Thinking about opening a restaurant or food service space?
Here’s a quick primer on budgetary considerations if you are. (Steakhouse, lunch deli, breakfast cafe, bakery, coffee shop, wine bar, beer store, saloon, bistro, fast food, slow food, barbecue, buffet, cafeteria, tea house, greasy spoon, vegetarian hot dog stand, ice cream parlor, pizza pizzeria, concession booth, diner… what am I forgetting?)
Start with equipment. I’m assuming you’ve already resolved the concept, the cuisine, and the chef. If not, that’s first before you can figure out what equipment it takes to produce it. Most food service businesses struggle the most with what they need versus can afford. Commercial kitchen equipment is very expensive compared to residential appliances. You can often find used equipment to save significantly, but you’ll still need $50k-$300k depending on your selections for oven, range, grill, exhaust hood (and fire suppression system), toaster, microwave, fryer, coffee station, beer taps, refrigerators, freezers, walk-ins, refrigerated display cases, refrigerated and steam tables, plate warmers, dishwashing sinks, and dishwashers.
The next most expensive category are the utilities and all the water, sewer, grease traps, fire sprinklers, heating, air conditioning, ventilation, electrical, and lighting they support.
Bathroom requirements are relatively simple for a small retail space, so expect $10k for a single bathroom with plumbing, fixtures, exhaust, and required specialties: grab bars, mirror, toilet paper dispensers, soap dispensers, mirror, paper towel dispenser/dryer, trash cans, etc. Larger establishments or a full restaurant will need several times more.
Next comes furnishings—cabinets, casework, custom millwork, displays, tables, chairs, host station, artwork, signage, and point of sale.
Finishes are usually inexpensive unless they are lavish, dramatic, or architectural. Flooring is typically the most expensive, but ceramic or vinyl tile are efficient. Exposed concrete floors are also popular but end up being more expensive to satisfy the health department requirements to be sealed. Ceilings over food preparation areas must also be sealed and cleanable. Walls can be painted or have more sophisticated finishes.
Lighting is critical for retail spaces. Not only do the illumination levels need to be high, but the color rendering quality much more accurate than typical residential or office lighting. Brands design packaging to sell product and quality lighting shows off that design to its fullest potential.
Construction must be done by a licensed contractor unless you have the experience to do it yourself. The local economy is brisk right now (one of the highest in the US) and I recommend clients budget a 20% premium in pricing.
For design, an architect can walk with clients through the entire design–construction process, including building code analysis, design, architectural and engineering documents for permitting. I also assist clients to find a qualified contractor and administer the construction until completion, tailored to what you need. By fee schedule, design is “supposed” to be 8-12% of construction costs between $100k-$300k, roughly $8,000–$36,000. But it really depends.
For example, a small space that was recently renovated for food service will be much simpler than a large cold shell (no utilities) not intended for food. A stand-alone building is obviously even more complex. It helps if the landlord has drawings of the existing space versus the architect field surveying everything. The level of service can vary, too, from less detailed drawings for experienced clients or extra assistance to incorporate branding into the design and selection of equipment, finishes, fixtures, and furnishings.