Opening a Restaurant? How to Keep Costs from Eating You Alive

Restaurant Construction | AMS Contractors, Inc. | Monroe, North Carolina

The only thing we enjoy more than eating at nice restaurants is helping culinary entrepreneurs successfully—and economically—open their own eateries. Opening a restaurant is not inexpensive, but you can take steps to ensure that start-up costs don’t eat you alive.

Simply put, we are a general contractor, and we specialize in restaurant projects. Our decades of experience working with owners and franchisees has taught us a lot about common issues and customary costs when it comes to restaurant construction. An experienced restaurant construction firm can help clients navigate the pitfalls, recommend smart ways to keep costs down, and guide budding restaurateurs through the woods. 

Most people who open restaurants start with inspiration—a new idea, a new concept, a bold vision. But, it becomes difficult to focus on that vision when you're feeling burdened by the research, permitting, planning, financing, building and formulation of the opening strategy that is necessary to make your dream come true. 

What to do next?
You will need a business plan that incorporates all the stages and costs—together with a working spreadsheet—to manage the details of turning that idea into reality.

Restaurant Construction | AMS Contractors, Inc. | Monroe, North Carolina

At this point, a company like ours can be really helpful. We can inspect sites you are considering,  provide information on standard permitting procedures and time frames, and more. If you’ve got your eye on a specific space, finding out what’s under the floor and behind the walls helps you avoid surprises and potential escalation of costs for what could become necessary improvements. This will allow you to further fine-tune your vision and your spreadsheet. Day in and day out, we work with restaurant clients to eliminate wasted time, to reduce expense, and to help entrepreneurs avoid road blocks.

Financing, of course, is critical. Unless you’re able to self-finance the entire project, obtaining a loan is next. At this stage, you will know what the monthly outlay is for the financing you require so you can incorporate that into your budget spreadsheet. This will give you a fixed figure which helps in your planning and budgeting. 

If everything points to “go,” the first thing to do is to apply for the necessary local permits. These take longer than most people think and should be first on your “moving forward list.” Remember, you’ll be paying for the space while you wait—and you want to avoid lengthy delays. You will need construction plans and equipment lists to accompany the applications. In addition to the cost of permits, you’ll also have to budget for utility deposits and insurance premiums for your new restaurant.

Restaurant Construction | AMS Contractors, Inc. | Monroe, North Carolina

What's it going to cost?
While customers will naturally focus on the menu, decor, and ambiance, it’s what’s in the “back of house”—especially the fit-up of the kitchen—that’s critical to your new business. The kitchen is, after all, the heart and soul of your operation. Electrical service and gas connections, plumbing, commercial ranges, refrigerators and freezers, grease traps—all of these must be up to code. The kitchen often accounts for 75% of the budget for a restaurant start-up. 

The cost of constructing the dining area is less expensive. Innovative use of features like historic brickwork, tin ceilings, interesting lighting fixtures, or other existing elements can make it possible to reduce costs. Many a restaurateur has made a splash while saving thousands of dollars simply by being creative and using their imagination. 

Are you feeling overwhelmed?
We understand. Contrary to public misconception, opening a restaurant is neither easy or cheap. But we also know—and have worked with—many restaurant owners who have combined a great idea, some financing, a lot of energy, and total dedication to establish fine restaurants in communities throughout the Southeast. Many of these restaurants have continued to flourish for decades, becoming local institutions and providing long-term livelihoods for not only their owners, but many others as well.

Regardless of whether you are only at the idea stage or if you have found a potential location and wonder what to do next, or if you have already signed a lease, but need help to move forward, give us a call. Let’s discuss your ideas and your plans—and give us the opportunity to help you navigate the restaurant construction process.

What would you like to know about restaurant construction that we haven't covered here? Send us an email, fill in a form on our contact page or comment below. We'd love to help answer your questions.