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Category: Tips and Advice

What have we learnt in the last 30 years?

Last year we celebrated our 30th anniversary here at GS Contracts.
Founded in 1992 by Gary Smith, we have grown from humble beginnings to the strong team we are today.
We have taken it upon ourselves to look back over the last 30 years to reflect on what we have learnt and the impact we have made.

The last 30 years have allowed us to learn from our mistakes, overcome many challenges and achieve spectacular things.

Here’s what we’ve learnt over the last 30 years…

The importance of building a good team

One of the most important lessons we’ve taken away over the last 30 years is the importance of building a good team around you.

We are proud to have built a dedicated and professional team around us, creating a high level of efficiency and collaboration in the workplace.

Not only internally but also externally, it’s crucial for us to have a reliable team around us, including material suppliers and subcontractors who all follow a similar ethos to ourselves.

Today in 2023, we have a strong and devoted team driving us to success that we are incredibly grateful for, and that is continuing to grow and evolve.

GSC Team

The right person for the job

Putting the right personnel on the right project is a skill we have learnt to perfect.

We understand that everyone has their own unique skills and abilities, which comes in handy when selecting the right people for a certain project.

Selecting a team of people who can collaboratively work together while bringing different strengths is pivotal to achieving the end goal.

GS Contracts Installation

Successfully planning ahead

This industry has taught us the importance of planning a job properly.

The planning process is principal for any one of our projects- no matter how big or small!

Planning thoroughly helps us eliminate unnecessary mishaps further down the line and ensures each project can run smoothly with a clear and structured method in place.

Once a project has gone live, our trusted project managers are always on hand to ensure everything operates fluidly and correctly.

GS Contracts Project Design

Listening to our clients

We spoke to our founder, Gary Smith, to discuss what he believes the most important lessons we’ve learnt over the last 30 years are.

Gary stressed the importance of listening to our clients, helping us to understand their requirements and exactly what they expect from us.

Spending time listening and communicating with each and every client helps to provide a successful result in line with their expectations.

Not only do we directly deal with clients, but we also spend lots of time integrating with architects and designers in order to provide the fabrication and solution to their ideas; therefore, it is important for us to build up good relationships with every designer to ensure the operational procedure will run smoothly and successfully.

Frescobaldi Interior
Pre Salons Retail Fit-Out Interior

Treat every project as our own

The final lesson we’ve learnt over the last 30 years, and arguably the most important, is putting ourselves in the shoes of our clients.

By our team treating every project as their own, we are able to ensure that each job is managed professionally and handed over to the highest quality.

It’s our job to understand your goals and turn your visions into a reality, which is why our team are trained to deliver each unique project to an exceptional standard.

Manufacturing a counter

So, what have we learnt?

The last 30 years have taught us many valuable things, all of which have led us to the success of where GS Contracts is today.

We are committed to providing the best quality spaces for our clients and dedicated to continuing to develop and hone our skills this year.

Thank you to everyone for supporting our journey over the last 30 years, and we look forward to what the next 30 have in store for us!

Get in touch with us today to kickstart your fit-out project this 2023. 

Our top 5 tips: How to create a Timeless Restaurant

We have now been fitting out restaurants for over 25 years, so we thought it was about time to share with you what really makes a timeless restaurant.

Working alongside some of the industry’s most reputable architects, designers, and industry professionals, we have uncovered what makes a long-lasting restaurant that everyone will love!

We all love keeping up with the latest design trends, but is it always the best approach to follow when fitting your restaurant out?

Below are our top 5 tips on how to create a timeless restaurant- that will impress over and over again!

Frescobaldi Interior
Zuaya Interior

1) Be Unique

First up, one of the most notable tips-be unique! Nobody wants to see two of the same restaurants along the same street!

Pinterest boards and Google searches are great places to begin your restaurant design inspiration. But if you’re continuing to see the same style, maybe you should reconsider your choices.

You want to stand out from the crowd, so come up with something original that will invite new people and make them want to visit over and over again!

The last place you want to visit is an outdated restaurant with no character. Keep in mind that trends come and go, so ensure the design of your restaurant will hold its value throughout the years.

