5 Ways a Restaurant Architect Can Help You Evaluate Site Selection

Location, location, location… right? Well, yes and no. There are many different factors that need to be considered when selecting a space/building/site/neighborhood for your restaurant. A good real estate broker who will help you find a good location, and negotiate the lease to ensure items like rent commencement, landlord provided build out, and that Tenant Improvement (T.I.) funds are sufficient enough for you to fit out your restaurant within your budget and schedule; but there may a lot more that you'll need to consider.

Architects take a very holistic approach to projects, more than just the design and drawings. Our goal is to make you, our client, happy and successful. Restaurant build-out will not be feasible if there are physical or cost prohibitors that are beyond your budget. Your restaurant architect could and should work with you and your broker on locations and the lease. Keep mind you cannot fall in love with a location. It is crucial to keep a rational perspective during the search process to make sure that you have a lease that will allow you to get your business up and running without going broke before you open. 

5 Things You and Your Architect Should Talk to Your Perspective Landlord About: 

  1. Utilities & Systems;
  2. Building Envelope;
  3. Layout;
  4. Zoning, Building Code & Accessibility
  5. The Site

Utilities & Systems: The space may or may not be “restaurant ready” with utilities, which will greatly affect your build-out cost and feasibility. These include:

  • Water service size, pressure, connection to your space
  • Sanitary and grease lines, grease trap as required per Town and Board of Health
  • Hvac- tonnage, hood, makeup air, PCU, grills on exterior or fan on roof, sufficient roof space, Are there floors/tenants above?
  • Available voltage and amperage
  • Gas load required and available
  • Requirement for sprinkler and fire alarm systems.
  • Are the utilities stubbed in convenient locations or require additional?

Building Envelope: It has a roof, four walls and a floor, but what should you be looking at?

  • Are the perimeter walls in good condition, or will they require patching, pointing, infill, additional insulation, etc.?
    • Is the existing window system energy efficient?
  • How much exterior glazing is there? Will you need window treatment? How will the windows interact with your new ceiling elements? Where in the space gets sunlight throughout the day?
  • Is the roofing well insulated and in good condition? Are there signs of ponding or leaking?
  • Is there an existing floor slab? Will it need to be cut and/or poured? Is there special structural systems below like grade beams, piles, or garage space?

Layout: You’ve taken a stab at figuring out, but will it really work the way you think?

  • You know own your target square footage, but does it get eaten up (no pun intended) by columns, utilities, egress corridors, restrooms?
  • What shape and type of space best works with your concept? Long, wide, square, end cap, in-line, pad site, under other stories.
  • A prospective landlord should provide you with an LOD (Lease Outline Drawing). If you’ve already discussed program and equipment with your architect, they can produce “Test Fits” to show how everything would fit in that specific space.

Zoning, Building Code & Accessibility:

  • Are restaurants allowed in your zone and do you have to apply for a Special Permit?
  • What are the zoning requirements for building and pylon signage?  
    • What’s the process for a liquor license.
  • Has the landlord provided you with a code compliant space with rated demising walls and proper insulation?
  • What is the number of restroom fixtures needed?
  • What is the quantity and required separation of egress doors?

The Site:It’s not just what’s on the inside that counts! Think about the following:

  • Trash and recycling pick up, grease containment.
  • Parking: quantity of spaces, accessible spaces, pick-up designated spaces, delivery van, delivery trucks.
  • Is there a sidewalk that connects from street frontage to your entry door?
  • Visibility of the location from the street.

There’s an overwhelming amount of things that need to get done when opening a new restaurant including developing a menu, creating the concept, hiring staff, obtaining funding, and building your restaurant. The key is to understand what needs to get done, and who can best help you do it.