Value Engineering Leads the Redesign of Authentic Chinese Dim Sum Restaurant

Creating an authentic environment while also finding economical solutions for the redesign was critical to the project’s success.



After conducting market research in the area, a local restaurant in Kentucky decided it was time to change its concept. Offering a unique dining experience, Enson Harbor transformed from a general seafood establishment to an authentic Chinese Dim Sum restaurant. And while the restauranteurs had the menu down, they didn’t know where to start when redesigning the restaurant’s interior. Since the CIP Retail team designed the first concept, the Enson Harbor owners knew exactly where to go for help.


CIP designers and engineers immediately immersed themselves in the culture to create the right look and feel for an authentic Dim Sum restaurant. The team led the redesign by focusing on utilizing existing elements. Instead of creating new features, large existing cubes and other signs were re-vinyled and walls were re-painted. They also incorporated innovative design features with wheatgrass planters, faux ivory tiles, stained wood features, and printed acrylics to beautify the space on a limited budget.

Enson Harbo Dim Sum Signage


The CIP team saved time, budget, and resources by value engineering the redesign. Creating an authentic environment while also finding economical solutions for the redesign was critical to the project’s success. Having in-house designers, fabricators, and installers at CIP, allowed the team to hit the mark and implement the desired look and feel quickly. Guests are now immediately transported into another culture the moment they step foot inside.

“We were thrilled to help the Enson Group transition from a seafood establishment to a Chinese Dim Sum restaurant,” said Tom Richardson, sales manager for CIP Retail. “They trusted our design team to do what was needed to create a space that was comfortable, inviting and authentic while keeping the budget in check.”

Key design elements included:

  • Wall-mounted signage repurposed with new vinyl graphics
  • New seating and lighting elements to match the new theme
  • Several large murals, printed and installed
  • Privacy screen installations
  • Wall-mounted bamboo boxes and wheatgrass planters
  • Installation of a wall-mounted zodiac calendar with removable tiles
  • Installation of vintage Geisha tapestries

“We came to CIP because we were familiar with their work. They helped us design our first concept. They are always professional and creative and understand how to stretch our budgets further without ever compromising on the design. They are true partners we can trust.” – Danny Fok, Owner of Enson Harbor Group

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Want to speak with one of our design experts? Contact us today.

Restaurant Design Trends to Watch in 2024

Keeping up with evolving consumer demands in the restaurant industry has never been easy — even more so since the coronavirus pandemic hit in 2020. As reported by CNN in August of this year, “Now, over three years later, the restaurant industry is back. But the pandemic ushered in some changes that are here to stay.” The article explains that dining rooms are shrinking, delivery is in demand, and there are still too many jobs for too few workers.

At CIP Retail, our team has also seen significant changes and evolutions in restaurant design trends.

“The need for innovative solutions to attract and keep guests coming back is a priority for our clients,” said Christina Saner, CEO of CIP Retail. “Our focus is to help them create truly unique and memorable experiences to help differentiate them from competitors and leave their guests craving more.”

As we look ahead, here’s a taste of the trends we see continuing and even growing in 2024.

Trend #1: Immersive Experiential Design

Creating emotional connections with restaurant guests will continue to be an important goal in interior design. In addition to satisfying picky palates and noses with delicious foods and smells, many restauranteurs are also looking at ways to delight the other senses.

  1. Visually Transport Diners to Another World

As the saying goes, we eat with our eyes first. Creating visually appealing dishes is important, but a restaurant’s interior design is equally important if you want guests to experience another culture.

“They see your design first,” said Matthew Valerius, Creative Director at CIP Retail. “And if you want to transport them into another world, it starts the minute they step inside your doors.”

The CIP Design Team did just that with Enson Harbor, a Chinese Dim Sum restaurant designed to create a comfortable and authentic environment. The team immersed themselves in the culture to understand exactly what was needed. They also focused on finding economical solutions for the redesign, a critical strategy for the project’s success. Having in-house designers, fabricators and installers at CIP, allowed the team to hit the mark and implement the desired authentic look quickly.

