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Project Management for restaurant fit-out

Restaurant construction projects usually involve the fit-out or refurbishment of a space within an existing or new development. These projects offer a distinct set of challenges that range from specific planning requirements to tight timeframes.

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Commercial considerations for restaurant fit out projects

Restaurant projects need to demonstrate the brand’s identity, whilst also creating a functional and operational space that allows the restaurant to work smoothly. Creating a space that adheres to both of these requirements can be costly and time consuming. At Iconic, we have worked with several restaurant clients to value engineer their restaurant space and construct them an aesthetically pleasing, but functional final product.

Bar stools and a bar-style table in front of a window at Poke House's Covent Garden restaurant

Value engineering Poke House restaurants

We collaborated with Poke House to value engineer their space, ensuring it not only looks appealing but also allows the rapid preparation of food inherent to their quick-service restaurant model.

Efficient kitchen planning

To add value to their restaurant we carried out several tasks. The first of these tasks involved reducing the footprint of their preparation area. Initially, the Poke House restaurant design featured an large preparation area with a significant amount of underused space. We assessed how much counter, refrigeration and freezer space Poke House actually required and concluded that the preparation area could be substantially reduced. This reduction in preparation space allowed Poke House to consider moving into restaurant units with a smaller footprint. Since they typically have lower overheads such as rent, Poke House was able to cut costs from the very beginning of each project.

The front-of-house service counter in a Poke House restaurant

Counter redesign

Another value engineering task we completed for Poke House was an assessment and redesign of their front-of-house service counter. The original counter design at Poke House consisted of custom-made refrigeration units that needed separate condensing units. This resulted in extended lead times and reduced buildability, as the condensing units required close proximity to the counter. Consequently, this limited Poke House's flexibility in constructing restaurants in various spaces; the counter's design narrowed the range of potential restaurant locations and made the construction process more challenging.

The redesign of the counter involved compartmentalising it into several standard sections for cost-effective construction using off-the-shelf equipment. This modular approach enabled flexible assembly based on the unit's shape and space, allowing Poke House to select restaurants based on their overall qualities rather than counter construction constraints.

Design considerations for restaurant projects

Every restaurant brand will have a unique design to help them stand out visually, as well as through their food and beverages. The design of a restaurant will typically integrate the following services:


Heating, ventilation, extraction and air conditioning are paramount in a restaurant space. Restaurants tend to have lots of fridges, freezers and ovens that all create a lot of heat. To ensure that the restaurant stays at an ambient temperature, it is important that the heat is removed from the space as quickly and efficiently as possible.


Restaurants typically demand a substantial power supply due to the numerous appliances that need electricity. Consequently, it is crucial to evaluate the electrical capacity of the premises early on, allowing the project manager to request any required additional capacity from the power provider.


Restaurant spaces tend to consume and dispose of large quantities of water through washing and consumption. It may be necessary for grease traps or macerators to be installed on the wastewater plumbing route to prevent any blockages or damaged pipework. The project manager will assess your water requirements and make an allowance for any necessary equipment in the project's design.

Groundworks to create a drive-thru lane at a Tim Hortons restaurant

Stakeholder management for restaurant projects

Restaurant fit-outs, like all commercial construction projects, typically involve a diverse group of stakeholders. Beyond developers, architects, contractors, and third-party vendors, restaurateurs must also take into account the effect of their project on the local community. This consideration is especially important for drive-thru establishments or restaurants operating with extended hours. To guarantee alignment with the project's objectives and schedule, effective communication and coordination among all parties is essential.

Cost control and management

In restaurant fit-out projects, where budgets are often tight, keeping control of cost is critical. Keeping the project within budget is achieved through careful planning, cost forecasting, and continuous tracking of expenditures during the construction phase. The project manager will work the client from the outset to identify any overlooked requirements by reassessing the project brief and examining the business's Standard Operating Procedures.

The construction phase

Managing the logistics of the construction phase of a restaurant fit-out project involves several critical tasks to ensure a smooth and efficient process. Key aspects include:

Material procurement and delivery

Coordinating the timely procurement and delivery of construction materials is essential. Deliveries must be scheduled in accordance with the construction timeline to ensure that materials arrive on site at the moment they are needed. In urban areas, careful planning is needed to gain access to the site, navigating traffic and limited unloading spaces.

Storage solutions

Appropriate on-site storage of materials is crucial, especially in sites where space is tight. Materials need to be stored in such a way that they are easily accessible when needed, and are protected from damage or theft. Temporary storage solutions such as off-site warehouses might be necessary.

The almost complete interior of a Tim Hortons restaurant. The furniture has been installed but still has protective coverings. Scaffolding and landscaping works can be seen through the windows

Inventory management

Keeping track of inventory is vital to prevent shortages or overstocking. Implementing an inventory control system helps monitor material usage and maintain optimal stock levels. This prevents the delays that can come from a lack of materials.

Scheduling and sequencing

Effective communication with contractors and subcontractors is essential to make sure that activities happen in the right sequence and prevent conflicts. This includes coordinating different trades, such as electricians, plumbers, and carpenters, to ensure they work in the correct order. Regular meetings and updates help ensure that everyone is on the same page and that the project will progress according to the plan.

Compliance and permits

Ensuring that all construction activities comply with local building control and regulations is necessary. This includes obtaining the required permits and inspections at various stages of the project.

Safety management

Prioritising safety on the construction site is paramount. Ensuring that all workers are trained and equipped with the necessary safety gear prevents accidents and injuries.

Quality control

Regular quality checks and inspections throughout the construction phase help ensure that the work meets the required standards and specifications. Addressing any issues promptly prevents expensive rework and delays.

The interior of a busy Yolk restaurant in London

Flexibility and adaptability

Being prepared to adapt to unforeseen challenges and changes is important. This includes having contingency plans in place and being able to quickly respond to issues such as delays in material delivery or changes in design.

Compliance with regulations

Adhering to local regulations and building control is crucial for restaurant fit-out projects, often situated in public areas adjacent to or within other structures. The design of spaces that comply with safety, fire, and accessibility standards, whilst also respecting zoning laws and permit limitations, can be a challenging task.

The need for planning consent from the local authority depends on the scope of the work, and it may come with conditions. It is the project manager's duty to ensure that the team adheres to these conditions before the project's completion or within the deadline set by the planning authority.

For any external signage on the retail premises, advertisement consent is typically necessary. The project manager will help obtain this consent, often seeking guidance from a planning consultant knowledgeable about the local planning regulations.

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Oscar Hewitt

Oscar was Iconic’s first project management apprentice and is currently studying BSc Construction Management (MRICS) at the University College of Estate Management.

He has taken full responsibility for successfully delivering small programmes of works, including hundreds of small works projects across a retail bank estate. He has also assisted with the fit out of a retail unit and a number of quick service restaurants.

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