Opening a Restaurant: Assembling the Team

You have decided to open a new restaurant.

The location has been chosen, the budget is in place, the financing has been secured and the lease will be signed within the next thirty to sixty days.

What is the next step in this process?

We call it "Assembling the Team."

There are certain professionals that should be on board early in the process to ensure a smooth and successful opening. Assuming you have gotten this far, you probably already have a lawyer, an accountant or perhaps even a business advisor.

The next person to be hired is usually an architect. Obviously, any new construction will require an architect's help, as will major renovations of existing space that involves changing walls, ceilings, bathrooms, entranceways or exterior renovations. Minor remodeling such as partition changes or decor updates probably will not require the services of an architect. Many times an interior design firm, or perhaps even a general contractor can handle planning these small renovations. Our experience tells us that when hiring an architect, it is important to deal with a firm that has foodservice experience. Building a restaurant is far different from residential or retail construction.

Some architectural firms may offer interior design services as well, or you may wish to contact a separate interior design company that specializes in foodservice operations who will work in conjunction with the architect. Either way, these professionals must become part of the project team early on. Building plans, interior design plans, renderings, wall elevations and mechanical plans all must be completed before the project can begin. It is not possible to overemphasize the importance of this stage. It is by working closely with the architect, the interior designer, or both, that the character and personality of the new restaurant will be determined.

In selecting these professionals, references are key, as are site visits to recently completed projects. Speak with the business owners that have used the services of the firms you are considering. Ask if the final results were what they had expected, find out if the project came in on time and within budget. Ask what they were most disappointed with and with what they were most pleased. Finally, get a firm price quote as to what the fees will be for the services provided.

Once you have hired the architect and/or interior designer, now is the time to find a kitchen engineer . Remember, a restaurant is comprised of a kitchen and a dining room, and the same emphasis should be placed on finding and hiring a kitchen engineer as is placed on an architect and interior designer. It is critical that the kitchen be designed properly. Flow, function and suitability all must be considered. The kitchen designer must work within the space allowed, within the budget provided, and produce a kitchen capable of not only handling the anticipated volume but also flexible enough to take care of all meal segments and menu items.

The final team member at this stage of the project is the general contractor. It is crucial that the general contractor have experience in building commercial foodservice operations. There is a vast difference between plumbing, electrical and mechanical requirements needed in a restaurant, versus those in any other types of facility. Everyone has a friend who is a builder or knows a contractor that can come in with a low price. However, a good, experienced and reliable general contractor working in conjunction with the architect, interior designer, and kitchen supplier will actually save you money in the long run. Nothing can throw your budget out of whack as quickly as change orders, delays, mistakes and disappointments. The right general contractor can minimize all of these.

Once the team is in place, it is up to the owner to establish the lines of communication between all members. An initial meeting with all parties around the same table kicking off the project usually accomplishes this goal.

Jerry Hyman, President
TriMark United East Foodservice Supply Co.

For more information, contact Jerry at

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foodservice and restaurant industry design and supply United East