Scoping Pub Refurbishments: Identifying Opportunity and Mitigating Risks

Pub refurbishments are a huge investment, so it’s important to evaluate and assess any risks before you go ahead with the project. Identifying opportunities for improvement is also important, as it can help you create value for your customer whilst reducing costs. Our years of experience in pub refurbishments mean that we know how to evaluate risk and identify opportunities in order to deliver successful projects with happy customers.

Our approach to assessing risk and opportunity in pub refurbishments

When we first arrive on site, we quickly identify the opportunities and challenges within the space. We used a mix of design and construction experience to work with the family, contractors, and architects to see their vision become a reality.

Assessing and mitigating risks

We ask some essential questions from our clients, listening to understand their responses fully as they have implications for the risk profile of the pub refurbishment.

  • Is the property independent, a freehouse or tied to a brewery or pubco?
  • Is there an outside space and what does that look like throughout each season? Are there protected trees?
  • Are there views that are hidden?
  • Are there access issues for disabled persons?
  • Are all the amenities accessible?
  • Is the capacity maximised (or appropriate for the kitchen and bar capacity?)
  • What is the client’s ideal mix of food and beverage offers?

The information gained by asking these types of questions is vital to identify, assess, and mitigate the risks presented by the responses.  And after you assess risks, you are then able to identify new opportunities to make the most of the pub refurbishment.

Case study: The risks posed by the space at The Thatched Tavern

The spaces in The Thatched Tavern are actually quite tricky because it’s on three different levels. So, from an access point of view, it’s difficult, however it does lend itself to having three very different kind of atmospheres.

The risks involving the toilets…

The toilets at were the were the biggest risks to pub refurbishment. As you can imagine, the toilets had all the nasty characteristic things about public toilets — and they were small.  Although it wasn’t in our initial plan, we basically had to gut them as they were not well looked after. We literally stripped them back to the concrete.

When we first opened, we had several customers said “Your toilets are nicer than mine at home! One customer dragged her husband in to show the show the tiles on the toilet that wall, saying she wanted tiles just like them. So, it’s just little the details, I think. It’s only toilets, but actually, if you go someplace nice and you walk into a nice bathroom, you think ‘This is really nice place.’

Stephen Naylor, Owner, The Thatched Tavern    

The risks from the kitchen fire

When the kitchen fire happened, we dropped everything to make sure that there’s no water coming in. We needed to make the pub safe so the loss adjusters could go on site. We switched the electricity off, and then for three weeks to a month, nothing was allowed on site. Attending the emergency, the fire brigade had soaked everything. At first, the smoke damage, didn’t seem that bad, but we did notice problems with smoke damage later on. 

Getting on site

Once we could get back on site, we started removing all the fire damaged material, and blocked the windows where the glass had smashed. There were nearly 20 fridge freezers switched off due to the fire; with food still in them, and we had to clear out all that mess.

Cleaning out reveals more problems

When we stripped out the kitchen, we found rotten walls, with water coming in behind where there would have been stainless steel cladding. We had to reinforce the roof out to dry liner walls and take on all this additional work to make sure the project was a success.

The client relationship was positive

Fortunately, we had forged a solid relationship with our client, and have these difficult conversations about additional work required. Fortunately, Stephen was very understanding. They are difficult conversations, but you need to handle it in the right way and demonstrate what’s happening on site.  For example, it’s fairly obvious when something’s rotten and cannot be repurposed, or if a joist doesn’t quite hit the wall and hangs in mid-air.

Our client, Stephen, was brilliant.  Every time there was an option between a quick fix or a proper fix, him and his dad consistently said to “Do it once, and do it properly, and get it done” — so that’s what we did.

Mark Green

Top tips for managing risk in pub refurbishment

  1. Be open with your client about anything that could potentially delay work, especially if they are being affected by noise or disturbance.  This may mean having conversations early on in the project rather than when you get into detailed design stages – but it will be worth the time.
  2. Listen to feedback from customers about their current experiences at the pub before starting work so that you can evaluate risk early on. This can help you to identify opportunities and reduce risks, as well as adding value by improving customer flow through the pub.
  3. To evaluate the risk of each project phase, use a risk assessment approach to analyse how you can reduce any hazards.


