Things To Consider When Signing A Foodservice Tenant Improvement Lease


Food Facility Selection
Food Facility Site Selection

The process of opening and designing a restaurant or other hospitality operation deals with a lot of unknowns that need to be addressed before the food service design process begins. Through this blog post we will go over a few of the more critical items to consider when checking out a viable foodservice operating facility location. This review can very likely save you time, money, and from the would have, could have, should haves…

The following is a list of conditions/items to review before signing a lease for a new foodservice establishment…

Is the location zoned for a foodservice operation facility

One of the very first items to do is check / verify if the location is zoned for the area to be a restaurant, cafe, bar or other type of foodservice operation. It is the responsibility of the owner to acquire all property information, requirements, and restrictions. This can be done by visiting your local building department and finding the appropriate desk to ask for zoning information. For more complicated foodservice projects, hiring an architecture firm or similar service that can preform a feasibility study on the potential property is always a prudent move. If you are purchasing an existing foodservice establishment, knowing the process of transfer of ownership can save a lot of time and money.

Type of foodservice operation

The type of foodservice facility will factor in the configuration, location, and size of the building. For example if you require a type I Exhaust Hood system you will have to find a way to exhaust the hot grease laden air in a legally allowable way described in the current building code for mechanical ventilation systems. Knowing what is above, on the sides, under, and on the roof will also be important issues to consider. Ventless hoods are an available option in places that are impossible to feasibly vent out to the exterior but are expensive and require filters that will need to be replaced on a regular bases.

Foodservice facilities plumbing requirements

Verify the building has a gas connection or can one be easily installed. In San Diego and most other counties gas appliances are significantly cheaper to run and maintain than their electric counter parts. Know roughly how many plumbing fixtures and if a grease trap will be required. In an existing space, one of more costly aspects of foodservice construction is digging up the floor and running new plumbing connections. Keeping the plumbing fixtures such as hand sinks, water closets, 3 compartment sinks, prep sinks, mop sinks, floor drains, and any other fixture that drains to the sewer system together as much as possible is a great way to keep the cost of foodservice construction down.

Food facilities power requirements

It is always a good idea to verify that the food facility has enough electricity to run all the required electrical foodservice equipment, the mechanical equipment, and the lighting fixtures. 200 amp 3 phase panels will work in most restaurants except for the larger commissary / cafeteria type food facilities will require multiple panels and sub panels. Power can typically be upgraded but in some situations there is a limit. Know roughly how many foodservice equipment items need and any other equipment/fixtures that require an electrical connection . Keep in mind that an electrical engineer or contractor can usually clear things up quickly when doing a site visit. Foodservice Design typical provides the electrical schedule for all the foodservice equipment as well as the rough in power connections.

Foodservice establishment ADA requirements

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements are constantly being added and revised. Knowing the requirements inside a restaurant, bar, or a commissary based on the type of establishment, be that grab and go, sit down dinning, and bars have different requirements for how many bathrooms will be required and how many have to be ADA compliant. In a small restaurant this is critical to size the restaurant for the requirements.  In short at the bare minimum, all restaurants are required to have at least one ADA compliant restroom that is accessible by employee’s at all times. Retail areas need to have at least one service counter that is ADA compliant as well. Depending on the restaurant the location of the bathrooms can be a crucial aspect on the design of a foodservice facility.

Owner of the building / Lease Structure

As anyone in the industry can tell you opening up a new foodservice established usually requires a lot of upgrading the existing space structurally, mechanical, and electrically which requires time and money before any actual cooking and serving to customers takes place. Having a lease that secures a few months rent free or some type of agreement with the owner about some the enhancements to the space should always be kept in mind before signing a new lease that requires a significant capital investment into the existing space.

Food service Design, Construction Documents, Permits, & Construction

Before the lease is signed or location secured it makes sense to get an idea of the time frame from then on until the project is complete and the doors are open. Depending on the health department, building department, and other authorities having jurisdiction, a seemly small scope of work can take months to be permitted and constructed. The size, complexity, and specifications for the foodservice facility will also factor into the time frame of design, permitting, and construction. With that in mind it is always a good to have a contractor and a foodservice design company one can consult that knows the process from start to finish.

More to come!