Keep Customers Happy
During Your Next Remodel

Ben Kornowski, Project Manager, Peter Schwabe Inc.

Are you considering updating your commercial space but dreading the impact on customer traffic? Outdated or damaged commercial property can be a drain on your image and the efficiency of your business, so keeping your space looking good and functioning well is critical to future growth. As a project manager for some of the largest retail chains in the country, I’ve worked on many major remodel projects and have learned a lot about running a successful job. Here are a few tips that will help your next remodel project run smoothly.

1. Communicate
Manage expectations for and create excitement about your remodel by communicating before, during, and after the project. Before you start, get employee buy-in and cooperation by sharing plans with them early on. Announce your plans to customers with a simple (but professionally made) sign in your window, through your company newsletter, via social media, and on your website. Visit your neighbors and alert them to any extra activity on your site that may impact them, and go out of your way to accommodate them. Notify the public through a press release shared with local and trade publications. Update stakeholders regularly on the project’s progress to keep them excited and engaged in the process. Consider crafting a special reception greeting that explains why/how the renovations will improve visitors’ experience in the future. Of course, remember to thank them for their patience during the process.

2. Contain the Site
An experienced general contractor will know how to securely separate the section under construction to maintain the cleanliness and safety of the unaffected portion of your property. This is critical to avoiding an unexpected forced shut-down due to health and safety hazards. Ideally, create a buffer between the construction and business zones to reduce construction disturbances and keep customers comfortable and safe.

3. Time it Right
Schedule your construction work during slower times of the year, and during times of the day when you have less traffic. You may have to pay contractors a premium for an unconventional work schedule but it may be worth it to minimize the disruption noise, smells and dust will have on your customers and employees. Working during less busy times of the day will allow contractors to be more efficient because they can move freely without worrying about disrupting daily business operations and getting in the way of your customers. Scheduling internal work during winter – when contractors and subcontractors are typically less busy — may also save you time and money.

When is a brief
shut-down best for business?

In some cases, you will do your business a disservice by trying to remain open throughout the entire construction project. If you are not able to meet your customers’ quality expectations during your remodel, you may damage your reputation and lose valuable customers you have worked hard to impress.
Obviously, if you cannot offer your product safely and meet health codes during your remodel, you will need to shut down. Your contractor can work with you to minimize the required shut-down time to have you up and running quickly. A cost-benefit analysis may even show that you come out ahead by preplanning a brief shut-down to complete work like the installation of a new interior sprinkler system, underslab plumbing, or major additions.

4. Present a courtesy offer
Help customers forgive and forget the minor inconvenience they experience due to your remodel project by offering a discount or giveaway, like a free cup of coffee or a discount on products/services offered. Consider presenting them with an invitation to an open house to return after your project is completed. These small gestures could go a long way in generating goodwill.

5. Plan well
Prior to ground break, schedule a preconstruction meeting with your general contractor.
Your contractor will know what permits are required and will help you acquire them all in advance so you don’t waste valuable working time waiting for a permit or review with city officials.
Planning designated delivery, pick-up, parking, and entrance locations for construction personnel and supplies outside of common areas will minimize the project’s impact on customers and will help keep business running efficiently.
Rearrange critical work areas and reroute customer traffic as needed to keep employees’ and customers’ experiences as pleasant and as unchanged as possible. Remember to keep important records and paperwork stored safely away from potential damage that could occur in the work area.
Know in advance how you will handle an unexpected shut-down due to contaminant or other unforeseen construction problems. Your contractor can advise you on how to close safely with minimal impact on your bottom line.

6. Rely on professionals with experience
A general contractor with experience in your industry is imperative to the success of your remodel. They will know the unique and unexpected situations that may present themselves and can help you plan and react accordingly. Their knowledge gained on similar projects will help them work most efficiently and get your project completed quickly. If you are a franchisee, working with a preferred contractor helps ensure your project will comply with brand standards and franchise expectations.
As with any major undertaking, a remodel project requires you to hope for the best but plan for the worst. Inevitably, there will be surprises, change orders, and a few bumps along the way. But following these tips will help your project run as smoothly and efficiently as possible!


Ben Kornowski, Project Manager at PSI

Ben Kornowski
Project Manager

Ben helps clients achieve their project aspirations on time and on budget. He works closely with his client and team to understand the project’s unique aspects and weave them into the project plan. Ben has experience in the retail and restaurant industry, as well as remodels and new construction.