2. Background Noise Matters

Restaurants are naturally noisy. The sound of plates clanging, groups of guests chattering, music blaring, you name it — all happening in, often, small spaces. And the noise level seems to be rising thanks to the trend of wide-open spaces and the repurposing of buildings such as warehouses and old factories.

Design features can play an important role in minimizing noise. Dividers, sound-absorbing materials, and ceiling modifications are important features to consider when thinking about minimizing noise and elevating the customer’s experience.

3. A Touchy Subject

COVID-19 changed the way many restaurants operate. While the avoidance of physical contact has waned, the pandemic’s after-effects still have guests seeking safer dining options. With the use of QR codes as menus, wipeable booth materials, and stylish permanent dividers in smaller spaces, incorporating touch in today’s environment can be tricky, and non-traditional alternatives must be considered.

Trend #2: Localizing the Guest’s Experience

Restaurants are finding ways to create memorable experiences for guests. One way to do that is by localizing the design to keep them engaged and loyal. According to a survey by insurance group NEXT, 64 percent of restaurant-goers have intentionally chosen local restaurants over chain restaurants since the pandemic began. Most of the survey respondents said they prefer smaller eateries because they like to support local businesses (87%), like the atmosphere better (69%), and know the people who work there (69%).

“This doesn’t mean the larger chains can’t emulate mom-and-pop designs and incorporate the localization factor,” said Keith Koester, Sales Engineer at CIP Retail. “It also goes way beyond providing specialized dishes. There are many opportunities to incorporate and localize the interior space to make guests feel welcome and part of the local community.”

Buffalo Wings and Rings, with nearly 60 locations across 10 states, understands this well. They’ve incorporated event walls into all of their store redesigns and new builds. Each wall features hyperlocal events, fundraisers, and partnerships that guests care about in their community. They’ve also incorporated a “Brews on Tap” wall behind the bar featuring both local and national beers. Each wall can be customized and updated as events and menu items change, keeping the information relevant and timely.

Trend #3 Focusing on Value Engineering
As supply chain concerns and the fluctuating costs of construction materials continue to be a focus, value engineering has become an increasingly critical component in restaurant design. And it’s not going away any time soon. CIP specializes in bringing value engineering expertise to the table.

“Our team can design a space from top to bottom by utilizing cost-saving construction techniques and alternative materials that achieve the same look and feel but at a fraction of the cost,” said Tom Richardson, Sales Manager at CIP Retail. “Even if we do not design the space, we work closely with the client or their interior designers and/or architects to save budgets while enhancing the brand and restaurant aesthetics.”

Examples of value engineering design include:

Material Selection: Reclaimed wood, condensed PVC, and low-maintenance finishes can create expensive looks without the high price tag. CIP recently tackled this challenge for Buffalo Wings & Rings. The original plan of the restaurant redesign involved incorporating white penny tile onto a wall, but the installation process was time-consuming, and the material was expensive when adding it to 80+ locations. CIP replicated the penny tile look by utilizing sheets of condensed PVC. In-house experts then routed out the individual round penny tiles and textured the grout lines to create the same look and feel as an expensive hand-tiled wall.

Buffalo Wings & Rings logo wal with penny tile

Smart Lighting: One way to maximize savings is by utilizing LED lighting options. This energy-efficient alternative can provide substantial cost savings, is highly customizable, and helps create the desired mood for the interior space.

Dragon City lighting fixture

Repurpose Materials: You don’t have to start from scratch for every redesign. Repurposing and reimagining existing furniture, fixtures, and décor items will maximize tight budgets. Instead of creating completely new features and elements for Enson Harbor, CIP re-vinyled large existing cubes and other signs to save valuable time and resources.

Dim Sum

The restaurant industry will continue to transform as tastes and trends evolve. Those who place emphasis on value engineering design when budgets are tight and keep pace with consumer demands will continue to thrive and evolve with the changing times.

Want to speak with one of our design experts? Contact us today.

3 Examples of Value Engineering in Restaurant Interior Design

Creating a unique and inviting interior design concept is incredibly important for restaurants and cafes. Owners want their customers to feel comfortable and relaxed. They also want the décor to be recognizable and unique to the brand’s identity.