Hyde Park Lido Lighting

2) Durability

Durability is a vital part of maintaining a timeless restaurant. Ensuring you are using high-end quality materials on the fit-out of your restaurant lengthens the time in which it remains looking fresh and pristine.

Undoubtedly, you will face wear and tear; glasses get smashed, and tables get messy. You need to invest in good quality, durable materials that will withstand the abuse.

Our workshop team are constantly working with a variety of easy-to-clean, durable materials. For more information on why you should implement solid surfaces into your restaurant fit-out, click here.

Solid Surfaces

3) Branding

A strong brand is arguably what creates the personality and identity of a successful restaurant.

We have worked with both chain and individual restaurants over the last 25 years, and have found that a solid brand strategy is vital for the success of their business.

ITSU, Coco Di Mama and Ottolenghi are prime examples of well-established brands, with multiple different restaurant locations.

The shopfront of your restaurant is one of the main focal points to broaden your client base. Continuing the same theme throughout the restaurant creates a memorable brand for your business.

Take a look below at some of our favourite shopfronts we have completed:

El Norte Exterior
Ottolenghi Chelsea Exterior
Ottolenghi Marylebone Exterior

4) Structure & Efficiency

Considering the structure and efficiency of a restaurant is extremely important for your customers to be comfortable and content.

Think about your seating efficiency; you don’t want your customers feeling trapped or too close to others. You want to maximise the space whilst maintaining a suitable distance between other diners and the staff moving around.

Your restaurant should be structured with careful thought put into it. Your floor plans should allow for easy circulation of both staff and customers and should flow naturally.

Rovi Ottolenghi Restaurant Refit
Hyde Park Lido Fit-Out

5) Location

The location in which you are planning to open your restaurant plays a massive factor in its success.

The food market is a thriving yet competitive industry- You should think about who you’re trying to attract, its accessibility and what other shops are located around it.

Is the area busy enough for you to attract your target consumers? Does the location fit the design of your restaurant? Do you have a great deal of competition around you?

All of these factors should be taken into consideration before finalising the location for your restaurant.

You not only want to target the right people but generate enough business for it to be worthwhile.

Pavilion Road Chelsea

By taking into consideration our top 5 tips, we can assure you that your restaurant will be well on its way to success.

If you are looking to open a restaurant but don’t know where to begin, get in touch today and our team will be happy to help.

How can solid surfaces transform your fit-out project in 2022?

Solid Surfaces

Did you know that in addition to wood joinery, GS Contracts are also experienced working with a variety of different solid surfaces across our projects? Solid surfaces are becoming increasingly popular on our fit-out projects, and we’re not surprised considering the endless list of benefits they offer.

Design visions are limitless with the solid surface choices we offer here at GS Contracts. Our in-house team are skilled in working with such high-quality materials including Corian, Staron, Hi-macs, Hanex, Tristone, Krion & Avonite.

Working with a variety of unique materials, we will always try to provide you with the perfect solution to any problem or requirement you may have and solid surfaces can often be the perfect choice.

Solid surfaces worktop
solid surfaces worktop

What are the benefits of using solid surfaces in your next fit-out project?

There are many great benefits to using these solid surface materials in your future fit-out project. Take a look below at some of the advantages of using these different materials:

  1. Easy to clean & maintain– The solid surfaces we work with are extremely easy to wipe down and clean, making it a manageable and low maintenance option to implement on our projects.
  2. Versatility– You are spoilt for choice with endless colour, pattern, and design options, giving you complete freedom to create seamless shapes and joins.
  3. Durability– The properties that make up the solid surfaces are extremely hardwearing, making it difficult for them to be scratched, cracked, or damaged.
  4. Cost Effective–  We can implement various forms of solid surfaces into your project to reach your desired visual outcome at a competitive price to suit your budget.

Below are some of our favourite solid surface features to date!

Ottolenghi Marylebone

Ottolenghi Marylebone solid surfaces corian
Ottolenghi Marylebone solid surfaces corian

Kineya Mugimaru

Solid surfaces kineya
Solid surfaces kineya

22 Bedford Square

solid surfaces 22 bedford sq
Bloomsbury Custom Made Tea Points


solid surfaces itsu
solid surfaces itsu

Ottolenghi Chelsea

Ottolenghi Chelsea
Ottolenghi Chelsea solid surfaces

Working across the residential, commercial, retail, leisure and hospitality sectors, our team have proficient knowledge and skill to deliver project after project at exceptional quality.

