Do you want to hire an architect to design your entire restaurant plan? If YES, here are tips on how to get an architect for your restaurant. Restaurant architects design restaurants and are expected to develop the overall look, design, and feel of the establishment. These creative architects also produce plans for the buildings and usually work with construction crews to build the restaurant.

What is the Role of a Restaurant Architect?

A restaurant architect’s major role is to create a set of documents that show the design intent, – how your restaurant concept should be established – according to all applicable codes, including building, accessibility, and egress.

These architects work through every phase of the restaurant construction process. Beginning from the initial conception through completion of construction, a restaurant architect should be one of the first people you bring onboard your team.

A restaurant architect is also expected to interact extensively with every vendor and consultant on the team – construction or not – throughout the life of the project. Indeed there are a lot to consider when it comes to restaurant design, construction and choosing a good architect. Read on as we dissect the various needs and factors to consider when seeking a good architect for your restaurant.

Tips on How to Get an Architect for a Restaurant

Hiring an architect for your new restaurant is a daunting task, especially with the proliferation of design studios and architectural professionals. Nonetheless, you should consider these factors when short listing architects:

  • Are they registered with their state’s Board? All architects are mandated by law to be duly registered, and you have to make sure you shortlist one that is. This guarantees a certain basic standard of work, and means they will have professional indemnity insurance in case anything goes wrong and you need to pursue compensation.
  • What type of architect are they? Aside the fact there are architects who specialize in a particular industry, you will have to consider if you need someone more creative to bring your space to life, or someone who will execute your idea perfectly?
  • What level of service do you need? Are you looking for creative designs to determine budget and get planning permission, do you need full detailed architectural plans, or do you need someone to oversee the entire process until completion?
  • Are you likely to run into problems with planning permission or building control? If you suspect that something like this might happen, it is a good idea to shortlist architects that are familiar with local planning policy and attitudes in your local authority, and can show a track record of successful applications
  • Are they a chartered architect? Although not a major criteria but you might prefer this, as chartered architects are bound by a strict professional code that means they need to act honourably, independently and efficiently.
  • Are you worried about the budget? If so, get an architect who is strong on managing costs and doesn’t keep trying to push expensive extras on you

5 Factors to Look Out For When Choosing an Architect for a Restaurant

Hiring a good architect for your new restaurant is a challenging process that involves a lot of considerations and factors. With advances in software and better resources available, portfolios look good on paper – but to select a good architect against many others, here are five key factors you will have to consider, in no particular order:

i. Experience

Businesses in the food service industry have a unique set of design requirements. These designs always go beyond designing collaterals to crafting a holistic experience. A good architect with prior experience of developing other restaurant formats would boost of a certain amount of domain expertise and would also understand the intricacies of the industry.

Note that this allows for a faster and smoother process while developing the design and also enables the architect to bring in learning from other projects as well.

ii. Attention to Detail

Even though broad-based strategic thinking is imperative, what really makes a restaurant stand out is the attention to details. This can be the furniture choice or the table setting or simply the way servers greet the patrons, the restaurant brand really comes alive and speaks volume through these multiple interactions.

An architect needs to possess obsessive attention to detail – looking at every element not just from his or her perspective but more expediently from the point of view of people it is being designed for – servers, patrons and owners alike.

iii. Ability to Work as a Partner and not a Vendor

When designing your restaurant, it is very crucial to work with a team which is bringing in independent thought, attention to detail and experience to the table. And when you do align with such professionals it is very imperative to enable them to come onboard as a thought partner, not a vendor who is executing.

Remember that most successful restaurants are more or less the result of a collaboration of a shared vision. While identifying who you want to work with – look for someone who shares your passion and enthusiasm about your brand and is as excited as you to build this together.

iv. Original Thought

In this the social media age, an age where every other trendy restaurant looks like something you’ve seen before, innovation and original thought is what ultimately stands the test of time. It is very advisable to look for architects who are able to present their work not with visuals but with a strategy or flair that defines a principle or a vision that informs their work. Chances are – their process starts with a degree of innovative original thinking and not a Facebook post.

v. Ability to Think Strategically

Strategic thinking ensures that the restaurateur is working with someone or a team who is able to think about the larger picture – beyond just the ‘creative’ inputs. Note that the design has the power to shape behaviour, define experiences and build a brand.

Strategic thinking can take many forms – beginning from positioning the brand to defining the concept of the restaurant. A good architect that is able to bring designing thinking into the process enables a deeper and ultimately more successful impact.

10 Questions to Ask Before Hiring an Architect for a Restaurant

Agreeably, finding the right architect for your restaurant project may require some effort, but taking time to research and analyze your options can certainly pay off once your restaurant is complete. Below are questions you are expected to ask before choosing an Architect for your restaurant project.

1. What are the different services that you can provide?

Before you make any final decisions, it is pertinent you compare the different types of services each prospective architect can provide. For example, some people consider it to be very important for an architect to provide 3D services in addition to 2D services. Some prefer an architect that has a very specific specialty and others prefer an architect that has a much broader set of capabilities.

2. Can I see some examples of your work?

Note that asking good questions are obviously a very good way to understand the different architects you are considering. But, normally, the best approach for you to figure out the team that is most compatible with your vision is to ask to see some real samples of their work.

