Renovating for a New Restaurant

Choosing the Right Restaurant Location

Should the landlord pay for your restaurant?
Have a clear plan for paying for any needed restaurant renovations. Cesar Haro

Few commercial spaces are turn key for a new restaurant. Unless you are buying an existing restaurant or opening a new restaurant in a location that has already housed a restaurant, you will most likey need to make some renovations. Renovating a space to accommodate a restaurant requires special considerations in regards to wiring, water, sewer, parking, lighting and many other areas. Unless you are extremely handy, you will need to hire contractors to complete the renovations.

It’s important before beginning this process that you have a contract with your potential landlord about what work is being done to the space as well as who is paying for it.

Understand the Basics of Choosing a Restaurant Location

The first step in choosing a good location for a new restaurant is to consider the basics, such as size, parking, zoning and your potential neighbors. Even the most cavernous warehouse can quickly shrink in size once you start laying out a commercial kitchen, dining room, bar, restrooms, wait stations and storage areas. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider smaller spaces—many tiny restaurants are highly successful- it simply means that you should remember how much space you’ll need.

Of course you need to make sure your chosen location allows restaurants and serving liquor. Check with your local town office or zoning board to make sure you can have a liquor license.

Parking is another big consideration for a new restaurant. If there isn’t much parking at your restaurant itself, is there enough nearby? Or is the restaurant location in a busy pedestrian area, such as a downtown? Never underestimate the importance of convenience to customers. If they feel that your restaurant isn’t easily accessible, either by car or by foot, it can be a big deterrent.

Renovating for a New Restaurant

So you’ve found the perfect location, in a good neighborhood, with plenty of parking and/or foot traffic. The only problem- the space used to be a clothing store, not a restaurant. A total renovation is needed. What do you do now?

If you are renting or leasing the space, you need to talk with your landlord about what needs to be done, and more importantly, who is going to do it and pay for it. Some landlords will foot the entire bill for renovations, since in theory it’s their building they are improving. Others will argue that you should pay for a bulk of the renovations, since it is your business. Either way, it’s vital to have a contract and/or lease in place before starting, which clearly states who is responsible for which renovations. Read more about how to negotiate a restaurant lease.

Hire a Professional

Unless you have experience as an electrician, plumber or carpenter it’s best to hire professionals for the early stages of renovations. Areas that need to be inspected include the wiring, pipes, water lines, heating, air conditioning, ventilation (HVAC) systems, interior and exterior lighting. Some commercial equipment requires special electrical outlets and other wiring to work properly.

In order to meet fire safety regulations, your restaurant kitchen will need special ventilation hoods in place, as well as a sprinkler system.

There are some parts of a restaurant renovation that even a novice can tackle, such as basic cosmetic work, such as painting, to save money. Other cosmetic work, like refinishing floors and wood work, laying carpet and installing tile are better left to professionals. Read more about business renovations.

Knowing ahead of time what work needs to be done can help keep your initial start up budget in check. Also knowing which party is responsible for certain renovations can help you avoid miscommunications with your future landlord. Renovations for a new restaurant can be a long and arduous process; however, they will bring you one step closer to opening day and your dream of owning your own restaurant.