The Thatched Tavern, the property contained several thatched outhouses and an overgrown wraparound pub garden with the potential for sea views. Learn more about our planning process.

Seeing the opportunity for a real pub transformation

We’ve transformed the dining area with luxury furnishings, and the highest quality fittings and finishes. Along the dining room walls are artistic, authentic portraits of local suppliers, working in their element. These unique portraits tie the dining space to the fresh, local food offering in an elegant, understated way. The pub garden features lighting that tastefully accentuates the garden’s mature trees, a large covered decking area, and a woodfired pizza oven that extends our food offer, with handmade pizzas during expanded service times.

The kitchen fire viewed as an opportunity to create something special

When the kitchen fire struck the day after contract exchange, our first priority was to make safe. And through the ashes, we could see there was an opportunity to create a pub refurbishment truly special and bespoke to the needs of the client. 

We are always moving forward and looking for opportunities to innovate and attract customers, updating our menus in partnership with suppliers as seasons evolve. Our award-winning chef has full oversight of all equipment, supply, training, and quality.

Mat Naylor, Manager, The Thatched Tavern, Maidencombe    

The beer garden presented an enormous opportunity

Refurbishment of the large beer garden nearly doubled the capacity and number of potential covers, and by adding a raised covered decking area created real value with brand new sea views.

Mature trees provided a unique opportunity

A large cedar tree, central to the beer garden space, and was protected by mature tree conservation.  Our tree expert worked within the planning process (link to planning process) to provide expert advice to keep the structure provided by the tree without losing the glorious British sunshine. The tree is now wrapped in classic white festoon lighting, providing unforgettable organic scenery (and pub garden visibility) 7 nights a week.

The bungalow brought the family together

We were asked to create accommodation from an onsite dilapidated bungalow and large garden shed located to the rear of the pub garden. We transformed the site into an extended luxury 2-bed home with vaulted ceilings and oak beams. Large format porcelain tiles with underfloor heating add to the cosy home feel.

Outside the home, we prepared a well-equipped vegetable garden with raised beds. The outside terrace is screened from the pub garden and provides uninterrupted views across Labrador Bay. The vaulted extension blends into the existing building with matching cedar plank cladding that is gradually taking on an authentic seaside silver-grey finish.

Top tips to spot opportunities to add value when refurbishing pubs

The more you understand your client’s current operational issues, the better equipped you will be to evaluate and identify any potential opportunity for adding value by looking at refurbishing their pub. 

These can include: 

  1. improving customer flow through a space e.g., with additional seating or re-positioning of doorways
  2. changing the layout of a space to add more value, such as by adding or removing bar areas e.g., pool tables
  3. rethinking how food is served and who it’s targeted at (is there potential for an artisan menu?)
  4. improving staff facilities (are they considered in the design?) 
  5. making alterations to increase the capacity of existing facilities
  6. adding new equipment or features e.g., fixed seating, fire pits/outdoor heaters, water features
  7. adding a new entrance or exit to an area e.g., side gates for deliveries and staff access
  8. improving the exterior of the pub by landscaping outside areas (e.g., decking), installing lighting or visual signage

Customer experiences are your best sources to identify risk and opportunities

Pubs are at their busiest in early evening and throughout the week.  Before starting work, evaluate what customers feel is lacking from these busy periods by listening to your client’s feedback on existing operations during quieter times of day. This will allow you to understand any operational risk that could be improved with a refurbishment.

Skilled management of your restaurant refurbishment

Restaurant refurbishments are not to be taken lightly, as they require a significant amount of investment. It’s important to thoroughly evaluate and assess any potential risks before proceeding with any refurbishment project. Alongside this, identifying key opportunities for improvement is justas vital to ensure that the project delivers value to the customer whilst still reducing costs. With years of experience in restaurant refurbishments, our team has the skills and knowledge to expertly evaluate any possible risks and identify opportunities to deliver a successful, profitable project for your business. Trust in our expertise to help breathe new life into your restaurant.

We’re here to help

With 20 years’ experience in pub and restaurant refurbishment, gutxi can help with design challenges, and see your vision to create a design that is truly special and one-of-a-kind. Get in touch with our design team today for an on-site consultation where we will listen and learn from you about the risks and opportunities your business is facing before offering reassuring, expert advice.