Renovate without breaking the bank

Giving your venue a makeover does not have to be expensive and MAX Venue Solutions’ senior venue designer explains how you can refresh your club’s look without it costing a bomb.

Key Insights

Top three tips for renovating on a budget:

  1. Do something every year to refresh a space, even if it’s simply reupholstering chairs or changing the lighting.
  2. Give the busy areas a new coat of paint.
  3. Work within the rules of visual merchandising and regularly place a new piece of furniture at the front of the club – this keeps it looking fresh.

The word ‘refurbishment’ can strike fear into the heart of even the hardiest venue manager. Escalating costs, disruption and not knowing where to start are the most common reasons for letting a venue get a bit tatty around the edges. But refurbishing doesn’t have to be expensive; in fact sometimes all a venue needs is a splash of paint and a strategically placed piece of furniture.

Angela Bambino, Senior Venue Designer for MAX Venue Solutions, has worked with budgets, both big and small. “My team and I do around 43 refurbishments a year, all with varying budgets,” she says. “No budget is too small, and I regularly work with venues that don’t have a lot of money. If that’s the case, then we work together to get the best outcome with what they’ve got. We recently worked with a budget of $30,000 and primarily focused on changing the gaming stools. The club had a budget of up to $300 a chair, and so we worked within that scope.

“While we were there, we also chatted with them about the merits of giving the place a new coat of paint and, because money was tight, I helped them pick out colours and then the club reached out to their members to help them paint.”

If $30,000 still sounds like an awful lot of money, then Bambino’s advice is to start modestly. “If the budget is small, my advice would be to look at the areas that create the most revenue, which is usually the gaming room, and start there,” she says. “If the gaming room is looking good, then I would suggest that the venue update key signage, refresh the bar or put in a self-service station for members to help themselves to a hot beverage. If money is tight, then it makes sense to be sure that it’s being invested in the right area.”

“If the budget is small, my advice would be to look at the areas that create the most revenue, which is usually the gaming room, and start there.”

Bambino and her team advise venues to keep everything as refreshed and up-to-date as they can. “There’s something to be learned from visual merchandising, and I always tell venues to think about their business like the windows in Myer,” she says. “If you go past Myer and they don’t change their windows month after month, then it gets stale, and no one wants to go in. It’s the same for the clubs. Take the time to stand back and really look at the space in its totality and then do something to make a few changes and keep it fresh.”

On the flip side, and where money is no object, Bambino states that a full refurbishment should be done every five to seven years. “A complete refurbishment is the only way to reinvent a space,” she says. “It’s daunting, but most venues are renovating every 12 years, which is just too long. If the budget is an issue, then create a five-year plan and start saving. If that’s just not possible, a solution would be to start making minor changes and get to know your customers as well as the demographics of the surrounding areas. We’re currently in the middle of a renovation for Clayton RSL in Victoria and we did a huge amount of research on the area. We overlaid the census information with that of the current members and saw that there was a disconnect. This meant that we could focus our attention on drawing in a new crowd and refurbish the place accordingly. It sounds so simple, but a lot of clubs tend to create spaces that they want, rather than thinking about what their customers want.”

It seems that the key to sprucing up the place is simply doing what you can with whatever you’ve got, and not being overwhelmed by the process.

The idea of getting members involved is perfect. Not only will you be encouraging a sense of community, but you’ll also get your venue refreshed in the process. That makes everyone a winner and in the world of gaming there really is no better outcome.

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