Regular customers at Springfield Diner almost certainly will take note of a recent change at the East Republic Road eatery – and it’s not the highly debated name change.
As Dustin Myers and Jeremy Wells of branding agency Longitude LLC made their way inside the restaurant for a design walk-through session Sept. 10, it was apparent the seating situation had improved – the booths are gone.
Diner owner Omer Onder has said uncomfortable seating is the biggest customer complaint he receives. The criticism – specifically with booths that sit too low and don’t reach the table – was echoed in a customer survey Longitude completed for Onder in May.
The seating update was a change that Onder took upon himself last month, before recommendations by Longitude.
“Have you had any customers complain about missing them or anything?” Wells asked of the booths.
Onder immediately responded with a huge laugh, shaking his head: “No.” Diner employee Marsha Goehring said she’s only heard two customers even ask about them.
In place of the booths, Onder spent around $600 for 25 wooden chairs from Arctic Food Equipment. That boosted the seating capacity to 50 from 42, he added.
“I threw them away,” he said of the booths, joking that he burned them behind the restaurant and did a celebratory dance.
The design discussion brought into the picture Darren Pearce, president and CEO of Pinnacle Sign Group Inc. He joined the group on-site to discuss sign options.
“Whatever you can do to draw visual attention is good,” Wells said. “It is kind of a little hidden type of location, but we’re just trying to make the most of it.”
The Longitude owners have a relationship with Pearce and Pinnacle Sign Group. They hired the company to design and install their own office signage.
Wells and Myers previously have suggested a classic neon sign, and Onder’s open to the idea as he’s expecting to add evening hours beyond once a week. The diner currently is open until 8 p.m. on Fridays for Mediterranean night.
Looking around at other shops in the Southgate Center, Pearce noticed there isn’t uniformity in all of the signs. Onder’s diner sign looks different than nearby neighbor Breathe Salt Vault, and a few doors down, Sun Tan City’s sign is lighted.
“We’ve made some signs and made them look very retro like,” Pearce said, showing Onder photos on his phone of lighted signage the company did for The Rock, a new restaurant in Galloway Village.
He estimated a lighted sign runs $4,000-$5,000, not including permitting and design fees. However, he said his company would waive all the design work and permit-related fees – a cost equal to around $1,000. Pearce said he wanted to help Onder out and provide a professional favor to Longitude, noting the two companies occasionally consult each other on projects. However, they haven’t worked directly on any mutual clients at this point.
“Branding really does affect the overall experience for people,” Pearce said of getting involved in the signage project. “A lot of times, it’s a hard topic for people to understand the value of it.”
The initial renderings should be complete in about 10 business days, Pearce said, adding he’ll also be running sign options by center landlord Green Circle Projects LLC.
Inside the diner, Myers suggested changing the current light gray walls to something brighter and repainting the ceiling, as the black paint is uneven and fading in spots.
“The brighter you can get the wall color in here, the better,” Wells agreed.
Myers showed Onder a digital image of utilizing subway tile for a portion of the wall currently covered by a cityscape mural of Portugal. The idea is to brighten up the diner.
Onder liked the idea, and he’s also on board with Longitude’s recommendation to provide separation for the front and back of house.
The Longitude duo say they’ll prepare a list of immediate and future changes to work on later this month.
“Then I think the ball’s going to be in your court as far as when to make the changes,” Myers said, adding a follow-up meeting would be scheduled for next month. “When the signage comes back, then you can decide which route to go with that.”
Onder said he still hasn’t finalized his renovation budget. However, he’s previously said he’d expect costs land in the $5,000-$7,000 range. Largely for budgetary reasons, Onder said he’s declined to utilize the services of restaurant operations consultant David Foster, whom he met in June. Foster’s bill estimate in excess of $3,000 was too expensive, he added.
Onder said he expects to tackle much of the interior improvements himself.
“Signage was the most important part for me. It was really emotional,” he said after the meeting.
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