Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Restaurant Web Sites

We live in the day of the tech-savvy customer. Today's dining customer wants a preview of their experience. Can they get that through your web site? Is your site attractive and informative for your customers? Do you also know, they are looking for menus, specials, accommodations and pictures showing ambiance. Your web site can be a key marketing tool for your success. Furthermore, you have an opportunity to reach your customer base with good consistent publicity by creating preferred customer data bases. Your customers can easily recommend your establishment to their friends via your website where they are likely getting their very first impression. The key to your site is the look and content. It is important to keep it fresh and relevant. National Restaurant Design is introducing full web site design and maintenance. More info to be available in the coming weeks.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

New Versus Used Equipment

Before you purchase food service equipment make sure you have a finished design. Many people will purchase equipment before a restaurant design firm has finished the layout. You never want to compromise your space by designing around already purchased equipment. Select your equipment based on the drawing and the equipment specified by your restaurant design firm. A good food service consultant will specify the type and brand of equipment that you request and require. Now that you have your finished design you can purchase the equipment. The restaurant design firm will provide you with a good bid specification package with all the needed accessories. Send it to at least three equipment supply companies for competitive bids. If you chose to supply your kitchen with used equipment make sure that it matches the specifications dictated by your restaurant design firm. You may have an opportunity to purchase used equipment that is similar but does not match your drawing. Consult with you restaurant designer. They will change the design to make the equipment fit if possible. Before purchasing used equipment consider the following.

Does the equipment fit your design and specifications, will the equipment do the job necessary to service your menu, how long is the warranty, how old is the equipment, is the equipment certified NSF and is it at least 40% cheaper than new. Consult with your local health department before purchasing. They will require you to provide them with the make, model number and specifications sheet.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Economic Design

Thousand's of dollars can be saved with great restaurant design and layout. That could be the determining factor that will allow you to move forward with your project. The importance of an independent food service designer/consultant can make a massive difference. They work without conflicts of interest. The following considerations are what is needed to accomplish economic restaurant design.

1. The restaurant designer should only specify the equipment needed to service your menu and clients.
2. Eliminate custom stainless steel kitchen equipment. Catalog equipment (buy-out) works just as well. Custom equipment is specified mainly to elevate the equipment package.
3. Reduce the amount of plumbing locations. A great restaurant designer will use as many shared plumbing rough-ins as possible. Thousands of dollars could easily be wasted with poor plumbing locations.
4. Design Green. Restaurant designers have a tendency to not pay any attention to energy savings. With the proper research, thousands of dollars can be saved with energy efficient equipment such as exhaust hoods, dishwashers, ice makers, cooking equipment and refrigeration.
5. Always look at alternative finishes in the dinning room. A good interior designer will give you many alternative finishes to expensive finishes such as granite.


Monday, October 20, 2008

The "Big Wow Factor"

The "big wow factor" is a term used for a customer's first impression when entering your establishment. It is an important component to the success of your restaurant, bar, lounge, or other food facility. It is also important to dedicate a significant amount of your budget to create that big wow factor. Some restaurant design firms ignore this component and eat up your budget with poor commercial kitchen design, unnecessary equipment and poor choices or placement of food service equipment. Let me explain...

  1. A good restaurant design firm will only specify the equipment that is necessary to service your customer in the most efficient way.
  2. The expert will design in a way that reduces the need for multiple plumbing and electrical rough-ins. That is a large part of the budget that can be squandered with absolutley no net return.
  3. The right designer will eliminate the need for custom equipment which is generally twice the cost of catalog-type of equipment.
  4. A great restaurant design firm will be very mindful of the "big wow factor" and not blow your entire budget in the kitchen.

Any more questions?


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

In These Tough Economic Times

The cost of opening a restaurant is a challenge in these tough economic times. There are ways to reduce you costs along with a few different ways of raising cash to outfit your restaurant with equipment and furnishing.
One real good source of cash is your landlord. If your build-out is $50,000.00 and you only have $30,000.00 renegotiate your lease. All or most landlords will give you a build-out allowance. Negotiate for more. They are also having a rough go of it. You may have to pay a bit more per square foot for rent, but it is a good source for cash. Consider leasing. There are many companies that specialize in food service equipment leases. Purchase GOOD used equipment. There is a lot out there. Lease your dishwasher and ice machine. They are very high maintenance items that are very easy to lease. You can lease those items from your food service supplier or a company like Eco lab without a problem. always choose an independent restaurant design consultant. They are only interested in your budget. An equipment company design staff will always cost you thousands more. Think about bringing in an investor. For some people that is a dirty word. It is a good option if you remain in control.

Concept and Vision

Before entering into the restaurant design phase of your project you must have a clear concept and vision for your space. Know the type of food and beverage you are serving, understand your method of service. recognize the clientele that you are targeting and have a vision of what your space is to look like. It is your concept and your vision. A great restaurant designer/ consultant can help you realize the above.


