Refurbishment and maintenance is a crucial element of owning any hospitality venue. Keeping it looking its absolute best is as vital as the original investment if brand image is to be protected.\r\nGetting the customer experience right\r\nWith a new survey asserting that a quarter of all consumers (23%) plan to cut back on eating and drinking out in 2018, restaurant owners are under pressure to ensure their customers experience a top-quality experience, every time*.\r\n\r\nAs the digital landscape now has such an influence on the restaurant trade - with 81% of consumers looking at review sites such as TripAdvisor before visiting a restaurant for the first time - it is vital for owners to understand the importance of brand image. Converting a first-time customer into a loyal customer isn\u2019t just about devising great menus and fantastic service but ensuring a complete and consistent experience from the minute a customer walks through the door to the minute they leave.\r\nInvesting in refurbishment and venue design\r\nInvesting in a programme of refurbishment is sometimes understandably at the bottom of the restaurant owner\u2019s \u2018to do\u2019 list, as cost is often a prohibitive factor. Restaurant managers and owners are so busy doing what they do best, they often don\u2019t have time to think ahead and make plans for the venue\u2019s upkeep and image. \u00a0\r\n\r\nYou should evaluate the brand image that first encouraged you to open in the first place. Does that image still stand up or does it need adjusting? You can stay true to your brand whilst modernising and incorporating what your customers want and like about your restaurant. \u00a0Have a clear brief in mind and carefully consider whom you choose to work with, as ultimately, it\u2019s about having a good working relationship with the contractors you use, which will also determine the best approach to carrying out the work. \r\n\r\nWhat many don\u2019t consider is that some elements of a refurbishment or maintenance plan could take place outside of trading hours so it doesn\u2019t impact takings. We work closely with owners to accommodate their needs in this respect but, given the all-day opening hours that now pervade, there are limits to how much can be done outside trading hours without numerous repeat visits or overnight working, both of which incur additional costs. \r\nPubs \u2013 the not so new kid on the block\r\nIn 2016 various studies cited the explosion of casual dining as the death knell for pubs, with more businesses than ever closing down. \u00a0\r\n\r\nFast forward to 2018, and there is a movement back to supporting local pubs and restaurants, bringing pubs a crucial window of opportunity. With many casual dining groups such as Jamie\u2019s Italian, Carluccio\u2019s, Caf\u00e9 Rouge and Byron Burger all reporting losses within the last year, pubs are being urged to get their act together in order to rekindle interest and eat up greater market share. \u00a0\u00a0\r\n\r\nMany of the casual dining establishments that were set to take the market by storm simply haven\u2019t been able to make the impact they would have quite liked. Pubs need to invest in updating their venues inside and out to capitalise on this opportunity. Those pubs that offer all-day dining and focus on the customer experience by creating a relaxing space where customers want to linger will ultimately seize the day.\r\n\r\nAlso important is the pub garden in creating a positive brand image. It is often the first area of the pub that a customer sees and making that first good impression is vital. As we move into the summer months, we\u2019re working with many pubs to focus on smart maintenance of outdoor furniture at their venues. \r\n\r\n*according to survey by RSM\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nKeith Hobbs is managing director of Fresssh Image which provides complete design, installation and maintenance services to the UK hospitality sector.