By combining our interior contracting, bespoke manufacturing, and solid surface experience, our team are your perfect match to exceed your expectations time after time. We’ll always provide you with high-quality products accompanied with competitive prices to suit your budgets. Our team are always more than happy to talk you through the best options to meet your design and costing requirements.

If you are searching for a reliable contractor to carry out your future project, why not get in touch today?

Why join a GS Contracts Apprenticeship Scheme?

We are proud to offer a range of apprenticeship schemes here at GS Contracts. Many staff members that make up the GS Contracts team originally began working with us as an apprentice and have since worked their way up within the business.

Not only are apprentice schemes a fantastic way for us to train new staff members, but they are also a great opportunity for staff to develop the skills needed for more senior and more complex roles

Contributions in the Workplace

All apprentices we’ve taken on in the workplace have made great contributions to our team whilst learning and gaining the necessary skills on the job.

Many people think that apprenticeship schemes are primarily taken advantage of by those who have recently left school/college, but- research has shown that the age profile of those starting apprenticeships has changed, with a higher proportion of apprentices starting over the age of 24.

One example is one of our talented workshop employees, Martyn Rhodes. Martyn joined us at age 31 and began a bench joinery apprenticeship; today, he is valued as one of the most essential members of our workshop team.

Apprenticeship Joinery
Martyn - Bench Joiner
Manufacturing a counter
Martyn- Bench Joiner

We understand apprenticeships aren’t just for young individuals looking to grow and develop, which is why we welcome those from different backgrounds taking the opportunity to join our team.

Similarly, we value the continued progression of our apprentice’s. If presented with a permanent job offer, we will consider future training and education for our team to progress into new areas.

Liam Saunders is a great example of one of our long-term employees here at GS Contracts who has worked his way up from an apprenticeship scheme to becoming one of our committed contracts managers.

GS Contracts Apprentice
Liam's work as an apprentice- Taken in 2003!

Current Apprenticeship Schemes

Here at GS Contracts, we currently have two apprenticeship schemes running within the business- one in the workshop and the other in the office environment- providing both with an opportunity for continued growth and development.

Comments from Michael Sullivan, Director

“Freddy has recently enrolled on bench joinery NVQ levels 1 & 2

The apprenticeship will assist Freddy with his theoretical knowledge and basic practical skills before implementing this into all aspects of manufacturing and joinery.

His weekly attendance at college has given Freddy relevant basic skills to assist with his development at GS Contracts. In his short time at GS Contracts, Freddy has shown a great attitude to his work and day to day activities within the business”.

Bench Joiner Apprenticeship GS Contracts
Freddy Level 2 Bench Joinery Apprenticeship
Digital Marketing Apprenticeship GS Contracts
Hannah Level 3 Digital Marketing Apprenticeship

Comments from Lewis Elsey, Director

 “Hannah has recently enrolled on the Digital Marketer Level 3 course which I believe has played a key role in her development.

 The apprenticeship has given Hannah the ability to develop her theoretical knowledge before implementing this into practice. Not only has the apprenticeship given Hannah relevant and up to date digital marketing knowledge, but it has also given her the confidence to lead our digital marketing strategy.

Within the last 12 months Hannah has grown from strength to strength and the combination of her apprenticeship coupled with her on the job experience has facilitated this”.


At GS Contracts we are always on the lookout for motivated individuals interested in a career in our sector, either as a site apprentice, a workshop apprentice, or an office apprentice. If you are interested in discussing a potential apprenticeship contact enquiries@gscontracts.com.

Working with Entrepreneurial Clients

Since our inception in 1992, we have been extremely fortunate to transform some amazing spaces for our clients, working in collaboration with national brands on their aggressive growth strategies along with one-off clients on their first project.

In recent years we have noticed the growth in what I would class as the entrepreneurial client. i.e. Looking to open their first or second premises, to make this a success with the potential of opening more sites in the future. Working with this client can be challenging but is very rewarding when you support them through the journey working as a collective to the same goal, helping make their ideas a reality.

