You may ask, “How different can building restaurants be from any other type of construction project?”
The short answer is – a lot.
During my 20-year career in the construction business, I’ve successfully completed residential re-modeling, new home, retail and government construction projects in addition to our primary business; restaurant construction.
Each has its own challenges and each demands a different kind of expertise and skill set. But building a restaurant is a different challenge altogether. Many contractors underestimate the complexities of restaurant construction because it looks easy … from afar. Not really.
There are many reasons why that is so. Let’s look at five of them.
It requires sticking to a tight time schedule.
We build fast-food restaurants from groundup with all the site work, utility work and the actual construction, all within only 70-to-90 days. A full-service restaurant on the average takes 93 working days to build. Of course these numbers may go up or down depending on the size of the restaurant.
Restaurant owners are small business owners. They spend a lot of cash upfront to open a restaurant and train new employees. For them, each day spent for construction is yet another day of lost revenue. That all adds up to a lot of money in a hurry. Thus new restaurants have to be built quickly to minimize that loss. And that requires sticking to a tight building schedule.
You have to find the right qualified subcontractors.
Finding a good, reliable subcontractor for a construction project is a difficult challenge for every general contractor. But finding a good subcontractor who is specialized in restaurant construction is even more difficult.
Since timing is an important factor in restaurant construction, the subcontractor must be willing to work long hours, even over the weekends without increasing the cost. They must be familiar with kitchen equipment, the ansul system and exhaust system construction. They must be able to work in a tight crowded environment without causing any delays. It’s not easy to find subcontractors like that unless you’ve already formed your own crew through the years, working together closely on restaurant construction projects.
It’s difficult to find the right job superintendents and project managers who know restaurant construction inside out.
Since this is a fast track project which requires a lot of advanced scheduling, day to day updates, very clear, frequent and one-on-one communication, the superintendent and the project manager must know how to handle this speed. To keep up with the sub-contractors working long hours, these individuals must also be able to work the same hours and turn the project around quickly.
The kitchen equipment and the HVAC system require a different and careful approach when building a restaurant.
Unlike any other commercial construction, restaurant construction needs to accommodate the kitchen and cooking equipment which require a special exhaust system and the related electrical work that goes with the ansul system.
This work can be tricky and difficult sometimes for those who are not familiar with how these systems work. Air balance might be a challenging task to achieve, based on the size of the restaurant and the construction style. The kitchen equipment must be installed on time by the right installers to be able to provide the final electrical and plumbing connections on-time, ready for the startup of the equipment.
Training and getting ready before the opening is easier said than done.
This is a very expensive and difficult process to pull off without a hitch. New employees arrive and start to get trained in the kitchen, front service desk and the dining room. Managers, cooks, floor employees all get paid but there is no revenue yet for the restaurant owner. The owner keeps the show rolling out of his own pocket while the contractor is trying to complete the final items including those on the punch list, and complete the final inspections.
If you can overcome the first four obstacles discussed earlier, this fifth challenge gets a little easier to handle and the owner’s initial out-of-pocket expenses are minimized.
Overall, finishing a restaurant building on time and within budget requires the kind of expertise and proven track record that you’ll find only in a contractor specializing in restaurant construction and who’s been doing it for decades. Buyer beware.
Osman YAZGAN, President