McHENRY – Business at the Village Squire of McHenry has jumped 34 percent since the owners completed a $375,000 renovation at the restaurant in November.
Sales at the restaurant had slumped during the recession. From 2008-10, the number of patrons visiting the English pub-style casual dining restaurant decreased each year, said owner George Karas.
As customers began returning in greater numbers in 2011 and 2012, Karas, 64, and his 26-year-old son, Aleko, starting making plans to upgrade the 31-year-old restaurant.
"When we saw it getting busier, we decided it was time to reinvest in our businesses," said George Karas, who also owns the Village Squire in Crystal Lake and Alexander’s Restaurant in Elgin. A $600,000 renovation is being planned for Alexander’s.
For research, they watched food shows and visited other restaurants and bars throughout the region to pick out decorative details they liked and menu items they could improve on, said Aleko Karas. They also studied traffic patterns in McHenry, noticing that much of the traffic had shifted north toward Johnsburg.
"We needed to make Village Squire a destination and we wanted to take care of our loyal guests," said Aleko Karas, the general manager of the McHenry restaurant.
But they didn't want the modern accents to compromise the restaurant's classic style, he added.
Working together, father and son managed to update and open up the interior and freshen the exterior while at the same time preserving what George Karas called the "Squire feel."
The restaurant was closed for 17 days in mid-October for renovations.
Most of the money was spent in the kitchen, George Karas said. It got all new commercial appliances and the latest equipment.
In the dining section, workers installed new carpeting, flooring and overhauled the bar area to include high top tables with stools and more TVs. The interior lighting was redone to make the restaurant's atmosphere "even more intimate and cozy," George Karas said.
A new sign was installed outside to complement a number of other exterior changes.
The Squire's menu got attention too. The Karas' added new appetizers, flatbreads, wraps, and salads. Patron favorites such as the prime rib and Mai Tais and Rum Barrels remain on the menu, they said.
Servers also got a makeover, donning more professional-looking attire. And they created a new staff position, called a quality-control manager, who is responsible for asking visitors about their experience and using that feedback to improve service.
In March, they plan to begin work on a 45-seat outdoor dining area with a fire pit. Preliminary plans for the patio have already been approved by city officials, George Karas said.
So far, the feedback from customers has been positive,
"People really love it," George Karas said.
To celebrate the successful project, George Karas did something he had been wanting to do for decades. He bought 24,000 lights to decorate the 50-foot tree outside the restaurant for Christmas.
The Village Squire:
What: A family-owned English pub-style casual dining restaurant
Where: 4512 W. Elm St., McHenry
Information: Call 815-385-0900 or visit www.thevillagesquire.com