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Building Your Restaurant from the Ground Up

The following article is a guest post from Felicia Baratz-Savage who is a writer and graphic artist living in Indianapolis, IN. As a contributor for Cooks & Travel Books, she specializes in travel, culture and education.

When considering opening a restaurant, location is one of the most important variables to get right. Are people going to walk by the restaurant and pop in? If you aren’t anticipating a lot of foot traffic, what will parking look like? One of the most important items to consider is whether you want to purchase an existing space or build your restaurant from the ground up.

One of the top reasons to consider using an existing space is that it’s already built and zoned for a commercial kitchen, so you don’t need to build anything or apply for permits. However, if you have the means to afford it, starting from scratch allows you to fully customize the restaurant and can be extremely rewarding. Not every restaurant owners wants to lease or buy a space. By building, you know going into the process that you will get exactly what you want in the final product!

Pros and Cons of Building From Scratch

Before you opt to build your own restaurant, ensure you understand the pros and cons to be prepared for the reality of the process:

·       Pro: You know you’ll get exactly what you want in the end.

·       Pro: Your restaurant will be fully yours and you won’t have to compete with the reputation of the previous tenant.

·       Pro: You receive a clean slate to hire staff, market and develop the menu.

·       Con: You need to put a lot of cash up front, and won’t get any ROI until the restaurant is built and open.

·       Con: You’ll need to hire and train all staff before opening, as well as market the restaurant.

Steps to Get Started

Space is essential. Search in your area for built spaces or land that you can turn into a restaurant. You’ll need commercially zoned space, rather than residential. A commercial realtor can show you existing spaces in your preferred location, helping you find your dream space. If you’re considering purchasing an old restaurant and rehabbing it, pay attention to the front and back of the house design. Will you need to change everything? Demolishing and rebuilding may be more expensive than selecting an empty space or building from scratch.

Next, find a local contractor who has experience building restaurants. Contractors will need to be familiar with building codes in your area, since plans and specifications will need approval from agencies including the fire marshal, department of building and safety, county health official, municipal planning department and other boards. Interview contractors based on experience and reputation, then select a contractor you can trust to complete the job on time and on budget.

Once you a hire a contractor, he or she will draw up plans, seek approval, and obtain necessary building equipment, such as bulldozers and excavators. When it comes to construction, your job is to let the workers erect the restaurant. During this phase, though, work to obtain restaurant equipment and staff. Equipment you’ll need includes:

·       Ovens and ranges

·       Commercial refrigerators and freezers

·       Work tables and sinks

·       Commercial dishwasher

Have patience to wait out the construction process while moving ahead with purchasing equipment and recruiting staff so the restaurant can open when construction finishes. It may seem like a lot of work at the outset, but your restaurant will come together in the end.

Image courtesy of Boris Mitendorfer

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