Restaurant Development & Design

JUL-AUG 2019

restaurant development + design is a user-driven resource for restaurant professionals charged with building new locations and remodeling existing units.

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J U L Y / A U G U S T 2 0 1 9 • r e s t a u r a n t d e v e l o p m e n t + d e s i g n • 2 5 And what if the project requires the installation of transformers? Those are huge boxes, making it important to know where those will go and how much heat they could potentially emit. Determining the potential need for an electrical upgrade is so important because looking past this step can eas- ily lead to a very nightmarish situation. I typically recommend that an upgrade take place; however, while we work with ma- jor restaurant groups, we also have •rst-time independent operators who don't have the time and resources to upgrade. They might have just signed their lease and need to open as soon as possible. Carefully consider the certicate of occupancy permit. This is the most important •rst step in navigating the bureau- cratic red tape of the permitting process. The occupancy certi•cate shows parameters of legal use and what's considered a restaurant and what is not. This is im- portant because restaurants have some of the most restrictive building codes out there. I have been in situations where •rst-time restaurateurs went to apply for a lease and didn't realize there was an existing certi•cate of occupancy in place, and it was for retail, not a restaurant. It's possible to go into a loca- tion that hasn't been used for years or decades. This is where problems arise. Certi•cate of occupancy permits, at least here in Los Angeles, have very speci•c requirements for restaurants that even designate the number of bathrooms and parking per square footage. I also recommend •rst-time restau- rant operators in the fast-casual sector determine if they want to run a truly takeout operation or if they think they might want to have some seats for dine- in because these are two very different permitting classi•cations. Too many times, restaurants start small, but then they grow and expand. That has a direct impact on parking spaces requirements in densely populated areas, such as LA. An establishment might have been permitted initially as a takeout and then evolved over the years; a new leasing agent may come in, try to remodel and then determine there's a need to add more parking spaces. Obtaining the right certi•cate of occupancy is also imperative for obtaining an alcohol license. First-time fast-casual restaurants, for example, might not think they will need an alcohol license, but what happens if they later want to serve a little wine and beer to boost sales? I get that restaurants, especially smaller and •rst-time independents, are in survival mode and need to open fast without too much cost up front or forecasting future needs. I can't stress enough, though, how important it is to deter- mine the right certi•cate of occupancy •rst and foremost. Hire the right people. I understand that consultants do not always have the luxury of picking their team, but restau- rant operators do, even if they feel pres- sure from the general contractor or architect. If they have not yet hired a construction company, I always recommend restaurant operators hire one that matches their con- cept. If it's a smaller restaurant, for example, I suggest bringing on a construction company that has experience working with smaller restaurants. It's impera- tive to •nd specialists who can ful•ll the very speci•c needs of a given restaurant and to get as many names as possible ahead of time before making these critical, team-building decisions. Personally, I recommend not hiring family, as decision-making can become clouded through emotional investment. Above all, knowledge is power! It's my job to help new restaurateurs educate themselves, do their homework, ask others who have succeeded†how†they did it and learn from other people's mistakes rather than their own. + Los Angeles-based Eddie Navarrette has worked on a variety of restaurants and retail outlets, including popular concepts like Sprinkles Cupcakes, Jon & Vinny's and Sqirl. The timeline only gets more extreme if the building sits far away from the electrical source.

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