A good business plan for a restaurant requires research. You need to study your target market, research your competition in the area, and develop a menu. Location is an integral part of these decisions. If you plan to lease commercial space, here are some things to think about.
Pro and Cons
While rent is an important fixed cost, it is necessary to consider the cost of rent in relation to start-up costs. You cannot recoup monies for improvements that are made to a leased property. In addition, most electrical, plumbing, and HVAC improvements will require a building permit. If the building for which you are requesting a permit is more than a few years old, you will be asked to make any and all improvements to meet current building code. Failure to pull building permits for construction and improvements can lead to hefty fines and closure of your establishment.
Many municipalities have fully integrated information systems with each department having an individual capacity to input and retrieve data. In addition, the departments collaborate such that failed compliance with an individual department will be treated as failed compliance for all departments. For example, if you have pulled a building permit for construction and that construction was never inspected and approved by a building inspector, the health inspector can research your building status and will not provide you a health permit until your building permit is resolved.
Before starting the real estate tour, make sure you have a concrete idea as to what you need. Notice that I did not use the word “want”. You should have a good idea as to how many meals will be served per day and the types and amounts of equipment needed to prepare that number of meals. I highly recommend a field trip to the local big box restaurant supply store to get a good feel for prices of equipment as well as size. They do not charge you to browse so feel free to take measurements. It is also a good idea to start looking at décor items such as tables and chairs to get these measurements as well.
As you step into through the door of each space visualize a plan of the restaurant. Is there a front counter, wait stations, a bar? Then take some measurements of the space to determine if the space is adequate for the amount of seating that you want. Be flexible. As a general rule of thumb, if there are more than twenty seats you will need a minimum of two bathrooms. Take a look at the ceiling. Are there any exposed pipes or ducts? These items can collect dust and grease making cleaning difficult. Any bars or wait stations will not be allowed under these areas.
The walls are the first thing to check in a kitchen. The walls must be smooth, durable, and easily cleanable. Brick will not work unless it is heavily painted. Think stainless steel. The floors are the second check. The floors must be smooth, durable, and easily cleanable. If the floor is concrete it must be sealed and free of excessive cracks. Throw some water on the concrete. If most of the water does not form a bead and the concrete turns dark gray; it is not sealed. If the floor is tile, the tile must be in good condition with no missing pieces. The ceilings are the third check. The ceilings must be smooth, durable, and easily cleanable. Acoustic tile will not work. Any pipes or duct work must form a box relative to the ceiling.
Once again, visualize a plan of the kitchen. Then take some measurements of the space to determine if the space is adequate for the amount and type of equipment that you want. Are there enough vent hoods for the equipment? If there isn’t a walk-in, will three two door uprights fit? How large are the prep and storage areas? Is there room for an office?
Sinks are a necessary evil in the world of restaurants. For some people, two is too many. Most health inspectors would like to see a sink every five feet. At least one sink will need to be designated a hand washing sink, but that is only in a very tiny kitchen. The rule of thumb is that an employee should walk no more than 20 paces in a straight unobstructed path to get to a hand sink (not in a bathroom). If the space does not have a dish machine, three additional sinks are needed: a mop sink, a food prep sink, and a dish sink. The latter two require something special called an air gap. An air gap is a one inch gap in the pipe leaving bottom of the sink before going into the floor. Most new facilities have a floor sink which is a box cut into the floor and the pipe from the sink drains into it.
All the sinks are required to have hot and cold running water. If there is a dish machine, the dish machine will require an air gap as well. The final specialized piece of the puzzle is a grease trap. A grease trap is a piece of equipment that filters grease from the waste water before it enters the sewer. Some grease traps are located in the back of an establishment: others are located near the dish sink and have a square metal plate in the floor.
After you have settled on a space that meets your needs, be sure to request a copy of a certificate of occupancy or building permit. You may still be subject to fines and closure of your establishment if the space was built or renovated without proper permits. If you aren’t able to find a space that meets all your needs, try to negotiate with the owners to complete the changes you want. You could even negotiate to share the cost of renovation. I hope that I have given you some tasty morels to consider as your dream of restaurant ownership comes to fruition.