By Roger Robinson, Ph.D., SCORE Mentor

We at SCORE are dedicated to helping you get started and become successful business owners. As we continue with the “So You Want to Start a New Restaurant” series, we deal with construction. Construction is always a challenge — not matter what you’re building!

Building Your New Restaurant


If you are going to build or remodel a restaurant, your general contractor will need a set of scaled construction documents, often called “working drawings” for submittal to your local building and health department.

Typical drawings

Here is a list of typical drawings you’ll need for your contractor:

  • Cover Sheet with site and project information
  • Demolition Plan, if applicable
  • Store Front Elevations, if applicable
  • Partition/Construction Plan
  • Floor Plan with FF&E (Furniture, fixtures, and equipment)
  • Environmental Plans for Health Department
  • Finish Plans and Schedules
  • Kitchen Equipment Elevations
  • Wall Elevations
  • Exhaust and Make-up Air Plan
  • Refrigeration and Curb Plans
  • Plumbing and Electrical Rough-in Plans
  • Detail Drawings for custom cabinetry and fixtures
  • Furniture and Equipment Specifications
  • Reflected Ceiling Plan
  • Electrical and Telephone Plans
  • Mechanical Plan/ HVAC Plan
  • Door, Window and Ceiling Details
  • Other

Building Codes

All your plans, drawings, and specifications must be in compliance with the building and health codes that are applicable to your location and be approved by the following regulatory agencies.

  • County Health Department
  • Department of Building and Safety
  • Fire Marshall

Most restaurants must comply with the “Americans with Disabilities Act” (Mossier)

Construction Costs

  • Build out cost for a new restaurant +/- $80-150 per sq.ft
  • Furniture, Fixtures, Equipment +/- $20-30 per sq.ft. , consider used.
  • New, hot location rents = $28-38 per sq.ft.
  • Tenant Improvement allowance (TI) allowance (negotiable) up to of 20% rent.
  • Build Cost should not exceed 25% projected sales
  • Caveat gray vs. vanilla shell (gray totally unfinished) as well as allowance issues.
  • Caveat concept impulse (requires high traffic) vs. destination.
  • To project income calculate number of seats ( 2800 sq. ft. -> 100 seats incl. kitchen – total build out costs & fixtures = +/-_ 450k or $160/ft. furniture & equipment = 20-22% of total)
  • Remember parking safety and accessibility.

About the Author(s)

 Roger  S. Robinson, PH.D. (1927-2019)

Over a period of 50 years, following the Navy, Roger created and successfully operated a multi-unit entertainment, recreation enterprise in Michigan. During this time frame he was responsible for the entire organization including such activities as strategic planning, marketing, finances, personnel, etc.  It was during this time period that he enhanced his management and leadership skills...

Certified SCORE Mentor, Instructor, Greater Phoenix SCORE
A Building Guide for a Successful New Restaurant