Painting Tips for Bar & Restaurant Owners

Adding a coat of paint will always freshen up any space. The same goes for any restaurant or bar. Understanding how to prepare your staff for a fresh coat of paint, what styles of paint to use, and the best finishes can help you create a space that is inviting, warm, and even exciting for your customers.

Throughout my almost two decades of experience working with restaurant and bar owners, these are the areas I always discuss with them when they decide to give their establishment a new look.

Prepare Your Staff for Painting

Staff members need to prepare for the painting of a restaurant or bar. Have your staff remove items from walls, bar areas, back of house, etc. Pull tables and chairs away from walls also. The last thing you want as a bar owner is paint getting on your furniture, which can take days or weeks to replace. Store your items in a safe place within your facility and then have morning staff come in and rehang any items and replace any furniture.

Prepare your staff before the painting process begins and schedule it accordingly.

Paint Finishes

When considering painting your restaurant or bar, speak with a professional painter so you can better understand what paint finishes fit where. This conversation will provide you with the information you need so you will be better prepared and understand the style of paint you need for your establishment.

The different paint finishes that are available on the market include eggshell, satin, flat, semi-gloss, and glossy. Different areas of the establishment need different styles of finishes due to durability issues.

For instance, kitchen spaces require more of a semi-gloss style of paint than the front of house because semi-gloss is easier to clean without leaving marks or creating unsightly shiny marks on the wall that would need refinishing.

Using certain paints will last longer, meaning you can save money in the long run by not having to paint sooner than if you choose the wrong finishes for your space.

Painting the Front of House

Customers will always notice the colors and ambiance of the space first upon entering your bar/restaurant. Making sure the paint is correct in this customer-facing area is crucial.

The finishing paint you have on your walls set an environment that lets the customers know what style of restaurant or bar they are entering. If it is a steak house, odds are the colors are more orange and amber, creating a warmer and more secluded feeling. A seafood-based restaurant may have more blues, yellows, or oranges to promote that coastal living lifestyle. If you are a steak house, you will want flatter finishes that don’t bounce light off of the walls. If you have a lively feeling restaurant serving seafood, you may want brighter colors to suit the area and make your customers feel like they are at the beach.

In the front of the house, you want to use a satin or eggshell finish. The slightly shiny finishes of these styles of paint provide easier cleaning and keep lights from glancing off the walls, which can be disturbing to customers.

Paint with flatter finishes will immediately show any scrapes from chairs or people rubbing against them, so stay away from these paints. Cleaning flatter paints can also cause burnishing or shiny spots that will need repeated touch ups. Eggshell is a great finish to consider because it is scratch-resistant and can easily be cleaned with a soapy, wet rag.

Painting the Back of House

When it comes to the kitchen, you want to paint your space with the highest quality semi-gloss paint available. I always recommend clients use a urethane semi-gloss paint for these areas. These paints are very durable and can be easily cleaned. So, if any grease or residue from cooking splatters on the walls of the kitchen, staff can wipe down the areas without worry of smearing or wiping away any paint.

For a cheaper alternative if you are on a tight budget, consider paints with similar but not the exact same results. A high-quality latex semi-gloss paint can do the job in the kitchen. It is not as durable in the long run, but it will keep you from having to deal with paint chipping off the walls. Kitchen paint always needs the most durability.  

It is best to spend the extra money to get something that will last longer and cause fewer issues because this is where the most paint issues will occur.

painting a restaurant
(Photo: alessandroguerriero, iStock / Getty Images Plus)

Scheduling and Preparation for the Paint Job

As a bar or restaurant owner, you may be worried about how you can get your establishment painted while still keeping the doors open.

When it comes to painting an existing restaurant, you will want to do it after hours, obviously. To ensure the job is done overnight, and on time, always ask your contractor these questions:

  • Do you have enough time?
  • Can you get the job done in this amount of time?
  • What do I need my staff to do ahead of time?
  • What areas will be painted during this time?
  • Will every area be clean by service? 

Be Understanding of the Painting Process

Restaurant and bar owners painting their establishments must know it takes time. This isn’t a simple job done in a couple of hours. The last thing you want as an owner is a customer to sit down and get paint on their clothes or body.

Be open with your painting contractor and tell them the job and times that need to be met. Most painting contractors will make this happen according to your schedule. Speak with the lead contractor about the overall timeframe of the job and about paint drying times. These are two very different times.

Also always speak with the contractor about cleanup. Make sure they take away all tape, plastic, and other debris from the property. It is not your responsibility to clean up; you are paying them to do the painting job, and cleanup is a part of that job.

Keeping your doors open while giving your bar/restaurant a refresh is a big deal for many owners. However, it can be done with the proper planning and the right painting contractors. When deciding to paint your establishment, keep these tips in mind to ensure you get the best results possible for your space. Remember to always check painting contractors' credentials and reviews so you choose painters that will get the job done right the first time.

Kelly Mardis is the owner of Marcel Painting in Phoenix, Arizona. Marcel Painting has been serving the Greater Phoenix area for almost two decades providing high-quality residential and commercial painting services.

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