Navigating the Flow of Restaurant Design and Implementation: From Engaging a Project Manager to Grand Opening

Opening a restaurant is both exciting and complex, especially if you want to establish a standout presence in the industry. There are many steps involved, beyond design and construction, such as researching demographics, selecting an ideal location, menu planning, and obtaining necessary licenses and permits. This blog post will take you through the process from selecting a project manager and designing the experience to the grand opening.

Our story begins with Corie, a passionate chef with a vision of opening her own restaurant in Anytown, USA.


Step 1: Engaging a Project Manager

Determined, excited, and nervous, Corie is ready to jump feet first into this endeavor. Her business acumen and years in the industry have taught her that the foundation of any successful restaurant begins with selecting the right location and partners. She and her team have decided to employ a project manager to help them navigate each phase of the project lifecycle.


A project manager's expertise helps them effectively plan and coordinate various tasks and resources involved in the restaurant opening, such as securing permits, designing the space, ordering equipment, and hiring staff. By having this teammate involved from the start, they can develop a comprehensive project plan, set clear timelines and milestones, and identify and mitigate potential risks and issues before they escalate. Their attention to detail and organizational skills ensures that all tasks are properly sequenced and executed, preventing any delays or budget overruns. Furthermore, their ability to manage and communicate with different stakeholders, including contractors, suppliers, and staff, enables better collaboration and ensures that everyone is working towards the common goal of opening the restaurant successfully, on-time and within budget.

Step 2: Site Selection


With funding and financial backing in hand, Corie is ready to begin the search for the site that will bear her brand's name. This is an important step, as the site she chooses will significantly impact the restaurant's visibility, accessibility, and overall success.


When considering her site, Corie works with her project manager to thoroughly evaluate customer demographics, foot traffic, nearby competitors, landlord contracts, tenant improvement (TI) funds, and zoning regulations. During this stage, they conduct a feasibility study or a Site Investigation Report (SIR) and file a solid work letter with the landlord, which are extremely important checkpoints.


Step 3: Programming and Concept Design

After finding the optimal site, Corie and her team are ready to move into the next phase: programming and concept design. This step involves developing a shared, consistent framework, including a project scope and construction budget. Seamless coordination among architects, designers, civil engineers, MEP engineers, and structural engineers is vital to ensure all elements are harmonized for an efficient final product.

Her project manager will help ensure this harmony by distributing a Request for Proposal (RFP) to design firms who will help confirm that the site aligns with Corie’s vision. Collaboration with professionals during this stage is critical, as it involves evaluating floorplans, interior and exterior elevation drawings, and 3D studies to select the best plan moving forward. At the end of this step, the design team will have a comprehensive understanding of the overall program, allowing them to begin refining the design for final drawings.

Step 4: Designing Experience, Optimizing Functionality


Now, Corie and the design team can shift their focus to the restaurant's end users: employees and customers. This phase focuses on both the functionality and the ambiance: the experience that reflects her brand’s identity. This is a multifaceted approach that involves the architect and engineers, as well as collaboration with interior design, experiential design + branding, landscape architecture, and FF&E procurement professionals who work together to enhance the interior and exterior aspects of the restaurant such as refining floorplans, architectural accents, branding, environmental graphic design, and the selection of finish and fixtures. All these elements contribute to the overall “feel” of the restaurant. Corie recognizes the significance of working alongside experienced architects and designers to develop ideas that resonate with her target audience while prioritizing the functionality of operations. Once this process is complete, the design team will have a clear direction to create technical documents for bidding and obtaining construction permits.


Step 5: The Construction Process: Permits and Bidding

Once the construction documents are complete, the project manager will work with Corie to engage a general contractor by distributing an RFP to a list of qualified firms, taking time to review their bids, and awarding the general contractor that fits best with the project schedule and design needs. The project manager conducts regular meetings with the design team, general contractor, suppliers, and other stakeholders to maintain the design intent, and ensure effective communication to keep the project on schedule and within budget through construction closeout.

Step 6: The Grand Opening


Starting a restaurant is a journey that involves several interconnected steps, each of which requires careful execution. With the guidance of an experienced project manager, Corie successfully opened her restaurant on time and within budget. At Core States Group, we pride ourselves on playing a central role in simplifying these complex processes for our clients. With over two decades of experience, we have been committed to facilitating streamlined approaches for leading brands. Our extensive team, spread across 18 offices nationwide and comprising more than 500 skilled professionals, offers comprehensive in-house services such as architecture, interior design, experiential design + branding, FF&E procurement, placemaking + urbanism, civil engineering, MEP engineering, power systems engineering, structural engineering, program management, construction programs, energy, and permitting solutions.


Our unique model is designed to boost efficiency, minimize the need for redesigns, and reduce the occurrence of change orders. We believe collaboration among the entire project team is crucial in achieving success for single restaurant locations and established national brands. Learn more about our restaurant experience by clicking here.

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jill ventura

Director of Restaurants