We help our restaurant customers execute custom-made interior designs, such as branded mosaic focal walls and custom light fixtures, but in ways that won’t break the bank.

The Ceiling as Art

Forget white drop ceiling tiles. Have you looked up in a restaurant lately? A big trend is using the ceiling as part of the décor. From intricate light fixtures to murals and mosaics, ceilings can be a great place to express the restaurant’s individuality.

Our restaurant client in Florence, Kentucky, wanted to tap into this trend with custom, dragon-themed overhead fixtures, but it would cost them several thousand dollars to replace their current fixtures.

Our solution: Rather than purchasing new light fixtures, we repurposed the restaurant’s three-foot-diameter fixtures. We removed the acrylic in the fixtures, took it back to our shop, and made a cut file that would fit perfectly. We then printed a new dragon-logoed acrylic and laid it back into the existing lights.

Retro Elegance

Another interior design trend in restaurants is the return to a retro-style décor. Not overwhelming, like the original 1970’s Brady Bunch house, but elegant, mixing modern designs with period pieces. Classic round penny tile, for example, is back in full force.

In Cincinnati, Ohio, our client’s new restaurant concept had a design plan that called for a dazzling focal wall made with genuine penny rounds, which would then be hand-painted with the restaurant’s logo. However, it was going to be labor- and time-intensive for the contractors to execute. The wall was 50′ wide by 16′ high – more than 800 square feet of tiling and painting.

Our solution: We mimicked the look and texture of the penny tile using 4 x 8 sheets of PVC. We printed the logo directly on the PVC, and the bright, white focal wall covering was much easier and faster to install.

Industrial Chic

Another trend in restaurant interior décor is the popularity of an industrial look, with steel details and exposed lights.

In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, our client’s concession café was going to have the relaxed industrial vibe of a repurposed shipping container. However, the specially cut corrugated metal arrived in the color red instead of blue. Placing a new order was going to cause a significant time delay that the project could not afford.

Our solution: Luckily, we have a nearly 200,000 square foot manufacturing facility and superb craftsmen. We repurposed the red metal in another building area, so it wouldn’t go to waste. We then custom cut and rounded new corrugated metal sheets to fit the concession stand as initially intended and painted it blue. Finally, we provided outside, inside, and top corner pieces to finish the café and give it a clean and polished look.

At CIP Retail, our in-house manufacturing capabilities and understanding of materials cost allow us to provide valuable solutions to our restaurant clients. So whether you need to implement a new interior design package in just one restaurant or across an entire chain, we can help. Contact us today.

Creative Uses for Printing in Retail Store Interior Design

Whether you’re remodeling an existing store or building a new concept from the ground up, interior design is a significant component of your brand and budget. Printing is no longer just for point-of-purchase displays and wayfinding signage. With ingenuity, craftsmanship, and the right partner, you can use printing as an integral part of the process of building a truly immersive and on-trend retail space.

Creating warm, welcoming spaces

Shoppers and diners are demanding a more “home-like” feel to their retail experience. This demand has led to a tremendous increase in interior design plans that call for warmer palettes, lighter hues, and more texture and dimension in the space.

Exposed brick features and walls clad in natural materials like warm wood planks or shiplap are just a few ways designers incorporate this trend into grocery store designs, restaurant designs, and more. However, both brick and solid wood planks are heavy, complicated, and time-consuming to install.

With today’s photo-realistic printing technology, though, you can create a nearly identical look to natural wood using printing. We run up to 15 rolls of wall vinyl per week that can easily be installed in strips like wallpaper, but from a distance have both the look and texture of actual brick or wood.

Creating transportive designs

Another common trend in retail store interior design is to create an “experience” that draws customers in and makes them feel like they are someplace else.

The farmers’ market look is quite popular in supermarket interior design. The décor evokes the feeling of fresh air, fresh produce, and friendly faces. The style frequently uses galvanized metal accents, distressed wood signs, and lots of wooden crates.

