Double takes come with each new dining experience as customers gawk at Transmetropolitan’s new look. Wow, what, and whoa have been used to describe the new makeover as customers stall at the front of the restaurant.
The Clayton Street pizzeria reopened on March 22, 2012 with a sleek new design, and the community continues to learn about the new renovations.
Transmetropolitan’s renovations exemplify a nationwide trend of quick, transformative restaurant makeovers.
The New York Times reports that “fast-track reboots” are due to the poor economy. “This is the era of high-velocity restaurant makeovers where noteworthy establishments are born, or reborn, in the time is takes to make a batch of crostini.”
Restaurants experience quick and drastic makeovers for two reasons:
- The restaurant needs to earn more money.
- No one wants to see vacant and empty spaces from failed restaurants.
Restaurant makeovers give people hope because they speak to the “American love of second chances and magic-wand makeovers.”
Transmetropolitan’s New Look
Transmetropolitan’s makeover began March 10 and was scheduled to end March 18. The restaurant capitalized on spring break to make significant changes to the downstairs dining area, kitchen, and cashier stand.
The Athens Banner-Herald noted, “When the students are away, the contractors shall play.” And that they did. Co-owner Brian Colantuno said, “You won’t be able to help but notice [the renovations].”
The extreme renovations exceeded the original timetable, and the restaurant reopened on March 22. Colantuno attributed the renovations to Transmet’s upcoming 12 year anniversary.
The design accentuates width rather than length. Many downtown businesses struggle with this challenge because businesses spaces are long in length and short in width.
“We wanted to make it feel as though it’s wider,” co-owner Wesley Russo said. “We had everything running longways, which was kind of exacerbating the front-to-back feeling of the building.”
The managerial staff declined to comment about whether the 2012 failing health inspection score influenced the renovations.
The restaurant scored 69 percent on its Sept. 21, 2012 health department inspection. The health score increased to 89 percent on Oct. 1, whereas post-renovation Transmet received 95 percent on its March 22 inspection.
Interior Design Elements for Successful Restaurants
The top 12 best new restaurant designs, according to Architectural Digest, include design elements such as exposed brick walls, contemporary lighting, and clean lines. Transmetropolitan’s renovations utilize seven and a half of the 14 highlighted features.
The restaurant earns partial credit for mismatching art because the pieces are different, but they are all black and white and in matching mattes. Interior designer Caroline Jones said this creates a more cohesive feel than mismatching art intends to create.
Exposed beams, wood elements, and suspended light installations make Transmet more modern. Colantuno thinks the contemporary touches will create a more open feel.
Exposed beams maintain the casual ambience and contribute to the clean lines of the design.
Local artisan Mark Poucher crafted the new wood elements and helped with the overall design. He is known for his woodwork featured in Hotel Indigo.
Interior design professor Tad Gloeckler values natural design elements and commends Transmet on its use of woodwork. “Individual components are precisely engineered for simple functions, structural clarity, and/or striking appearance.”
Orbs are the most popular suspended light installations, and the new design features orbs above each table and around the kitchen.
Mixed Community Reactions
Reactions to the renovations have been mixed.
“People kind of walk in, and they look around, and they go, ‘Wow—it’s totally different,’” Russo said. “But I think people enjoy [it].”
Lauren Scott, a second-year student at the University of Georgia, is one critic of the design.
“Noooo!” she exclaimed after entering the restaurant for the first time since the renovations.
“I’m not a fan. I think the old design was more rustic and homey, and to me, it fit the personality of Transmet better.”
Russo noted that the new design elements change the atmosphere but for the better.
Channing Jones, a third-year student at the university, agreed that “the vibe of the place has totally transformed,” but she isn’t sure if it is for better or worse.
“The renovations are shifting Transmet from a seemingly classic, back alley pizza diner to a more upscale, chic establishment,” third-year student Davis Mastin said. “There are both pros and cons to this, depending on which direction the restaurant is looking to move towards.”
New Design, New Success
Social media and aggregation websites, such as Yelp, are not as useful in restaurant marketing as suspected. Online marketing, according to a new study by the NPD Group, influences only 6-8 percent of restaurant choices.
New restaurants are the winners in online marketing because they are fresh and exciting. If a restaurant can market itself as new, it reaps immense online yields.
The study revealed that “diners visited a new restaurant after viewing an online marketing campaign at twice the rate of diners overall.”
If Transmet can market the restaurant as new, there may be substantial financial rewards.