Being able to see these samples will not only show the architects design prospective, but will also help you be more confident in your decision by knowing they have the experience necessary to get the job done.

3. What will I need to provide for this project to be a success?

Do not underestimate the level of personal involvement that will be required throughout the course of the project. Note that some architects prefer to have their clients highly involved throughout the project’s entirety. Others choose to use a more “hands off” approach and have the freedom to apply their own creative expertise. But irrespective of the approach you prefer, you will want to make sure to find a team that will be able to adapt.

4. How will you overcome the challenges associated with this project?

We all agree that planning in advance can help a project go smoothly, but there are still factors and a number of different challenges that might surface along the way. Note that these challenges can range from materials being delivered late, problems relating to building codes, foundation issues, and everything in between.

Remember that the best architects are the ones that can not only create a solid design plan in advance—they can also adapt to new challenges as they begin to come up. Adaptability is a very desirable quality you will want to be sure to ask about in advance.

5. What makes you different from other architects?

This is the question that is meant to be the foundation of your final decision in a design team. Indeed there are so many good architects and design teams throughout the entire industry. Note there isn’t one architect that will always be the best option. When making a final choice, it is generally a good idea to utilize a comparative approach.

Some architects pride themselves on their extensive amount of experience. While some are more proud of what they believe is their own artistic genius. When you have a list of the different design teams and architects you are considering, it will make your final decision much easier.

6. What are the key principles of your design philosophy?

In terms of designing a new structure, every architect is going to have a different philosophy. Note that some architects prefer to leverage classic styles and techniques; others prefer to take an approach that they believe is more revolutionary.

However, the best architects for Restaurants are the ones who can stick to their underlying principles while also being able to adapt to the specific needs of each of their clients. Howbeit, as you begin interviewing the different architects you are considering, you will want to make sure that their typical approach to design is something that aligns with your personal goals.

7. Why this project interests you?

Note that the most notable reason why a prospective architect will want to work with you is that doing so is good for their business. Howbeit, you will also want to make sure the project you are proposing is something the architect can really commit themselves to getting involved with.

Whether the architect is committed because of their personal interests or because it falls within their specific area of expertise, asking this question can help you understand things more and also make a profound decision.

8. How much time can you commit to this project?

The last thing you will want to do is pick an architect that is unable to devote the amount of time required to complete the project. The design process is something that requires a lot of time. Always ensure the team is fully available.

9. What are the steps in your design process?

First you have to understand there is not one “right” way to design or reconstruct a Restaurant, unless you are working with a franchise. However, when it comes to your specific project, there are likely some approaches to the design process that will be more effective than others.

That is why asking the team about the different steps in their usual process can help you get a better view of what will be involved along the way. Also note that it can help you distinguish the best architects from the more mediocre ones.

10. What are the dynamics of your design team?

Since the design process is something that tends to vary between different architects, the dynamics of the team is something you will want to compare as well. Note that some teams have a top-down approach to designing while others prefer to utilize a more collaborative effort. The team dynamic that will be most compatible with you will largely depend on the specific vision you have in mind.

How Much Should You Pay an Architect for a Restaurant Project?

Note that the amount you will pay to any architect will depend on the type and size of the project, their past experience, and the budget you have. Nonetheless, here are pricing structures used by architects in the United States;

a. Adjustable Fixed Fee

This fee which also known as lump sum and, as you can guess from the name, is the set sum, negotiated with the architect. This sort of arrangement is only suitable if the scope, schedule and all other variables have already been determined with reasonable accuracy.

Also note that the total sum is equal to the fixed fee arranged only if there are no change requests or any other events that are out of the designer’s control. However, in case the size of the project or services scope increases or decreases, then the lump sum fee must be adjusted.

b. Time-Based Fee

Have it in mind that this type of fee relies on agreed-to hourly or daily (per diem) rate. It works best in cases when services are difficult to determine in advance or scope is undefined. Here are a few examples where time-based fees would be appropriate:

  • services which are not well defined
  • pre-design services
  • partial services
  • renovation projects
  • conceptual design
  • separate project phase
  • expert witnessing
  • specialist expertise

Nonetheless, when agreeing to a time-based fee, especially if it is a large project, always ensure you also agree on when the fee will be reviewed (e.g. annual review), so that corrections based on inflation can be made.

c. Percentage-Based Fee

Note that this percentage-based fee works on a sliding scale and tends to also depend on what size, type, and budget the project is. It can differ a lot for different architects, since plenty of variables should be taken in to account. Architect fees are typically structured in this way, although most only take it as a loose guide. Since percentage-based architect fees are extremely hard to calculate, it is not suitable for the majority of renovation or custom projects.

Conclusion

The entire design and construction process when building a restaurant can be stressful and arduous, but having the right team in place will make the experience unforgettable. Agreeably, you may be the brains behind the operation, but the most crucial thing is to understand that you can’t do it all when creating a Restaurant.

Conduct your research, talk to people in the industry, and find the restaurant architect who is right for you and your project. Trust in your team, and you’ll put your restaurant in the best position to succeed before it even opens.

Solomon. O'Chucks
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