A New Generation of Restaurants: How Shea gives new life to former dining spaces

It’s easy to be tempted to build a restaurant space completely from scratch. But creating a restaurant is costly, and most of those costs are hidden from guests—range hoods, venting, kitchen appliances. For a first-generation restaurant space, these items are, by far, a majority of the budget.

Because of this, finding a second-generation space makes the most business sense—but you need to do it with brand in mind. The key to designing in a second-generation restaurant space is knowing what to keep and what to lose—maintaining its bones and expensive infrastructure while wiping the slate clean of everything else. Shea has mastered transforming shuttered restaurants, utilizing existing electrical work, kitchen equipment, HVAC, plumbing, and more to give the restaurant its necessary infrastructure while creating a totally new experience for diners.

Lat 14

It’s particularly hard to create a new guest experience when a restaurant is taking over a space with a well-known everyday brand. Lat 14, Chef Ann Ahmed’s venture celebrating food from southeast Asia, overtook an existing Perkins restaurant in Golden Valley—meaning that it also inherited the classic Perkins design. When that’s the case, the alternative to reuse is to maintain the shell, but otherwise start from scratch (minus a couple of sinks and a walk-in cooler), which is exactly what the Shea team did to make each guest shocked to discover that the restaurant was once a casual-dining chain eatery.

The renovation was truly a top-to-bottom affair, keeping important structure in place—beginning with tearing out the ceiling to expose the metal truss roof and painting it a deep, elegant charcoal color, right down to stripping the floors to expose the original concrete and add thoughtful mosaic tile accents for a pop of color. Dividing walls were torn out to create one large space, and in the flexible private-dining space, rafters were stained a darker wood tone for added richness.

Adding focal features was also key in this space’s overhaul. The first order of business was to create different dining zones within the open space for different experiences, including a bar that would support the cocktail program and make for a lively atmosphere. Covered in sleek-but-rustic wood and topped by granite, it adds a sense of elegance that makes diners completely forget about the Tremendous Twelves formerly served in the space. The rest of the space is glam-meets comfort, with rich furnishings in woods, leather, and velvet, with bright throw pillows lining the banquettes and a hefty chef’s table just outside the open kitchen. Large-format artwork and vibrant pops of teal, lime green, and pale pink add an extra dose of fun and life to the space, while carefully chosen metallic details and chandeliers bring an element of luxury.

In terms of functionality, the former restaurant’s equipment and fixtures just weren’t up to snuff for a high-concept eatery. With the exposure of the kitchen (covered only by a half-wall stocked with carefully stacked dishes and larder), the equipment and layout needed an overhaul to stay sleek. The restrooms also benefitted from a total renovation, now flanked by chic wallcoverings and tiny tiles. Outside, the biggest transformation was in changing the instantly recognizable Perkins exterior into something with no relation or resemblance to the breakfast brand. The addition of patio seating, a coat of rich charcoal paint, and bold, clever signage disguise the building’s Magnificent Seven and pie-case roots—announcing its presence and bringing fresh new flavors to the ’burbs.