Just as in most other industries, technology is rapidly changing food service. Consumer tastes are also evolving, dictating new menu items, preparation techniques, and equipment. If you are dreaming of opening a restaurant there are many considerations that need to be addressed to prevent your dream turning onto a nightmare. This is where experienced professionals can help guide the prospective restaurant owner through to a successful opening.
Here are 10 important considerations that can make or break the startup plans for a new restaurant. Using these in the planning stages of the restaurant design and build-out can help you save money and headaches.
Don’t underestimate costs
Cheap restaurant build-outs simply don’t exist. All are expensive to one degree or another. Renovating and reopening an older restaurant space will not necessarily guarantee huge savings. New construction for a restaurant costs begin at roughly $150 a square foot. This figure can increase quickly depending on the scope of work and finish detail.
Ask for permission not forgiveness
Navigating the permitting process isn’t easy. Health and building codes are more strict than they were a few years ago. Inspectors have become wise to contractors looking to cut corners. Non-permitted construction completed over a weekend when the inspectors are off doesn’t work. Playing dumb is no good, either. Get the proper permits for all the work being done. Remember, the penalties for not doing so can hurt financially.
Estimate a realistic completion date
Reputable contractors will give you an honest time estimate and will do their best to meet it. There are conditions that can delay things such as change orders, weather, human error, inspection scheduling delays, material delivery delays, and unforeseen circumstances. Whatever the timeline is, understand that it is only an estimate.
Used restaurant equipment might not be a bargain
While used equipment can seem like a deal, there are hidden costs associated that can wash away any savings. First, used equipment won’t have a warranty and in most cases the sales are final. There could be repairs and cleaning to be done beyond the installation. Technology is also more advanced in new equipment and it is more energy efficient. In the end, new equipment will last longer, have lower operating costs and be more efficient.
Building too big
In general, restaurants are shrinking in size. The cost to operate, staff and fill 5,000 square feet is unnecessarily expensive. Get creative with 2,500 square feet instead. There is plenty of room, even for a full service concept with a bar, and your restaurant will feel cozy. Use high ceiling space for mezzanine seating and vertical storage; you’re not charged for that in your rent.
Super size kitchens
The size of the kitchen is also critical. Every square foot should be designed to function properly and return as much as possible on the investment. Given that the cost of kitchen equipment is much higher than other restaurant furnishings, costs can get out of hand quickly. An efficient layout and equipment that can do double duty when needed will yield better returns on the dollars invested.
Proper bar size
If a bar is in the plans for the restaurant, making sure of the right size for the operation and style of the establishment. Being realistic about the number of patrons that will be wanting bar service will go a long way to make sure things are right. A bar that is too large to fill can leave the negative impression that your restaurant is unsuccessful. Bars also need to be staffed and the larger the bar, the greater the operating costs. Perhaps a bar is not needed at all. Some styles of restaurant can use a simple mix station without patron seating.
Current restaurant trends call for open concept cooking areas so patrons can watch the cooking process. They add excitement and give customers a closer connection with the chefs. A good chef can put on quite a show, but the openness means cleanliness, too. The dish room and prep area must not be part of the show. The kitchen floor can also be an issue if it is not kept clean.
Sound and lighting
Both sound and lighting can make or break the atmosphere of a restaurant. The proper balance must be made so the desired effect does not lead to squinting diners trying to read the menu or the music making it impossible to hear conversation. The material and finish of interior furnishings can make a big difference in the sound level in a restaurant. The colors used in the furnishings will influence the lighting levels needed and being able to make adjustments in the lighting intensity in a variety of areas is important.
With the exception of a sports bar, having numerous video screens can become a huge distraction and lead to over-stimulation of guests. With a cell phone in nearly every pocket or purse, media can be available for anyone who craves it. Most patrons would like to escape from the electronic world and connect with their companions. Having a screen in view no matter where you turn defeats the idea of a quiet meal.