Most Common Mistakes When Opening Your Restaurant

Part V: Understand your restaurant’s electrical needs, or it could cost you! 

When we review a restaurant’s design plans with a new client, we always ask whether they have checked to see if their building’s electrical supply meets their equipment needs. If we get a confused look, it’s a reason for concern. Fortunately, the existing supply can provide adequate power for restaurant operations most of the time. Still, a shortage can result in significant cost increases and even a drastic change to the overall design.

This article will explain why it is essential to make sure your rental unit can supply enough power to run your restaurant BEFORE signing a lease agreement.

Kitchen interior
Mercury Contracting, building under construction

We see this common mistake often happen with first-time restaurant owners. If you have never planned or experienced building a restaurant before, you may have never thought about electrical supply. It’s understandable since when we are at home and plug any appliance into an outlet, it starts working right away.

It’s very rare that we ever hit the limit of power usage at home, so it can be surprising to find out just how much power it takes to run a commercial restaurant business, from all the lighting in the dining area to the industrial cooking appliances. Think you are saving electricity costs by using a gas stove? In fact, all gas stoves require fully vented hoods, which suck up as much power as they do hot air. This is why it is so important to either plan your restaurant’s design to fit with your building’s electrical supply or find a suitable rental space that can fulfill your restaurant’s electrical needs.

Over the years, we have encountered clients who had to redesign their entire restaurant because the building could not meet their power needs, and certain restrictions prevented any power upgrades. Even if a power upgrade is possible, it generally adds a lot of time and cost to the project.

A worst-case scenario that we have experienced was a client that came to us with a finished layout and design for their restaurant. In our initial meetings, they even mentioned how happy they were to find a unit with such reasonable rent.

It wasn’t until we completed our comprehensive review of the rental unit that we discovered that while their plans required 200-amp service, the building currently only supplied 100-amp electrical capacity. This easily avoidable oversight cost this business months of working with BC Hydro on electrical room upgrades that exceeded $200,000. This was a devastating financial blow, especially for a business that had yet to open its doors.

While that was an extreme example (but not at all rare in the city of Vancouver), even in a best-case scenario, working with BC Hydro on even minor electrical upgrades can end up adding months to your restaurant build.

Mexican Restaurant interior
BjornBar Restaurant

Avoid This Issue With Proper Planning

As project managers, it’s always difficult to tell clients that a mistake in planning will cost them time and money. This is why we always encourage anyone planning on building a restaurant to get in touch with a contractor in the early stages of the project.

Having built restaurants in Vancouver for over a decade, we have experienced all of the most common planning oversights, so including us in the initial planning process is the best way to ensure that your restaurant build will go as smoothly as possible.