Beginning construction on your restaurant

By Judy Henderson

We’ve already covered starting, planning and designing your restaurant’s renovation. The day will come during that process when the kitchen falls silent (hopefully your chefs are testing a new menu in another working kitchen) and construction starts. As the sledge hammer makes its mark on the walls, you’ll be glad you spent the time thinking through the planning and design.

At this point, you might be tempted to book a sunny vacation, but don’t do it! Construction is where the steaks hit the grill, so to speak. This is where you might be called on to make some very important decisions on the fly.

Always sit down with your contractor before construction begins to discuss your brand and your design details. Supply as many construction documents and drawings as you can muster so you can leave the meeting confident you’ve shared your vision for the new space. Also, discuss the work back schedule and get confirmation on the timeline up front, as best you can.

The shock of seeing your livelihood taken back to the studs can be traumatic – keep your brand and design in mind — and remember to breathe! Make sure everyone on site understands you need to be informed if any changes to the plan must be made. Weekly site meetings, Skype meetings, or emailed photos and videos will help make this happen and keep your project on track.

Flexibility is the soup du jour during the construction stage. Despite all the planning, designing and brand integrity, sometimes things happen. A key element or product becomes discontinued or is unavailable. Tiles, lamps or furniture break during shipping. Take time to select good alternatives at a similar price and don’t forget to adjust the budget.

Work back schedules are not static. If you planned for four days of demolition and it took five, then make that adjustment. Check to see how it affects delivery and installation further along in the construction process. If you need to, reschedule the painter as soon as you can.

I’ve learned from my many years of managing construction projects that they move more efficiently if you have a clear space to work. I’ve seen painters trying to cover and work around piles of new furniture and fixtures because the delivery date was not adjusted – many times a warehouse will have some flexibility on delivery, so always ask.

As you see the space come together you’ll start to smile again, trust me. Keep your staff and customers informed of your progress – snap some photos of the construction and menu testing and send them out to everyone you know. And as soon as the power is back on, get a bottle of bubbly in the fridge. As the power tools fall silent and the kitchen begins to bustle again, crack it open!

Talking about bustle, our final article will be about re-launching your restaurant – how to get your old customers – and new ones — through the doors.

About the author:

Judy Henderson is the owner of Inside Design, a Vancouver firm that focuses on modern hospitality design. Based in Vancouver, B.C. with a list of global clients including; Hilton, Westin and Coast Hotels. Inside Design has an experienced team with a reputation for innovative design and precise project management.