- Are you ready to build a restaurant? Opening a restaurant is a dream come true for many people – here are some tips to get you started on the restaurant construction and building process.
Identify Concept and Write Plan: Close your eyes and walk through your restaurant through the eyes of a customer. Think through how ordering will take place, what is on the menu, what is the atmosphere, how payment will occur. Then consider the back-end operations – what are your labor and equipment needs, how will your kitchen be set-up. Work through the numbers – number of seats, average ticket price, expected profit margin. Be specific as you’re writing your plan and consider every detail.
Build Your Team: Restaurant ownership is its own breed, and it’s a wise move early on to surround yourself with professionals who have been down this road. You can save yourself a lot of headaches by doing your homework. Find other restaurant owners who can mentor you and point you in the right direction. What banker did they use? Which commercial real estate agent and architect understand restaurant needs? What kitchen designer is the best in town? Find experts who you can interview and check references on before you commit.
Secure Location: Once you have a few location options, bring a general contractor (GC) with you to look at the space before you sign the lease. A GC that has built at least a few hundred restaurants is preferred, and can help evaluate how much construction work needs to be done to make the space viable. Is your vision feasible in this space and with your budget? Sometimes, the work is cost-prohibitive and can be a deal breaker, other times you will be comfortable with what needs to be done. You’ll need a Letter of Intent (LOI), which is non-binding and makes it clear what you as the client are responsible for and what your landlord will take care of prior signing the lease.
Build: Your general contractor is the conductor of the orchestra here, securing permitting, keeping the project moving forward by making sure the right subcontractors are there at the right times, managing the budget and ensuring everything is built properly and to code. As the client your role is to make sure the plans are clear, stay in touch with your GC, order equipment in the proper sequence, prepare for opening, and ask questions so you are in the loop and learning throughout.
Open: Once the build is complete, it’s time to open your doors and start bringing in revenue. A reputable general contractor will stay on to complete any finishing touches and ensure everything is in good working order, but also offer a warranty. Many restaurants choose to host a soft opening and invite partners, friends and family for a practice run before the official open. Enjoy this time!
Our advice for first-time restaurant entrepreneurs is this: Don’t Reinvent the Wheel. The path to opening a restaurant can be littered with costly errors – learn from the mistakes others have made before you and choose partners who are well-versed in the restaurant business.