Restaurant Architect: Just Another Part of Your Restaurant's Team

Restaurant Architects aren’t just people who will create a set of drawings so you can get a building permit. We are part of your restaurant team helping you to define your concept, design the space, and see that the design intent is carried through all aspects of construction. Having an architect who specializes in restaurant design is crucial to designing a space that is both operationally efficient and conceptually aesthetic in addition to creating the space that best represents your brand.

However, as a Chef [and/or] Restaurant Owner, you may have little to no experience with construction and contractors. How do you go about selecting a contractor? How do you know they are building from the approved drawings and using the correct finishes and materials? Restaurant Architects are there with you through every phase to assist you and ensure that all plans are followed to create the restaurant of your dreams.

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Selecting a General Contractor (GC)

An architect can help you:

  • Find licensed GCs who have experience with restaurants.

  • Pre-qualify the GCs by reviewing their past projects and evaluating their work including

    • Types of restaurants they’ve built (QSR, Fast Casual, Full Service Casual, Fine Dining)

    • Types of buildings (group ups, fit-outs, remodels, single or multistory, pad site or inline)

    • Complexity of work (has their work been with off-the-shelf components and finishes or were there complicated details requiring ‘out of the box’ thinking)

    • Reviewing other factors like union vs. open shop and insurance limits

Bidding or Negotiation – Which is right for you?

There are two methods to hire a good GC: Bid and Negotiate

When you find a GC that you are comfortable with, you can begin to work with them to negotiate a fee. The benefit to this is that you can get them involved prior to drawings being finalized. They can provide an initial cost estimate which gives you the opportunity to review and revise any scope, finishes, and elements while still in the design phase. This also saves a lot of time not having to go through the bid process. The con is that you’re not comparing their fee, scope, or construction timeline against others.

When you Bid, you provide documents to multiple GCs. They review and provide you with a breakdown of their cost to building. When bidding, a Restaurant Architect can help guide you through this by:

  • Putting together a bid list

  • Creating an “Invitation to Bid” letter

  • Develop a Bid Form

  • Coordinate and run a Pre-Bid site meeting

  • Review and respond to bidders’ Request For Information (RFIs) regarding design intent and drawing content

  • Review and evaluate final bids with you and explain the different line items, exclusions, alternates, and allowances to put you in the position to make the best selection


During construction, the Architect’s main objective is to ensure the GC is building in conformance to the design documents and to the design intent. There are three ways that Architects do this:

  1. When the contractor or one of the subcontractors has a question about something in the drawings or needs further directive due to a field issue, they can submit an RFI for clarification. It can be a formal document or just a phone call. It could be a simple question that the architect can answer right away or it might be more involved and need input from engineers and possibly create a sketch to graphically show directive.

  2. For each material, finish, fixture, accessory, and unit that is specified in the Construction Documents, the GC can submit submittals. This can be in the form of shop drawing samples, and information for that particular item. This could be the cut sheet of the air conditioning unit, the millwork drawings or even a ceramic tile sample. This allows the architect and engineers the ability to review what the GC is providing and make sure it is according to the design intent.

  3. Though it is not required by all States and Jurisdictions, an Architect can make site visits to perform field observations and provide reports, if part of the scope. These are not inspections, just observations. This allows the Architect to review what the GC has done so far, check for any discrepancies from the Contractor Documents, and report back to the client.

When opening a new restaurant, there is so much to be done. Creating a menu, hiring and training staff, handling finances and coordinating marketing is just the tip of the iceberg. Your time is valuable, and a good Restaurant Architect has the knowledge, experience, and ability to lead you through the process of designing and creating the restaurant of your dreams.