worst mistakes when building a restaurant

7 Mistakes You Can Make When Building or Renovating a Restaurant

By: Max Tripodi

It is an exciting experience to be one of the first customers to discover a trendy new restaurant with delicious food, a unique concept, and a great atmosphere is an exciting experience. However, it’s not exciting when the restaurant falls flat because of building design issues that could have been easily avoided with proper planning.

Here are seven mistakes you can make when building or renovating a restaurant, in the order your guests will experience them:

  1. Parking Lot Problems

A parking lot is often the customer’s first and last experience and with your restaurant, so it needs to be well planned out and well executed. This means paying careful attention to right of way plans, parking space width, and asphalt depth.

When it comes to right of way, clear lanes, proper road markings, and adequate signage should be used to direct the flow of traffic and prevent accidents and lawsuits. Parking spaces, meanwhile, should be at least nine feet wide and 18 feet long (the wider the better). Anything narrower can create havoc getting in and out of your vehicle. And when it comes to asphalt, RCA Contractors recommends three inches of hot-mix asphalt on top of six inches of aggregate base. This will help avoid crumbling and will lengthen the lifespan of your lot before potholes form.

  1. An Unclear Concept or Theme

Not every restaurant needs a theme, but a concept is a must. Will your restaurant be modern, traditional, family-style, or a café or bistro? Regardless of the concept you choose, your exterior façade and interior design must reflect the overall tone you want to convey, and your contractor will need to know what physical features you’ll need to accommodate the look and feel. Will you need raised platform construction? Will you require lighting fixtures installed in the soffits to illuminate signage or architecture features?

Your concept is really one of the most important aspects of your restaurant, and not just from a marketing perspective. It actually permeates every aspect of your eatery and helps determine who visits your establishment, what prices you can charge, how much staff you need, and the type of food you serve.

While there are a variety of types of restaurants, it’s OK to blur the lines between concepts to make something truly unique. Fusion restaurants tend to be extremely popular … when done right.

If you’re struggling for ideas, check out these 7 restaurant design trends that are already getting people buzzing in 2019.

  1. Poorly Thought-Out Floor Plans

Inadequate seating capacity, cramped booths, seating in high traffic areas, and inadequate ingress and egress from the kitchen to the dining room are just a handful of problems associated with bad floor plans. Another one is poorly planned work station layouts, which can create permanent problems due to the placement of gas, plumbing, and electrical line hook-ups. Remedy these situations by investing in architects who have well-defined experience in restaurant design and contractors who are experts in restaurant construction.

You’ll also need to make sure your restaurant is ADA compliant and meets or exceeds all state and federal building code regulations. Accessible entrance ramps that lead to doors with a minimum width of 32 inches are crucial, as are walkways that are a minimum of 36-inches wide.

One other thing—for obvious reasons, try not to locate dining areas close to the restrooms.

  1. Inadequate lighting or Too Much Lighting

Exterior lighting and interior lighting should not be overlooked when planning your restaurant. Outside, you’ll want to use lighting to not only illuminate walkways and entrances for your guests but also to highlight your concept and signage. Inside, lighting will depend on your theme or concept. If it’s a fine dining establishment, lighting should be low, but not low enough that your guests have trouble seeing their food (after all, you want to show off your fine cuisine!). The good news is your contractor can recommend light controls that help you regulate the mood of your eatery with dimmer switches, wall station controllers, or timers.

If you’re going for a family-friendly design or have buffets, the lighting should be more brilliant, but not oppressively so. Whatever the mood you want to create in the dining room, the kitchen area needs to be well lit, so the kitchen staff can see what they’re preparing and make sure work stations are clean.

  1. Acoustical Issues

Lighting isn’t the only element you should consider when it comes to the ambiance of your restaurant. The pleasant buzz you experience in a well-planned restaurant doesn’t happen by accident. Loud music can distract from or drown out conversations, while no music can create tension or awkward, unintentional eavesdropping. No one wants to have to shout to be heard in a restaurant, just like no one wants to have to whisper. To remedy this, make sure your restaurant is equipped with a high-quality sound system, noise absorbing window and wall treatments, and acoustic ceiling tiles. Click here to learn more about the unique acoustic challenges of restaurants and commercial spaces and how to address them.

  1. Restroom Doors

After using the facilities and washing your hands, the last thing you want to do in a public restroom is touch the door knob or handle. When doors swing into the restroom rather than out, you have no choice. In most instances a good designer or construction company will find a way to make the doors swing out from the restroom. In rare instances, however, it may not be possible or recommended, because the door may swing out into a high traffic area or interfere with the wait staff’s comings and goings. In these situations, it’s best to create an alcove for a trash receptacle near the door or at the very least install a recessed trash and paper towel dispenser on the way out of the restroom.

  1. Flooring Issues

During the construction phase of your restaurant you get one chance to get the plumbing issues right. According to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Division of food safety, “Floor drains are necessary in all rooms receiving flush or flood type cleaning and where normal operations release water or other liquid waste on the floor. These floors must be graded to drain effectively, and the wall and floor junctures must be covered.” It’s a good idea to have floor drains in the restrooms, because they make good cleaning possible. Without drainage, dirt and grime can build up and be ground into the restroom floor, making it unattractive and eventually odorous. It can also be harder on your floor, reducing its life-span. At the very least, you’ll want to make sure your kitchen has adequate drainage in the walk-ins and near the washing stations.

Another common mistake made during restaurant construction is choosing cost over quality when it comes to flooring underlayment. While many restaurants have high-quality carpeting installed in the dining room, some owners opt for less expensive subflooring. This can actually wear out the carpet faster and be hard on your wait staff over the course of a shift.

For more information on restaurant flooring best practices, check out our Ultimate Guide to Slip-Resistant Flooring for Restaurants.

What to Do Now

If you’re planning a new restaurant and aren’t sure where to start, reach out to us today. Spending time with an experienced restaurant contractor before renovations commence can save a lot of time and money and avoid these common restaurant renovation mistakes.

RCA Contractors are experienced construction professionals who specialize in building restaurants and commercial structures. We’ll work with your ideas to provide you with new possibilities and a restaurant that reflects your taste, style, and vision.

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