How To Project Your Opening Date
QUESTION FROM: Hannah N., Colorado
How long should it take to open a new restaurant? We're not building from scratch. We are leasing a 2,500 square foot retail space that needs to be fit out. The landlord delivered us a vanilla shell 6 months ago and we expected to open this month but seems like everything is taking twice as long. Is it [common] to run this far behind?
Hate to answer a question with more questions but wondering
#1. Did you sign any contracts that offer a good faith estimate of delivery dates - either from the Landlord or contractors? (Any good faith estimate should be pretty accurate - give or take 20%)
#2. How closely you are working with your construction manager and if you both are reviewing the same AIA plan / timeline.
While most of the openings I've worked on have taken anywhere from 8 months to a year and a half - there is really no set time. It depends on so many variables from local ordinances (from ADA compliance to parking), weather, street closings, contiguous construction, lease requirements, contractor performance and even the city's ability to tend to utility requirements.
I just had this conversation with a client this week: Planning on a specific open date is futile as well. Once you find your location and negotiate a equitable lease or purchase agreement (which could take months as well - don't be in a rush to make a mistake and be prepared to walk way from a place you "fall in love with".) you should be able to at least pin down your open date to Spring, Summer, Fall or Winter.
Due to vagaries of economy and seasonal fluctuations - there are distinct advantages and disadvantages to opening in any season.
There's no pause button to go back and re-do things or re-train people properly once things get humming so take your time and do it right.
In short - You open when you're ready - not when you had hoped to.
Understanding that from the beginning will serve you well in every aspect of managing the project from lease negotiation to (when applicable) to hiring and training. (With the excption of GM, Chef and Sous Chef - I wouldn't hire anyone until you have a stage on which they can practice their performance).
Hope that helps.