When venturing into the restaurant business, one of the most crucial questions is: How much should you allocate for a restaurant fit-out? This question, often asked, is akin to asking, “How long is a piece of string?” There’s no straightforward answer, but there are guiding principles that can help in budgeting for this significant investment.

Understanding the Variables

Restaurant renovation costs vary greatly depending on several factors: the size of the space, its current condition, the materials used, and labor costs. The cost planning process is interactive and evolves with increasing detail as more information becomes available. Discussions around cost data can take various forms, each valid for checking and comparing costs, whether it’s distinct rates, detailed elemental unit rates, or costs per square meter of gross floor area.

Initial Planning Phase

Start by evaluating the existing condition of your restaurant or the proposed site. Hiring a professional team with industry experience is crucial in realising your vision. The brand personality of your restaurant plays a significant role in this phase. Ask yourself:

  • Who is your target demographic?
  • What kind of fare are you offering?
  • What dining experience do you wish to provide?

Having a clear idea of the atmosphere you want to manifest will streamline your renovation or fit-out decisions.

Briefing Specification Considerations

Decide on proposals for ceilings, decor, flooring, furniture, kitchen equipment (new or replacement), lighting, wall coverings, and window treatments. All these elements contribute significantly to the overall cost.

Setting Budgets

  • Spend time with potential clients to understand what makes a memorable dining experience for them.
  • Visit other local restaurants to see what works and what doesn’t.
  • Set a comfortable budget so you know what resources you have available.
  • Include sufficient contingency levels to accommodate unforeseen expenses.

Key Cost Factors

  • Size/Area: Average costs range between £1000 – £3000 per square meter. However, costs can vary significantly based on ‘fixed costs’ like kitchen, bars, and toilets.
  • Level of Specification: The level of specification, from basic to high-end, will impact the cost per square meter.
  • Type of Restaurant: The cost will be higher for a fine dining establishment compared to a fast-casual concept.
  • Scale of Repeat Fit-Out/Roll-Out: Initial implementations are usually more expensive than established roll-out concepts.

Specific Fit-Out Aspects

  • Front of House: The customer experience should align with the concept and ambiance you’re aiming for.
  • Furniture, Fixtures, and Equipment (FF&E): Typically, 30-40% of the budget is allocated to FF&E.
  • Services Installations: Consider aspects like extraction, fresh air supply, and maintenance.
  • Kitchen: A significant portion of the budget, sometimes as much as 60-70% of the entire budget.
  • Toilets: Costs vary based on specifications and whether you choose unisex or gender-specific toilets.

Employing Contractors Directly 

Consider employing certain contractors directly for installations such as music systems, security, or CCTV. This can help in managing ongoing costs and ensuring direct contact for essential services.

Choose your Interior Designers first and then everyone afterwards as they will be able to advise on the best contractors to obtain quotes from.

Summary Suggestions for Budgeting Your Hospitality Project

  • Hire a Professional Team: This can prevent unnecessary costs and frustrations.
  • Consider Your Brand and Personality: This will dictate the level of specification for your fit-out.
  • Engage with Prospective Clients: Their feedback is invaluable.
  • Allow for Contingency: Unforeseen issues are common in construction and equipment installation.
  • Consider Capital and Revenue Costs: How you structure your payment and funding of your fit-out is crucial.

In conclusion, while there is no ‘magic’ number for a restaurant fit-out budget, a thorough understanding of these factors and careful planning can help you make informed decisions. The key is to balance your vision with practicality and financial prudence.