LA Chefs issues: thoughts about 7 strategies to control opening costs

(Originally published April 10, 2014 on

Interesting article today from “Restaurant Hospitality” entilted “7 strategies to control opening costs.” Here’s the link to that article. Please click through to read the article before reading my thoughts below regarding this article’s “advice.”  RH’s article contains some good advice, some bad advice and some very glib advice.

For example, item #4, local codes vary in difficulty and enforcement so yes having an architect aware of the local code enforcement (as well as submission processes) is important, but an architect who knows the building type is also important. There are a lot of specific bldg and health dept. code requirements for restaurants. Additionally there are a lot of specific coordination issues with engineering and equipment that an architect who has done restaurants will know that another architect who hasn’t done restaurants won’t know. When drawings aren’t coordinated, and problems arise, that’s when change orders kill you. Thus hiring an architect without expertise may cost the owner money later in the construction process. Architecture like law is becoming more specialized. You wouldn’t go to a criminal defense attorney to resolve your divorce.

With #5 hiring your own subcontractors may or may not be problematic depending on the size of the job and where that job is located. In a unionized city doing this may be a disaster. Why is this problematic? Because it’s the GC’s job to sequence labor in a manner where trades follow one another in a logical fashion to get the get done. If the owner hires his own electrician to avoid markups, the GC may not have any control over that trade, so the electrician can potentially hold up the job for other trades. A good GC will make sure “critical path” items don’t hold up a job’s completion, so having separate prime contracts can be very detrimental. Sure the owner may save some mark-ups, but if the result is job delays that cause the project to take longer to open, then the markups saved is lost due to lost revenues from not being open sooner. Some work done off site like millwork may make sense to be owner provided, but again with coordination and installation there are issues that have to be worked out. Plus like noted above using any open shop (non-union) owner provided trade on a union job can get that job shut down in unionized cities or environments.

Regarding item #6 again job size matters plus health department codes have to be accounted for in the decision making process so having an food equipment designer may make a lot of sense to save time getting through regulatory processes, doing the most efficient design, and selecting the most appropriate equipment. Buying through a vendor may help with the costs of new equipment since those vendors can still offer a better price (including their mark-ups) than an end user can get buying directly….plus those vendors may be able to offer design services at a discounted price if they will realize the equipment sale

Regarding #7, yes as noted scale is important but a bit too glib here with comments like metals tend to be a bit more durable that other surfaces since this depends a lot on the metal and its finish. Some metals show every knick and dent. Others shiny metals require constant polishing. With fabrics, on the other hand, there are a gazillion options with varying degrees of durability. Durability is determined by pattern, material and double rubs. An “expert” be that an interior architect/interior designer familiar with restaurant appropriate fabrics and other materials including metals, tiles, trims can open up a client to a huge world of different possibilities. So again concept and scale are very important as to appropriateness. So blanket glib statements like “metal is the most durable” can be a nightmare.

Surfaces also impact acoustics which is something not enough restaurants consider. Acoustics and lighting create ambiance. Interiors in general reinforce a concept and or brand. So whether or not an owner engages an architect/interiors firm or firms depends again on scale as well as what makes sense for the job.
To understand my background on these issues please feel free to read my professional biography provided on my linkedin account by clicking this link:


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