Below we have provided insight into how we, GS Contracts, can add value when working with entrepreneurial clients whilst highlighting the key factors to consider when thinking about your first project.

Man holding sheet of timber

How can we add value?

  • We offer a complete project management service from start to finish making the process as stress-free as possible- Which includes the development of a scheme prior to starting on site, management of on-site works, health & safety, subcontractors, and financial management. We ensure to host weekly meetings to discuss all of these topics whilst ensuring the project remains on track.

  • On all of our projects, the bespoke joinery items are manufactured in-house from our workshop in Colchester, giving us complete control of our supply chain; ensuring that all items are the highest of quality.
  • With over 30 years of industry knowledge and experience, we can share our expertise in terms of material specifications, value engineering options and legislation that needs to be adhered to (to ensure a compliant fit-out).

  • Our operatives are highly skilled undergoing regular and ongoing training, coupled with a hand-picked specialist supply chain that supports us on all of our projects.

In times of recession there are massive opportunities and fortunes to be made, so for new up and coming entrepreneurs, this is the time to go and start a business.
Quote from Richard Branson
CAD Office

Factors to consider when thinking about your first project:

1) Budget

Budget is an important factor to consider when looking to fit out your first project. It is easy to underestimate the cost of a project, so we would advise being cautious whilst ensuring you have a contingency available to capture any unexpected items that arise throughout the project. If you want a better understanding of the funding options available, we work with a selection of finance brokers who can help fund all or part of your project. We are always more than happy to make an introduction to you.

2) Time Frame

It is not uncommon for projects to take longer than initially planned. For you to receive a comprehensive quote, time is required at the initial stages to visit the site, understand the information, put together prices and gather information from subcontractors and suppliers.

3) Team

Having the right team is essential when delivering a project. You need to ensure you select the right contractor and understand their capabilities. Some contractors will only carry out the building works, whereas others will offer the design and build element under one umbrella.

Are you looking to employ an interior designer to put together a design scheme in terms of finishes, layout, space planning e.t.c?

Will you need an architect to provide technical know-how such as licensing, planning, listed building consent?

Other stakeholders involved in a project can include building control, the landlord, the local council, the property agent and many more.

GSC Team

These are just some areas to consider when selecting the right team. At GS Contracts, we are well versed in offering a complete turnkey solution in terms of design and build.

We are also more than happy to assist by just offering our fit-out services if our client has a preferred designer they wish to use.

Ultimately, having the right team on board should help eliminate any potential problems along the way.

Upon acceptance of a quote, planning time will be necessary to carry out any procurement, health & safety, mobilising resources and identifying any long lead items such as the manufacturing of joinery & metalwork etc. In our opinion, getting this stage right is essential to create a seamless and more efficient project delivery.


“Gary Smith and the team at GS Contracts are a true pleasure to work with. They were flexible, professional and went above and beyond to successfully complete our first project to a very high standard. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them and look forward to working with them on my next site.”
Mimi Gaston-Kennedy
Founder of Pre-Salons
“I would like to take this opportunity to say a big thank you for the fit out of my shop. I am extremely happy with the result, and everybody was super helpful. I would like to highlight Gavin, Alanna and Phil in particular who all have been excellent, and Phil made the entire process very easy for me and looked after everything well. I will for sure be in touch for my next shop.”
White Pine
Sebastian Doehring
Founder of White Pine Forest
White Pine Interior
White Pine

Do you have a project you wish to discuss?

In summary, your first project is an exciting prospect; and luckily, we are here to help. Our role is to make the process as seamless and stress-free as possible whilst providing advice and support along the way.

If you have a project you wish to discuss or would simply like some advice, feel free to reach out to Gary Smith or me- and we would be more than happy to discuss this further.




Our Process

At GS Contracts, we provide a complete turnkey solution, meaning we can assist with your journey from an initial idea- right through to completion. With over 25 years of experience designing, manufacturing, and installing beautiful, high-quality spaces, here is our approach and why it may be best suited to you:

Developmental Process Advice

We are able to help guide your project right from the early ideas and proposals, offering advice on the design, compliance, and development of your ideas. We value the time to sit and discuss your budgets and timescales, enabling us to gain a thorough understanding of your plans. It is important to us that we design a solution tailored to you, and fortunately our skilled team can help devise a full custom-built scope of works if necessary.

