Building a Restaurant: Here’s Your Timeline

If you already own a restaurant and have been in business five or more years, you will probably remodel the space soon. Unlike a current restaurant owner, investors seeking space for a new restaurant can choose between building and remodeling. Some investors base their decision to remodel or build on an estimated restaurant construction budget. They assume it will cost far less to remodel than to build from the ground up. This can be true, but there are pros and cons to both remodeling and building. Restaurant remodel costs involving structural renovations and updates to electrical or plumbing systems can quickly exceed $300k. As Svitlana Latysheva writes in an article for Entrepreneur, building and opening a restaurant can cost anywhere from $420k to $1.26M. This equates to a range of $195 to $585 per square foot. Writing for FSR Magazine, Robert Dekanski acknowledges the added costs, but extols the benefits of building from the ground up. Dekanski notes that “building a new restaurant can be a significant expense.” However, restaurant owners have a greater degree of control over everything from the layout and aesthetics to safety and efficiency. After comparing a commercial construction budget to a renovation budget, investors want to know how long it will take to build a brand-new restaurant. If you do decide to build, follow below to learn how long your restaurant construction project might take. From the pre-construction phase to the final inspections before your restaurant opening, here’s a rough timeline for building a restaurant.

Here’s a Typical Restaurant Construction Timeline

Most commercial construction projects are broken down into three phases: pre-construction, construction and post-construction or close-out. Some restaurant construction firms break the process down into five phases. This process begins with the initiation phase, centers on the procurement phase and ends with close-out. Initially, the business owner will secure financing, find the perfect build location, finalize the budget and start the interview process. The owner will either choose a design-build firm or decided to pursue the project by him or herself. 

Following this period of independent work, the owner might contract with one of the best restaurant construction firms for their specific project. He or she will then develop plans alongside an architect, structural engineer and other professionals. According to this post from franchise management platform Synuma, the design phase typically takes between four and six weeks for a new restaurant. The firm or owner will then apply for permits and bid the project to a builder, GC and/or subcontractors. Synuma estimates a timeline of about two weeks for the bidding process. Securing permits can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months. Procurement follows this stage. 

After permits have been issued and subcontractors have been chosen, you (the owner) will receive a restaurant construction schedule from your GC. Actual construction can take anywhere from eight weeks to nine months.

What Influences a Restaurant Construction Timeline?

How long this process takes depends heavily on the complexity and location of your build. It also depends on the experience of your construction firm, the lead time for products and equipment and the number of changes made mid-construction. Unexpected delays related to weather and/or supply chain disruptions can also extend your project’s timeline.

Restaurant Concept

First and foremost, your restaurant’s concept and restaurant layout will impact the overall cost and timeline of your new build. A franchise, fast-casual restaurant space or restaurant dedicated to carry-out will take less time to design and build than a fine dining establishment. 

An expensive full-service restaurant with chef’s kitchen and high-end dining room will likely take more time to create than fast casual franchise restaurants. This is because fast casual franchise restaurants are built according to predetermined specs that are consistent from location to location. In his article “How to Build and Design a Restaurant” for cloud-based restaurant management software company Toast, Justin B. Alpert, A.I.A elaborates. Alpert writes that “quick service restaurant construction takes about 12 weeks, while fast-casual or full-service restaurants can take about four months to build.”

Location as it Relates to Local Ordinances, Zoning, Permitting and Inspections 

Next, the location you choose will also impact your restaurant construction timeline and your restaurant construction budget. For example, local zoning laws, building codes and ordinances vary from one municipality to the next. The time it takes to process permits and arrange inspections depends on the volume of requests and the staff available to fulfill those requests.

Lead Time for Equipment, Construction Materials and Labor

Availability of and lead time for equipment, construction materials and local labor also affect a restaurant construction timeline. Skyrocketing demand and supply chain issues have delayed countless commercial construction projects over the last couple of years. 

When building a restaurant, the owner usually provides a list of equipment — like professional appliances — needed for the space. How seamlessly your construction firm and restaurant general contractor works with suppliers can either extend or shorten your timeline.

Number of Changes to the Initial Design

Of course, the number of changes made to the initial design can also impact your restaurant construction schedule and overall timeline. Some changes are requested by the owner, while others are unavoidable. Regardless, any unexpected changes could result in delays.

Which Design-Build Firm You Hire

Last but not least, your restaurant construction timeline will heavily depend on the construction team you select. From the architect to the commercial general contractor to the procurement manager, every team member is vital to the success of your project. Take care when interviewing restaurant construction firms to ensure you choose the right construction team for your new establishment.

Ready to Enter the Restaurant Business But Not Sure Where to Start?

Building a restaurant requires the owner to secure financing, find the perfect location, bid their project, hire a team, obtain permits and more. Given this, the restaurant construction process is one best handled by a practiced commercial real estate development company with years of experience. As a turnkey solutions company, SCG West ensures your restaurant construction project goes off without a hitch, so you can focus on opening day. Learn more about our process and approach to commercial property development and construction here.

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