Monday, October 13, 2008

Conflicts of interest

There are many restaurant designers that call themselves consultants. There are two categories of restaurant designers. The first being the independent restaurant designer and the second is the restaurant equipment company that has a design staff. A true consulting firm has only the client in mind and eliminates all conflicts of interest. The design staff from a restaurant equipment company is required to draw and specify the equipment that they would like to sell you, not necessarily what you need. They specify custom equipment knowing that catalog equipment will do just fine at a fraction of the cost. Their goal is to sell you as much equipment as possible.That creates a major conflict of interest. An independent restaurant designer only has your best interest in mind. It is their job to draw according to your budget based on your concept, vision and the utmost efficiency. The independent restaurant design firm will create the best possible design, specify only the equipment necessary for your operation and create bid documents that enable you to have your project competitively bid. The bottom line is; hire an independent. You will receive a design by a food service expert, you will save thousands of dollars in equipment and mechanical costs and you will truly eliminate all conflicts of interest.


Friday, October 10, 2008

How on Earth Do You Start a Restaurant?

Starting a restaurant is as exciting as it is challenging, from the conceptual stages to the first drink and meal served. What you achieve in the conceptual stages of your restaurant design will certainly have a major impact be it good or bad. “Due diligence” is the operative phrase. Taking the proper steps can insure success and prevent entrepreneurial suicide. Think about all the tasks to be accomplished before the first meal is served. Here’s the concise list:
  1. Concept
  2. Site selection
  3. Space negotiations
  4. Facility design, construction
  5. Menu design, marketing
  6. Equipment purchasing, staffing
  7. Training, accounting and opening day.

Each one of these categories has its own specific list of tasks. It isn't just the restaurant kitchen or the dining room layout. It isn't just getting some restaurant design plans off the internet. You must commit to due diligence. To say any one aspect is less important than another is a grave mistake.

A great restaurant design is more than just the "big-wow-factor" when you first walk into a restaurant. A great design team will insure that four of the five sensory experiences (seeing, tasting, touching, hearing and smelling) are achieved with excellence. This along with the sense of taste, provided by the staff, is what will create the total dining experience for the guest. People go to restaurants today to be seen, heard, entertained, eat and drink. One aspect is as important as the other. This sensory design style can be achieved with the smallest of venues, be it a coffee shop, a school cafeteria or a high end restaurant. Great design is vital to the starting and success of every food service establishment.

There are several types of designers that may be involved in a foodservice project, including the architect, foodservice consultant / designer, graphic designer and interior designer. There may be additional designers required like audio/visual, lighting and mechanical designers. Most will fall under the umbrella of the architect. The absolute key component for the designers is the ability to interpret the vision of the owner/operator. The owner must have a clear foundational understanding of their concept and vision.

Let’s get started. What’s first? You understand your restaurant concept and vision, right? Document it in detail. In the beginning stages there are two design firms to bring on board. The first being an architectural firm and the second a foodservice consulting/design firm. I highly recommend these firms are hired independently. This eliminates a conflict of interest.

First, begin by interviewing several architectural firms. The architectural firm you hire must have restaurant design experience. There are so many foodservice code issues to deal with that an inexperienced architect will create a nightmarish scenario for your foodservice designer and all the tradesmen. The architect that you hire will assemble or assist you in assembling the remainder of the design team other than the foodservice consultant. Whether you are building from the ground up or occupying an existing space, an architect is vital and typically required by the municipality. The architect will design and allocate space according to your concept and vision. Be ready to be part of the design process. Communicate to the architect the necessity to achieve all the sensory experiences previously mentioned. Always be active in every part of the process. It is not unusual to review several drawings. Continue the drawing process until your vision has been realized.

Secondly, interview and hire a foodservice consulting/design firm which takes the architectural space and makes it functional with a great layout. The foodservice designer will be involved with the entire space, including the bar, kitchen, the side stations, seating and even restrooms. The foodservice designer then will specify each piece of equipment according to the food served, create mechanical plans for the architect and contractors, design construction installation elevations for the equipment installers, produce bid documents that will ensure competitive pricing, complete a quality assurance punch list and participate in fully developing your concept and vision. Hiring a foodservice designer is absolutely imperative. With the exceedingly high cost of real-estate and labor, improper utilization of space can cost you success.

I advise hiring an independent foodservice consultant/designer whose sole function is consultation and design, as opposed to those also selling equipment which can create a conflict of interest. A great designed facility will use every square foot of space strategically and efficiently. You want a professionally laid out space to accommodate a good lean crew not a track team running your restaurant. The whole sensory experience is affected by the quality of the design. Customer and employee friendly environments are achievable goals. Let the foodservice designer have an understanding of your budget and they will draw and specify equipment accordingly. You then can decide with whom to make your equipment and furnishing purchase through a competitive bidding process.

The combination of a great architect and foodservice consultant/designer will ensure that you will achieve the big-wow-factor in a very efficient space based on seeing, feeling, touching and hearing. And with the excellent professional staff that you assemble for the sense of taste, you will have created an unbelievable culinary experience.

Visit this blog again for more great tips, but don't stop here. Speak with a foodservice consultant for some free no-obligation advice to get you on the right track. You can even call me. Just visit my website for the contact info.