Alternatively, we can price from a detailed existing scope by utilising our robust supply chain. We regularly work with interior designers who have already been appointment by our client, alternatively with our extensive experience we can work with you to recommend an interior designer.

Tailored Design Plans

Once we have a detailed conception of your visions, our team are then able to begin proposing a plan to ensure your project is delivered smoothly. Our draughtsmen here at GS Contracts are responsible for creating the technical drawings for all metalwork, solid surfaces, and bespoke joinery items.

With their knowledge and years of experience alongside your design approval, we are then confident for our in-house team to begin manufacturing the items, located at our production facility in Colchester, Essex.

Solus Ceramics Showroom Basement Counter
Hyde Park Lido Lighting

In-House Manufacturing Facility

With our own in-house 20,000sqft manufacturing facility, we are well equipped to deliver bespoke joinery for standalone items as well as full fit out projects.

Our in-house production facility allows us to ensure the quality of products are up to standard for our client and ready for installation on site, whilst also giving us full control over our supply chain.

GS Contracts Bespoke Manufacturing

High Quality Project Delivery

Once everything has been finalised and approved, our project teams are ready to begin installation on site. Our project teams are skilled in their ability to deliver projects on time, on budget and of the highest quality, whilst adhering to the highest of health and safety standards.

Bedford Sq Tea Point Drawer Handles
Como Garden interior plants

Each project has a dedicated site manager and project manager to make the on-site delivery as seamless as possible. We also provide a weekly financial update to ensure your budget is being met.

GS Contracts Installation

Project Handover

Once the job has finally finished, we are able to hand over your beautiful new space! We aim to hand over every project with ‘zero snags’ and are always readily available long after completion, to offer advice with our aftercare services.

Every project handover comes with a comprehensive O&M manual, so if you need to make any changes, you’ll find all the information you need in one place.

Rovi Ottolenghi Restaurant Refit
Acacia Training Office Refurbishment

Can our team help you? Give us a call or drop us a line and make our team your team.

Did you know we do metalwork?

Over the course of projects we have successfully completed over the years, most of our clients have incorporated some form of metalwork into their design ideas. Fortunately, here at GS Contracts we offer a complete turn-key solution, meaning we are able to assist with turning your metalwork ideas into a reality.

The initial design proposals and drawings are passed on from designers to our in-house drawing team here at GS Contracts. Our skilled team are then able to begin producing the high-quality technical drawings, which are then sent off to be manufactured by our fully trusted and experienced supply chain. With full control over the process, once fabricated we are ready to begin installation on site.

Below are a few examples of the metalwork features and displays we have provided on some our projects, giving an insight into what we are able to offer and deliver.

ROVI Ottolenghi

Ottolenghi Metalwork

For the Mediterranean restaurant ROVI, we produced the technical drawings for a large metal gantry to be fabricated. Suspended from the ceiling the Gantry was installed and fitted with glass racks, it makes a convenient space for the stems of glasses to be hung from. The well-considered design plan of the metalwork fabricates the footprint of the bar area, providing a practical work solution for staff.

Click here to find out more from the full, finished project.

Rovi Ottolenghi Restaurant Interior
Rovi Ottolenghi Restaurant Refurbishment

Avenue Bistro

Similar to the Rovi Ottolenghi metalwork that we supplied and fitted; we composed the working technical drawings for Avenue Bistro’s over-bar gantry. The steel bar gantry was installed along with welded round wire glass racks, a perfect practical storage solution for our client.

Seven Layer

Another project we provided metalwork for was one of our most recent retail fit outs, Seven Layer. We delivered hanging rails to our client which were cut with the “7L” branding logo and fitted around the perimeter of the store. The rails were fabricated and installed to provide a unique storage system for their luxury menswear apparel.

Seven Layer Metalwork
Seven Layer Metalwork

Solus Ceramics

We have worked with many clients on a range of projects with unique metalwork in their design ideas and proposals. We fitted this large steel feature staircase for the two-floor Solus Ceramics Showroom in Clerkenwell back in 2018, it is a great example of the diversity of metalwork we are able to offer and what can be achieved.

