When building or renovating a new restaurant, there will be several different people you will do business with. Some of these people are city officials; others are skilled tradesmen and consultants. It is important to know what everybody does, so you know who is responsible for each aspect of building your restaurant and who you need to go to if problems arise.
There are two major categories of restaurants: independent restaurants and franchises, also called chain restaurants. Independent restaurant owners usually only have one or two restaurants in a small radius, and they manage those restaurants themselves. Franchises are corporate restaurant chains with a board of owners and are found throughout an entire region or nation. When opening a new restaurant, be sure to check into the pros and cons of each restaurant type to decide which option is best for you.
The person ultimately in charge of building your new restaurant is you. You are the one with the money and the plan, so that makes you the boss. If something is not turning out the way you want it to, let the appropriate person know, whether it be the general contractor, landscaper or any of the other people who will be putting your restaurant together.
However, you will want to trust the judgment and experience of those you hire to do the job. If the architect says a certain change is impossible, believe them. Also, if you do want to make changes, look at the cost; once the drawings are approved or a project has started, stopping everything and making a change can be expensive.
Where to Find These PeopleUnless your personal network consists of people in the listed fields, the best place to find the services you need is the telephone book. When searching for potential contractors and consultants, check their references and make sure they have experience designing and building restaurants. You do not want someone going through the trial-and-error stages of restaurant design with your new restaurant.
Before construction begins, you will need to speak with certified consultants and planners to help you design and build your restaurant.
Food Service Consultant
Food service consultants generally focus on the kitchen or back-of-house (BOH) layout. They help you organize your kitchen and storage areas to maximize workflow efficiency. A consultant should be able to help you locate qualified contractors in your area to aid you with the design and construction of your new restaurant. Check with the Food Service Consultants Society International to locate a consultant in your area.
The architect is responsible for designing and drawing up the blueprints for your restaurant. The architect can also create final drawings of what the restaurant exterior should look like once it is built.
The engineer is responsible for reviewing the blueprints to make sure the building will meet local building codes and is structurally sound, so it will not collapse once built.
The interior designer takes your ideas for how you want the inside of the restaurant to look and draws them out on paper. Most interior designers will use computer design programs, but some still draw everything by hand. When selecting an interior designer, ask to see their portfolio. Every interior designer should have a sketch book of other designs they have made. They may even have photographs of the finished product, so you can see how closely the drawing matches the reality. You will also want to find a decorator that has designed a restaurant before.
The general contractor is the person in charge of building your restaurant from the ground up. Most construction companies are licensed general contractors which mean they are knowledgeable and certified to provide the labor necessary to cover all of your building needs. General contractors usually have several different crews that handle specific areas of the construction process.
Sometimes, the general contractor does not staff all of the people necessary to build your restaurant, so they will have a list of preferred independent contractors that they hire to do certain jobs. These independent contractors, called sub contractors, are specialists in a particular construction field. You can also hire a sub contractor yourself. If you know a friend who is a painter (or any other profession on the list), you can tell the general contractor that you will hire your own painter, so they will not factor painting into the overall cost of the building project. If you hire someone else, even if it is a friend, be sure to settle on a price beforehand, so you can factor that into your building and startup expenses.
City Planning and Zoning Department The city zoning department is responsible for planning the future growth and development of your city. They divide the city into different zones. Only specific types of buildings are allowed to be built within each zone. For example, if a plot of land is zoned residential, you cannot build a restaurant there. Once you select a site, you will want to check with the planning department to make sure you are able to build your restaurant in that location. If you cannot, zoning laws can sometimes be changed, but changing laws will be time consuming.
EPA The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will conduct an initial environmental assessment of your proposed restaurant to make sure it will use proper drainage and waste disposal systems to lessen its environmental impact. Depending on your location, the EPA may also perform an air quality assessment.
City Utilities Department The city utilities department is responsible for routing water, electricity and gas to your restaurant. You will have to set up an account and pay your bills on time to the utilities department to keep your restaurant powered. The city zoning department is responsible for planning the future growth and development of your city. They divide the city into different zones. Only specific types of buildings are allowed to be built within each zone. For example, if a plot of land is zoned residential, you cannot build a restaurant there. Once you select a site, you will want to check with the planning department to make sure you are able to build your restaurant in that location. If you cannot, zoning laws can sometimes be changed, but changing laws will be time consuming.
Health Department You will see a lot of the health department. Before your restaurant can open, you have to pass an initial health inspection. Once you are up and running, health inspectors make routine inspections (usually twice a year) to make sure you are not endangering the public or your employees.
Fire Department Your local fire marshal will also inspect your restaurant before it can open to make sure it complies with local fire codes.
People You Will Meet with During the Building Process
Building Inspector The building inspector will regularly inspect the restaurant during all stages of construction to make sure the structure matches the blueprints and complies with local building codes. The inspector will also issue a certificate of occupancy after the building has passed its final inspection.
Carpenters There are usually two different carpenter crews that you will see during the building process. The first set, usually called framers, are the ones who put up all of the walls and pound in all of the nails to turn a pile of lumber into a freestanding structure. The second set of carpenters comes in towards the end and are called finish carpenters. The finish carpenters are responsible for hanging the doors and putting up any trim, molding or countertops.
Roofers Since framers are in charge of building the roof, oftentimes they put on the shingles or tar as well. If not, the general contractor will have a dedicated crew of roofers to make sure your restaurant’s ceiling does not leak.
Insulators Most general contractors hire a service to insulate the walls and ceilings of your new restaurant. Large insulation services usually use a large truck with a big hose attached to the side. The truck is full of insulation which is blown through the hose into your walls.
Electricians You will see the electricians at various stages of the construction process. During the framing stage, they will be running wires and putting up electrical boxes. Once the drywall is up, they will begin to put the actual plugs in the walls, and they will put on cover plates once the walls are painted. The electrician will also test the electrical system to make sure everything works correctly in order to pass final inspection.
Plumber Water lines, drain lines, sinks and faucets are all installed by a licensed plumber. If your restaurant needs gas for its cooking equipment, most plumbers are licensed to run gas lines, too.
HVAC Technician The HVAC technician is responsible for installing all of the ductwork and the heating and air conditioning unit. The HVAC specialist should be able to install your kitchen hood too. The ventilation system will have to be tested for leaks, before the drywall goes up, in order to pass inspection.
Drywallers These tradesmen are responsible for putting up the drywall, or sheetrock, that will hide all of the studs, wires and insulation. Most drywallers will also be able to texture your walls if you want something other than a smooth finish.
Painters The painters will handle both the interior and exterior painting of your restaurant. Most painters will also be able to hang any kind of wallpaper or borders that you want.
Carpet Layer Aside from just laying carpet, most carpet layers can also put down linoleum or do any tile work that you want in your restaurant.
Landscaper The landscaper is responsible for planting all of the vegetation, including grass, around your restaurant to enhance the exterior aesthetic. Landscapers may even offer lawn care and gardening services to trim and maintain your plants.
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