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Are  you are thinking about building a restaurant? Here’s some information on the Design & Construction process to give you a head-start, and some important promotional ideas after your dream is built. Send this page to a friend.

Construction Documents
Typical Drawings
Building Codes
Special Agencies
Finding Consultants
Food Service Consultants
Certified (or licensed) Interior Designers
Architects
Misc. Consultants
Equipment Suppliers and Dealers
Hiring a General Contractor
Hiring a Graphic Artist, Web Designer and Publicist

Construction Documents

If you’re going to build or remodel a restaurant, your general contractor will need a set of scaled construction documents, often called "working drawings". These documents can be drawn on a CAD system or by hand and consist of space plans, elevations, schedules and details. These drawings are generally prepared by several design consultants and engineers, integrated into one set for submittal to your local building and health department. The list of design consultants and engineers needed to prepare these drawings follows.

Typical Drawings

Here is a list of typical drawings you'll need for your building contractor (not in order)

  • Cover Sheet with site and  project information
  • Demolition Plan, if applicable
  • Store Front Elevations, if applicable
  • Partition/Construction Plan
  • Floor Plan with FF&E (furniture, fixtures & equipment)
  • Environmental Plans for Health Dept.
  • Finish Plans and Schedules
  • Kitchen Equipment Elevations
  • Wall Elevations
  • Exhaust and Make-up Air Plan
  • Refrigeration and Curb Plans
  • Plumbing and Electrical Rough-in Plans
  • Detail Drawings for custom cabinetry and fixtures
  • Furniture and Equipment Specifications
  • Reflected Ceiling Plan
  • Electrical and Telephone Plans
  • Title 24, California Only
  • Mechanical Plan / HVAC Plan
  • Door, Window and Ceiling Details

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Building Codes

All your plans, drawings and specifications should be in compliance with the building and health codes that are applicable to your location. If your project is in California, the governing building codes are Title 24, the Uniform Building Code (UBC), Uniform Mechanical Code (UMC); and Uniform Plumbing Code (UPC). California Health Code governing restaurants  is the California Uniform Retail Food Facilities Law (CURFFL).

Your drawings, plans, equipment and finish specifications should be approved by the following regulatory agencies:

  • County Health Department
  • Dept. of Building and Safety
  • Fire Marshall

Special Agencies

Depending on your type of restaurant, equipment and geographical location, you may need approvals from:

  • An air quality board such as the So. Calif. Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) in Southern California
  • An architectural review board or city planning commission.

And please remember, whether you are building new or remodeling, your restaurant must comply with the “Americans with Disabilities Act.” as overseen by the United States Department of  Justice.

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Finding Consultants

It’s a good idea to engage the services of various design professionals and food service consultants to help design and build  your restaurant. Their expertise and guidance can help you save a great deal of time and money while also providing an attractive and functional restaurant. 

As you probably already know, the first rule to hiring anyone is getting referrals from past clients and ask those clients lots of  questions! How much experience did the consultant have in planning their type of facility?  Did the consultant save the client money?  Did they perform in a professional manner? Were they ethical?  Did they do the work on time and on budget? Were their design solutions appropriate to the project?  Would they hire the consultant again?

Food Service Consultants

These individuals concern themselves with the kitchen (often referred to as "back of the house"). They will space plan your kitchen and service areas, recommend the best equipment for your menu and budget and give full specifications for the equipment you'll need. They generally do not sell equipment, so you should be getting an impartial opinion. A good food service consultant’s plans and specs should give enough information to get your plans approved by the local health department, secure bids from equipment dealers and general contractors. It's best to seek individuals with experience and a good reputation. Some food service consultants may become members of the Food Service Consultants Society International (FCSI).

Certified (or licensed) Interior Designers

Certified (or licensed) Interior Designers can plan for any part of your restaurant (for nonstructural work) and can usually submit plans to local building departments for permits. Generally, they perform all the design work your customers see, (also known as "front of the house"). The areas covered are exterior, entry, dining rooms, bars, eating counters and public restrooms. In California, designers certified by the California Council for Interior Design Certification (CCIDC) are the only recognized interior design professionals in the state (as defined in California Business & Professions Code). Seek the services of a Certified or licensed interior designer that has prior restaurant design experience.

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Architects

These professionals can plan for any part of your restaurants structural or seismic building elements, usually utilizing the services of a Structural Engineer, and submit plans to the Dept. of Building and Safety. Some architects also do interior design work. In California, check with the Board of Architectural Examiners (BAE) in Sacramento for license verification. Also, ask for references and portfolios for the restaurants they have successfully completed.

Misc. Consultants

In addition, you may need the services of

  • Electrical Engineers
  • Mechanical Engineers
  • Lighting Consultants
  • Acoustical Consultants
  • Audio Consultants

All the above consultants will work together on your behalf to produce a complete set of bid plans to submit to a general contractor, purchasing agent or dealer (prior to construction) so you can get an idea of cost and time involved for the opening of your restaurant.

Equipment Suppliers and Dealers

These individuals or firms sell just about everything needed for the restaurant kitchen -- from heavy equipment to tabletop goods. Some equipment dealers also offer design and construction (turnkey services). These are valuable services which cost the dealer time and money to produce. Good design and planning take a great deal of education, time and experience. Please beware of deals that sound too good to be true, such as “free design”  with purchase of equipment. You may not get the quality of design and services you need, and may run the risk of paying too much for your kitchen equipment.

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Hiring a General Contractor

Be sure you hire a licensed general contractor who has good references and has experience in building restaurants. A residential contractor or one who has built office buildings and has no restaurant experience could cost the restaurant owner in lost time, quality of workmanship and price overruns.

If your project is going to be in California, be sure to verify the G.C.'s current active license with the California Contractors State License Board.  This Board has published a  free booklet entitled "What You Should Know Before You Hire a Contractor". Please call (800) 321-2752.

When hiring a general contractor, also make sure the contractor provides you with certificates of insurance for Workman's Compensation and General Liability (photocopies should not be accepted. Ask the contractor to have their insurance agent send them directly to you).

Hiring Other Professionals

When hiring all professionals, be sure to see their portfolios of work;  ask for references, discuss their credentials, and be clear on the scope of work you want them to provide you. The following three professionals work can give you lasting value in establishing your public image, distributing your message and promoting your business.

Graphic Artist - for your logo, menus, stationery and other miscellaneous printed promotional material.

Web Site Designer - Do you really need a web site?

Publicist - You’ve spent lots of time and money planning and executing your dream. Don’t believe the myth, if you build it--they will come. (Well, maybe if you have a prime location and your name is Wolfgang.) Even if your investors are high profile celebrities or your chef does cartwheels in the creme brulee, customers have to be clued into this phenomenon.

A publicist will send press releases to newspaper and magazine editors, restaurant critics, radio personalities and related Web sites. She/he will begin the buzz and leave their mouths craving for more. Your customers are continually looking to taste the newest trends or bite into brisket like mama made. A good publicist knows there’s more news than what’s on the menu.  Press releases related to design and construction are sent to related trade publications and overcoming business obstacles and financing are sent to business editors.  Everyone is hungry now

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