Check out some of the other metal and joinery work for this project here.

Solus Ceramics metalwork staircase

We love being able to provide such high-quality metalwork products and features for our valued clients here at GS Contracts and along with the joinery services that we are able to offer, we are always so thrilled with finished results.

Can our team help you? Give us a call or drop us a line and make our team your team.

Does your restaurant need a refresh?

Creating a successful eatery is about much more than dreaming up a five-star menu.

Think ambiance, comfort, lighting, how the space flows – and importantly the quality of the restrooms!

With a new year comes a time for reflecting on where you are and looking at how you can improve in the future, and GS Contracts is here to help.

While it is still a worrying time for the hospitality industry, some restaurateurs are taking this enforced pause on everyday life to rethink their space so they can come back better than ever once some sort of normality returns.

In fact, some of our customers hadn’t even got to experience what normal is like before needing to implement change.

Take for example The Athenian, a Greek street-food outlet which was a couple of weeks off opening its brand-new flagship restaurant within the arches of London Bridge station when the first national lockdown hit.

With the new reality of restricted numbers and social distancing, plans were redrawn to make sure customers could be served safely. We helped to install a contact free self-check-out system on iPads along with all the safety features necessary for our current times, including floor markings, dividing screens and distanced seating.

While The Athenian was pushed to make changes due to the pandemic, other well-established clients have had the benefit of time to identify tweaks to their set up which will create a better customer experience.

Tombo Cafe, an independent chain of three family-run Japanese cafes across London, did exactly that. Back in 2009 we fitted out the first Tombo in South Kensington, and during the first national lockdown we returned to do a redesign and refresh of the space.

Key to the project was increasing the space available for customers and improving the flow throughout the café. As well as moving some preparation elements to the back of house we were also able to reduce the counter size from around 70% of the front area to just 40% which provided much more space for customers, while still giving staff the work area they need.

At the same time, we stripped the unit, ripping out and replacing all plumbing and wiring, and completed the new design, with new flooring, new countertops and fresh decoration throughout offering a total refresh in just ten days!

Sometimes we are blown away by the creative solutions that designers come up with to transform little used spaces and help them stand out from the crowd – and we were delighted to work on one such example at Bombay Bustle.

With the design vision from the talented team at Fabled, our job was to create a new subterranean bar and dessert area in the basement of the restaurant, which could also be used for parties and events.

The result is truly spectacular with pale pink plaster walls, brilliant-cut glass screens, deep burgundy leather upholstery and a timber panelled ceiling. On top of this we also managed to manufacture and install our first ever DJ booth! Best of all we completed the fit out in just two weeks, showing just what can be achieved in a short time with minimal disruption.

If you’re looking to make changes to your café, deli, shop or restaurant then contact us. Give us a call on 01206 793053.

samples of wooden furniture
26 November 2020 by dom_admin 0 Comments

Why you should consider using Corian

If you are looking to add unique style to your home, office or reception area then Corian could be just the thing for you.

This man-made solid surface is traditionally used for countertops. But at GS Contracts we are masters of Corian and understand that pretty much the only limit to how it can be used is your imagination!

Read on to find out more about this amazing material.

A seamless appearance

Fluid lines are what make Corian such a joy to work with. It can be used to create large shapes with no visible joins which means you can let your imagination run wild when it comes to design.

Endless choice

Corian comes in literally hundreds of finishes, colours and effects so there is bound to be one which fits your design goals.

Made from a mixture of resin, minerals and colourants, the dazzling array of hues ranges from Hot red to Mint Ice with many subtler options in between. Greys, whites and Anthracite black provide great neutrals, and there are options which mimic natural materials such as mahogany and weathered concrete.

And it’s not just shaping Corian that’s seamless – the colour and pattern is consistent throughout the product too, so you won’t end up with patches that jar because they are slightly different in appearance.

It can be shaped and curved

You can curve and shape Corian to fit your space and make a real statement. In a recent project we were commissioned to create a stunning reception desk which curved up and around the walls and ceiling, adding a real wow factor when clients enter the building.

