothing but cosmetic work is done).

Essentially, we hit them with visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory and aromatic elements throughout their time in the restaurant in varying combinations resulting in an enhanced guest experience.

Add To, Don't Take Away

Finding the right combination of changes takes testing and smart companies test new ideas extensively before bringing them to market. But it's important to take a hard and strategic look at what you're actually testing. One client, for example, conducted more than 150 different tests with varying degrees of results, from outright failure to an incremental sales bump. Problem was, much of what they tested were simply one-off cost-cutting measures. Once they stopped this shotgun approach and combined the tests together in a holistic manner focused more on jumpstarting sales than on pinching pennies, they began to see revenue grow.

The key to success with any remodel is to add more to the guest experience, not to chip away at it.