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Restaurant fit out case study: Poke House, Covent Garden

Updated: May 8

the freshly decorated frontage at Poke House Covent Garden following their restaurant fit out

The UK's seventh Poke House restaurant opens in Covent Garden after a successful fit out.

Unique buildings make unique challenges

You might think that, having completed seven projects in a restaurant fit out programme, each one would be plain sailing for both clients and contractors. However, each project always throws up its own challenges so it’s best to never be complacent.

We at Iconic Project Management love working with Poke House on their UK roll out programme. Not only are their people a delight to work with, their restaurants are extremely satisfying to fit out.

Poke House are known for their striking decor and they pick equally visually striking sites to house their restaurants. This choice of quirky buildings means that one fit out is never exactly the same as another. It makes the work fun, but there are always new challenges to be faced.

There's a new interview in Big Hospitality with Juan Mosqueda, UK operations director at Poke House, about their partnership with Iconic Project Management.

before and after: the newly refurbished toilets at Poke House Covent Garden

The design phase

Poke House chose a site for their seventh restaurant in historic New Row, Covent Garden, London. Because this was a unique site, it needed a bespoke design, and adequate time had to be allowed for that in the pre-construction phase.

The building is grade II listed so special care had to be taken to ensure that the design would comply with the listed approval. In this case, the listed consent didn’t cause too many problems; the only real constraint was that the replacement air conditioning unit had to be positioned in exactly the same place as the previous installation.

Contractor selection

Once the design was approved, the contractor needed to be tendered and appointed.

With a construction programme involving multiple sites, you might imagine that it would make sense to employ one contractor for the whole programme. Indeed there are some advantages to doing so, such as building rapport with the contractor, developing their familiarity with your concept, etc. However, many clients, such as Poke House, choose to tender each project separately.

It might seem overly laborious to conduct a tender process for each project in a programme of many, but there is a key advantage to doing so. Engaging one contractor for the whole programme would almost certainly lock the client into a price before the programme of works commences. Tendering individually allows the client to benefit from fluctuations in the market. If the cost of labour or materials reduces, the client can benefit from that saving.

Tendering each project individually doesn’t mean that each project will have a different contractor. If a contractor is competitively priced and delivers what they promise, they are, of course, likely to win more than one project in the programme. On the flip side, if a contractor is underperforming, it’s easy to not award them any more work.

Poke House have decided to use the method of individually tendering projects within their restaurant fit out programme. So far, they have engaged three different contractors to deliver their restaurants. Thompsons were selected to deliver the Covent Garden restaurant.

interior before and after fit out


After seven months of pre-construction, the on-site fit out of Poke House’s Covent Garden restaurant took just seven weeks. The unit was painted in their distinctive shade of pink. The restaurant floor was decorated and has 42 covers. A range of equipment and facilities were also installed.

In addition to the service counter in the main restaurant area, a prep kitchen was installed in the basement. Both included all the equipment Poke House need to prepare and serve their delicious range of food and drink.

The restaurant was finished and open for business on 3rd June, 2022, in time for their official opening event on 16th June. We wish Poke House every success with this flagship restaurant. We look forward to helping them deliver more sites to achieve their ambitions.


Elizabeth Hewitt.

Lizzie is CEO at Iconic Project Management, taking care of the running of the business so that the project managers can get on with the important job of managing projects.

Check her out on LinkedIn or say hi on Twitter @captainlizzo.

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