The Bay revamping in-store restaurants

The Hudson's Bay Company says it will revamp 24 in-store restaurants as part of a move to rework itself as a high-end department store.

Winnipeg's iconic Paddlewheel Restaurant among those getting facelifts

The Hudson's Bay Company says it will revamp 24 in-store restaurants as part of a move to rework itself as a high-end department store.

The chain, which has recently introduced numerous chic clothing brands in an effort to change its image, says it is partnering with upscale restaurant operator Oliver & Bonacini and food services company Compass Group Canada.

The company says it wants to attract "die-hard foodies" while offering higher quality options to shoppers during breakfast, lunch and dinner.

CEO Bonnie Brooks said prices options won't necessarily change, because food will be sold at different price points.

"We're going to have a variety of what you could call 'good-better-best' dining experiences, so there will be everything from deli and takeout and pasta bar, morning coffee, bakery, straight through to elegant dining," she said.

Winnipeg restaurant featured in film

The restaurants that will get makeovers are located across Canada, and include flagship locations in larger cities like Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Winnipeg, as well as smaller locations like Moncton, Regina, and Kelowna, B.C.

Ontario-based Oliver & Bonacini will focus on flagship locations in major Canadian cities while Compass will handle technology and facelifts at smaller stores.

The Bay's largest store on Queen Street in Toronto will get renovations, a new conference facility, restaurant and food hall. The store's Arcadian Court banquet hall will also be renovated.

In Winnipeg, the iconic Paddlewheel Restaurant, will be among those to get a major makeover. The restaurant in the downtown store at the corner of Portage Avenue and Memorial Boulevard features a simulated paddlewheel steamship alongside one wall and painted steam clouds on the ceiling.

Some of the seating gives the illusion of being on a paddlewheel deck.

Once an immensely popular restaurant that has served generations of Winnipeggers, the Paddlewheel had fallen out of favour in recent years and more resembled a ghost ship.

Filmmaker Guy Maddin gave the restaurant a cameo in his 2008 film, My Winnipeg, as a place where the fictional Golden Boy "man pageants" were judged by Mayor Cornish.

Construction on the restaurant revamps will begin in April and should be complete in 16 months.

Destination restaurants

Retail analyst Kenric Tyghe of investment firm Raymond James Ltd. said the new look is a better use of restaurant space than the cafeteria or diner-style option, and the Oliver and Bonacini name and food quality could ultimately draw in more customers to Bay stores.

He explained that U.S. Macy's locations, Bergdorf Goodman department store in New York, and the Holt Renfrew in Toronto have cafes or restaurants that have become destinations in their own right, apart from the stores that house them.

"(Customers) are not specifically going to Holts to shop, but they are going to Holts cafe and they may or may not see something that catches their eye on the way out so its certainly not negative for traffic," he said, adding that the increased dining traffic might not always lead to increased sales in other departments, but it can't hurt.

"This (renovation) would breathe some life into what is under-used real estate," Tyghe said.