Crating material is frequently made of oriented strand board (OSB), formed out of compressed layers of wood strands. Unfortunately, you can’t really run OSB through printers due to the quality of the substrate, so if you want to put logos or lettering on this material, you typically have to stamp it or hand-paint it. However, at CIP Retail, we can print text and graphics, along with a background pattern that looks precisely like OSB, on particle board to provide the same look.

We can also print on corrugated metal to create branded awnings and unique wall art.

CIP Retail has the experience and know-how to produce nearly anything you can imagine for your retail interior space design by combining the latest state-of-the-art technology with unmatched craftsmanship. Contact us today to learn more.

Q&A with CIP Retail’s Creative Director

Specializing in creating permanent and semi-permanent retail store signage and décor means that Matthew Valerius, Creative Director at CIP Retail, is particularly mindful of the role scale and proportion play in design. If not executed correctly in his business, what a designer envisioned as a transportive retail backdrop could end up making shoppers feel out of sorts.

1. How long have you been with CIP Retail?

Matthew: I started designing here in 2013, so eight and a half years. I now manage a team of half a dozen designers. Some projects we create from start to finish, and others come from third-party design firms. Regardless, we touch every project in some way, shape, or form. Whether it is our design or an outside firm, we are responsible for executing the design intent and ensure each project is correctly translated from paper to production.

2. What is a transportive design?

Matthew: A transportive design makes you feel like you are someplace else. This is common in theme parks and theater set design, and it’s also important in supermarket store design to create an “experience” that draws customers in and invites them to stay awhile.

3. What are scale and proportion, and why are they so important in creating a transportive design?

Matthew: Scale and proportion are both design elements that have to do with size. With scale, I’m thinking about how an object designed on paper will look when manufactured into a two-dimensional or three-dimensional piece. For example, if a design plan calls for a simulated wood background, but the wood grains are drawn too large, it will look cartoonish when printed.

Proportion has to do with how an element is going to relate to other features in a space. For example, in a retail store, there are many different shapes, colors, textures, architecture, signage, fixtures, etc., competing for space. Therefore, it’s important to consider how each element will interact with the features around it.

4. What’s a common issue you see when taking a design from initial concept to final production?

Matthew: The most common issue has to do with material choices. We have the luxury of working alongside CIP’s production and manufacturing teams bringing designs to life. As a result, we are very aware of the yield of materials and the cost of materials when creating permanent and semi-permanent retail décor.

We may review design plans that call for genuine wood planking on walls 10 feet or more above the shoppers’ heads. It’s a beautiful look, but the choice of materials is often overkill. Instead, we might recommend printing a faux wood background on a vinyl wallcovering or a rigid PVC substrate to exude the same look and feel for a fraction of the price. When the material is that high above a shopper’s head it is much harder to discern real material from faux.

5. What’s an example of a décor package you’ve designed that you’ve been proud of?

Matthew: We redesigned the interior décor at Strack & Van Til food market in St. John, Indiana. I think this project is a good example of what we do well at CIP Retail. We changed the store’s look radically and affected significant changes to the space, but we did it with a light touch. A clean, edited décor package made the area feel much lighter, more inviting, and friendly. We also used a lot of faux wood grain and stone features that looked beautiful, will last for years but are easy to install, and much less expensive to manufacture.

Key West Vibes on the Loveland Bike Trail

If you’re looking for a bit of irreverent, subtropical ambiance in the heart of the Midwest, stop in at The Wicked Pickle on the Little Miami Scenic Trail.

According to the restaurant’s owners, the name “The Wicked Pickle” is a mash-up of the popular Key West establishment The Wicked Lick and some cyclists on the Loveland Bike Trail who like to eat pickles and drink pickle juice. Unfortunately, the identities of these masked green riders have not yet been revealed on the restaurant’s website.

CIP Retail was hired to design and create new restaurant signage to adorn the outdoor dining area.

The playful island restaurant décor includes two 15” x 48” menu boards printed to look like old-fashioned chalkboards and iconic, wooden directional signage. It lets bikers know precisely how far away they are from their next adventure.

Cincinnati, 18 miles south. Key West itself, only 1,028 miles to go.