Add a touch of luxury

Corian is great when used in the home, too. Although it is at the higher end in terms of pricing, its durability makes it a great investment, plus it’s easy to keep clean. Countertops, backsplashes, integral sinks, feature walls, shower trays, warm to the touch flooring, dining surfaces – the options are endless.


The versatility of Corian makes it easy to leave a lasting impression with your customers or in your home. Think curving reception desks in unusual organic shapes, bold and striking waiter stations in restaurants or even small decorative items that make your space unique. Corian can be shaped to meet your needs.

Take the plunge

So now you know more about the wonders of Corian, get in touch to discuss how we can help you to incorporate it into your next project! Give us a call on 01206 793053.

18 November 2020 by dom_admin 0 Comments

5 Things to Consider When Fitting-Out Your Café

Owning a coffee shop is a popular life-goal but there’s more to a successful café than a good latte – the design and layout of your space is paramount to its success. Of course, this job is usually assigned to architects and designers, however your choice of shop fitters is also a decision that will be fundamental to the outcome of your fit-out.

GS Contracts has spent many years designing, fitting out and refurbishing coffee bars and cafes. As experienced shop fitters we can advise you on everything from costs to queue management, product placement to planning permissions, in a way that will allow you to avoid pitfalls, maximise your space and supersize your profits!

Here are the five most common issues we’ve come across that need every café owner’s consideration:

1. Budget

Be realistic! You need to take into account the cost of the premises; running costs from day one (you won’t be able to start a fit-out without electricity, for example!); professional fees- your architect, designer, labour; staff and any training they need; the cost of furniture, the all-important commercial equipment; ceramics and cutlery; branding; permits; licences… the list is long, so make sure you’ve covered all bases. It’s important that your budget is created with your design in mind and vice versa – how many covers will you need to do a day to break even and how many tables will you need to accommodate in your space to make that possible? If you don’t know where to start, let us help with costings and estimates to make sure you’re working within the confines of your finances.

2. Location, location, location!

Of course, you must pick a part of town that is busy enough to provide the footfall a café needs to be viable, but you also need to pick a premises that’s suitable – for example, does it have a power supply and power points in the right places? Can you install extractors? (Whilst the smell of coffee can be delicious, air must be circulated in a hot, working environment). Does the site have the permissions you’ll need to run it as a café, and if not, how easy will that change of use be to obtain? Then there are buildings with listed status or owned by public sector landlords – any of these things can cause issues further down the line if not factored in from the beginning. Luckily, with GS Contracts on board many of the headaches will be avoided or eased, because we’ve built up our expertise in exactly this over the years.

3. Design

Perhaps the most crucial aspect of any café’s design is the flow of the layout. It’s important to put yourself in the shoes of both employee and customer – does the barista have enough space to work methodically and get to the things he/she will need? Can your waiting staff get quickly across the room and access all areas with trays in hand? Will customers immediately understand how to queue and order and is there sufficient space for waiting for drinks without getting in each other’s way? Are there enough tables and seats? Have you got sufficient storage? With a custom joinery service like ours we can easily add bespoke fixtures, custom-made shelving and things like dropped ceilings so you can add heating and cooling features out of sight, so talk to us to find out what you can factor into your design to make the most of the space you have.

4. Decoration

Does the style of café you plan to open fit well within the area you’ve chosen? For example, areas like Shoreditch in East London have a quirky feel where art and individuality can take centre place, whereas coffee shops in the City of London tend to be simple, sleek affairs. A holistic approach to the decoration of your café will mean you think consistently about the storefront, signage, furniture, flooring, lighting and even colour schemes: Blues in particular have been found to curb appetite while reds can promote hunger. Perhaps not surprisingly, greens are associated with health and fresh nutrition and clashing colours are more likely to cause people to feel unsettled and either order takeaway or eat and leave fast. If you’re aiming for a relaxing, welcoming atmosphere, then calming, complimentary colour schemes work best.

5. Choosing the right team

Over the years GS Contracts has nurtured relationships with some outstanding designers and can recommend someone perfect for your venture. Our own team is made up of exceptional project managers and craftspeople who will become a key part of your success. Make our team your team. Give us a ring today.