Looking For Examples of Restaurants in Unique Buildings

I’m looking for some examples of restaurants who have used a unique building that may not have really fit, but have found a way to make it work. Last Fall we moved into a 100 year old lumberyard and expanded to being a full Italian restaurant and pizzeria. We have shared the building with a popular college bar and a small bar that caters to dart players (I didn’t know that was a thing). A few months ago, the building owner approached me to tell me the college bar was planning to close down and talked to me about going into business together and running the whole building (it’s huge) as one business. We would still have it divided up pretty much the same, but there is a lot more that could be done if space wasn’t being shared by different businesses.

We are planning to rename different sections/bars/rooms with a lumber, brick, coal, etc. theme. We struggle with our guests not feeling like the lumberyard/barn/western feel of our dinning room matches our menu. I can understand that part. My partner likes it. Our marketing firm that I just hired wants us to theme everything Italian so we don’t dilute the message of the restaurant.

There has to be some very cool restaurants out there who have managed to take what they have and make it work with their style of food, even if it doesn’t have a natural pairing. Does anyone know of any I could look at to help get everyone on the same page?

Here’s the front entrance currently used only by the college bar:

Panoramic shoot of the outdoor courtyard (trashed every night by the college bar):

I know money is always a factor but an old brick builiding like that could go so many ways. My first suggestion is one thing… that front door needs to be more inviting. Right now it yells a bit scary and not “hey come on into the party or have a pizza and a beer”. Get passer bys and regulars to really feel safe and bring the kids in…and offer the late night crowd a thing or two. With all that space… bring on the local live music. I have learned that most small and local bands play for free to get noticed. Bring in a karaoke night. Have a twice a month wine or local brewery tasting night. Free wine & beer with pizza orders. Same thing with local artist. Showcase their work for free and negotiate a sellers fee. You have a lot of options…but need to look inviting for any of it too work!

Indie…not knowing the area… but in keeping the whole Italian theme going… how is or could lunch business be? How about a sectilon with a patio with big umbrellas and a lunch deli… sandwhiches, soups, wine, salads… quick and casual…great homemade desserts! Bring in a pastry chef / baker to make the treats and daily fresh bread. Sounds like the “bar” idea worked against you a bit. Build off the professional and family side. 3 separate but integrated ops. Bakery fresh breads and treats. Lunch deli outdoorsy fresh bread and HIGH quality products. Then dinner on two sides… the full service restaurant but also great…maybe go open wood fired pizza. Make it a show. OH…and again I am not sure of the local or customer base…but drop delivery. Invest a little and turn it into "Little Italy"and a destination for a great lunch, dinner, to pick up bakery goods. Work with a local winery and cheese house… let them set up kiosks for their goods. Have the tasting nights. Have a once a month free cooking and tasting night. You need to get others onboard and get specility people to want to use this as a way to market their own products under your roof. Make it a win-win for all. Indie if the location is right… you could make this a great opportunity for all involved. Play it right and I see great potential here. Make it stand out…not just a pizza on the table or a beer. The old rustic look is already there. I hope the rest can fall into place. Best of luck my friend… this could be big! :idea:

One last thing…you have that great courtyard… put in a big fountain! People love the sound of water. They stick around longer, eat and drink more, tip better…ect. Put fish in the basin and you now have 1000 kids that want to go to the place with the fishy fountain. I have a 5 year old and hear it all the time.

I didn’t notice when I originally posted, but the door you’re seeing isn’t the entry door, it’s the emergency exit to the courtyard. If you right click on the image and select “view image” you’ll see a (somewhat) better entry way. The courtyard had a big fountain between the two trees years ago, but the college bar tore it out rather than maintain it. We’re talking about putting it back in.

I think the marketing agency and I have agreed that trying to force an Italian feel on the entire building (16,000 sq. ft.) is probably unrealistic, so we’re looking at some other options. It’s going to be a hell of a project, but it hits on several different areas that I really, really enjoy doing, so it’s going to be a blast (let’s see if I’m still saying that in 3 months).

I’m not sure if targeting drunken college kids is profitable. The bar closed, right?

If it were me, I might see if it’s possible to turn the building into a food court, inviting other non-competing food styles in. You may be able to have strong lunch traffic in addition to dinner traffic. Even a common delivery service you share and expense?

That was my first thought as I saw the building…

Offer a unique style of pizza instead of Italian. That outdoorsy feel makes me think it would be a cool place to go and get a Grilled Pizza. The other “sections” could tie into that grilling/BBQ/smokehouse theme as well.

Indie you say forcing the entire building into italian would be hard… but having spent the last 20 years in a midwest college town… the only places that survive are the higher-end ones that cater to the college staff and locals. The 40k students have their bars…and every year the 6 ones are still open and 20 new ones pop up… they last 1-2 years. That building looks great as far as the lines. If you could get other italian based businesses and are work and market with each other. The outdoor does yell cook outside. Outdoor oven? Like I said before… a good bakery? How about a market place with fresh produce, bakery products, cheese and wines, etc… Then a nice ital restaurant with tablecloth service but casual so not to make the feel seem so high end people think of you as only the occasional stop but a great local eatery with options! Offer an italian brunch… bring in live music twice a month. Mini-farmers market during the summer… that space yells so many ideas that if you can get other specialty shops onboard it could have great possibilities. Go talk to other local specialty shops… see if they would relocate under one roof. Or open second smaller operations at your site. You need a great marketing and sales pitch in place…but remember the target customer base here… the ones with higher paying professional jobs and not the 20 year olds that trash the place nightly.