restaurant storefront

How to Design your GREAT Restaurant Storefront: Facade Update for Crew Bar + Grill


moss client, Crew Bar + Grill  recently completed an update to their storefront, giving a strong facelift to the old building, bringing more natural light into the restaurant and making a better connection between the street and the sports bar inside.  Our redesign is an excellent demonstration of several important principles of good restaurant storefront design.

Here’s what you can learn from this great Restaurant Storefront!

1. The best sign you can have is a transparent storefront

We believe strongly that the best advertisement for your restaurant or bar is … your restaurant or bar.  Check out our beautiful  storefronts for 2 Sparrows and Flirty Cupcakes.

Letting passers by see into the space gives them a clear idea of what they’ll get when they come in and sit down and if you’ve done your job right it should be very inviting.  The flipside of this is that opening up the storefront with lots of glass brings floods of natural light into your space, making it more pleasant once you get inside too.  (Note: some orientations require additional shading to prevent heat from building up at the front of your space.)

design sketches

2. Remember the practicalities 

There are a lot of details to good design that don’t show on the surface (unless they go wrong). Don’t forget to account for issues like structure, thermal control, materials and regular sizing in your plans.

  • For Crew’s storefront redesign we started by investigating the structural support of the building.  As it happened there was a clear span beam across the whole building hidden in the brick above our space.  If  it hadn’t been, we would have needed to accommodate a central column in our design.
  • When changing from a solid wall with a few punched windows to a fully glazed facade we needed to account for additional heating and cooling loads and make sure to minimize condensation on the windows in winter.   We addressed this with several new mini split heating cooling units and an air curtain at the door.
  • We also kept an eye on dimensions and existing conditions to keep costs low.  We kept the entry door in the same location so that circulation inside the restaurant wouldn’t be affected and paid attention to standard product dimensions to keep specialty material costs low.  The final width of the operable storefront was determined by the max size for a bifold glass door – 42 inches.


3. Direction attention towards your door

Most urban storefronts have office or residential space above which is accessed by a stairway door next to the business.  This is certainly the case at Crew’s restaurant re-design and we wanted to make sure that the attention of passers by was directed to the right door.  The strong ‘L’ of corten steel visually groups the Crew part of the building together and brings the eye just where we want it – to the entry!

corten detail

4. Blend in and stand out

It’s important to stand out from the crowd so you can catch eyes and be easily identified by new and existing customers but its usually not a good idea clash visually with the neighboring buildings – or with the rest of the facade of your own.   For Crew’s new design, that meant using a relatively simple design for the storefront with a strong, eye catching ‘L’ of corten steel wrapping the operable storefront.

Even though construction, carried out by InFocus Builders, was complete last fall, we only recently went over and collected our final pictures to share.  Why the wait?  That main element of the facade – the wide stripe of corten steel – weathers into a beautiful rusted finish given a little time and we wanted to let the elements take effect before we documented it.  The collage above shows some of the weathering process although the raw steel will start to change color within the first day of coming in contact with water.

construction pair

5. Tap ALL your financial resources

Several moss projects including Crew were able to partially fund their storefront improvement processes with grants from Chicago’s Special Service Area (SSA) program which provides Storefront Improvement Funds to businesses in certain target areas.  Crew was also able to take advantage of some funding from the Small Business Improvement Program (SBIF) program to undertake their construction.res 

before after

So there you have it: before and after.  Tell us what you think in the comments!