Having built dozens of restaurants over the past ten years, we find that clients tend to choose a contractor based on the finished look of a restaurant.
While quality and finishing are important, they are just one part of the whole picture. When it comes to restaurant construction, it is about the journey, not the destination.
Most of the horror stories that you hear in this industry are about restaurateurs who picked the wrong contractor and had to become a restaurant contractor to complete their own project.
Many contractors want to get into the commercial build space, but most new firms in this space came from the residential side of the industry. While certain aspects do translate over, others do not, and can even be detrimental to the commercial construction process.
In fact, dozens of clients who ended up coming to us for help started with a new commercial contractor with a residential background.
You might think that your contractor’s job is to build your restaurant. While that is true, that is the simplest aspect. Much harder to manage are the other components of the job:
• Contract administration
• Coordination of documentation
• Management of professionals
You might be wondering why so many residential contractors have a challenging time adapting to the commercial space.
The answer in part has to do with scale, but not in the way you might think. Building a restaurant in downtown Vancouver in a heritage building can be more complex than building a multi-family residential project outside of the city.
How so? Well, you are working in a smaller physical space on a much tighter timeframe, but you have the same number of professionals coordinating to get the job done.
So, even though the project is “smaller,” it is more demanding. Both the small footprint of the space and the tight timeframe are unforgiving.
That is why you need to collaborate with a company that is experienced with building restaurants in Vancouver. A residential builder learning on the fly is going to make mistakes, and you are the one who will end up paying for them.
From a customer experience standpoint, it is important that your contractor uses project management software. Dozens of options are out there, and any number of them can enhance your experience with the build process.
It isn’t just important that the contractor has this software, but also that their employees are trained to use it effectively.
Through project management software, the contractor can keep you informed continuously about the progress of your project.
To see what is taking place on your project you simply need to log in using your computer or mobile device to check your contractor’s updates.
There is no need to visit the project site in person. Instead, you can keep up with other work that you need to do in preparation for opening your restaurant.
Not only that, but you can find out right away whether there are any concerns about falling behind schedule or overstepping your budget.
Contractors that do not communicate clearly and rapidly with customers with these types of updates can cause problems that build up over weeks or months.
Building restaurants is a code and permit-heavy process with inspections and engineer liability requirements, so the relationship your contractor has with the architects, engineers, and consultants on your team is crucial.
Ideally, they will have already worked together before. For an example of how this plays out, consider getting an inspection from an engineer on a Thursday so they have site memo letters available for Friday so the inspector can pass you in time to continue work on the weekend. This kind of efficiency can be the difference between success and failure with respect to meeting your timetable.
From a contract administration and coordination standpoint, these are all reasons to select an experienced and successful Vancouver restaurant contractor.
A contractor specializing in this niche will be well-organized and will have the relationships in place to make the process toward opening your restaurant as seamless as possible.
Now that we have talked about contract administration and coordination, let’s talk about the on-site construction process. We are going to focus on a few of the major areas of the restaurant build that are most critical to a timely and successful opening.
The Hood Trip Test
The hood trip test is a large, coordinated event that can be a challenge to organize. The city inspector, the city fire chief, the architect, the electrical engineer, the fire suppression company, the electrician, and the owner all need to be present together at the site.
Because getting everyone together can be so difficult, it is critical that you pass on your first attempt if possible.
If you do not pass, the team needs to be able to make the proper adjustments on-site so the sequencing of the trip test and the overall requirements of the professionals are met before everyone leaves. There is just a 60–90-minute window in which this must be completed.
A contractor that has the experience and the strong professional relationships in place to make this happen can save you time and trouble.
The final health inspection will be subject to extreme scrutiny. Even small issues like gaps under the sink or not having a weather-strip door sweep can fail you.
Because there are requirements for the builder and the owner, the contractor needs to be able to function as a consultant to prepare the owner.
Once you pass your health inspection, you then need to pass the liquor inspection. Everything must be right and ready to open when you undergo this inspection. Coordinating with liquor inspectors can be tough, but an experienced team can coordinate effectively to keep you moving forward.
Lastly, you will need occupancy approval, and the inspection itself is only part of it.
After the inspector gives you the nod of approval at the site, they will still need to sign off on it when they return to the office.
If that happens in the middle of the week, you might be able to open that weekend. But if the inspection is on a Friday, there is a chance the inspector won’t sign off on it until Monday, delaying your opening.
You might think this sort of thing doesn’t happen all that often, but it does.
In fact, you can expect many of those types of delays from inspectors, the city, and others involved with your project if nobody is proactively pushing the process along.
You Need a Contractor That Will Drive
the Process Forward from Start to Finish.
Your main takeaway from this installment in our series should be this: left to their own devices, many of the parties you rely on to get you to your opening day will not promptly do their parts.
Hiring the right contractor isn’t just about choosing a company to give you the finished build you are envisioning.
It is also about working with a company that is going to make sure through every step of the process that everybody involved is making your project a top priority.
Your contractor’s help administrating and coordinating with your entire team may subtract weeks or even months off the project timeline.
That is the art of being a successful restaurant contractor in Vancouver, and it is the key to opening your restaurant as rapidly and affordably as possible.