I sat down with the JH himself, Jim H. Greene, and found what he’s been able to gather after 43 years of construction experience—specific to restaurants and the essentials in their construction. Everyone knows of that one place where the food is incredible, but the atmosphere is, well, discouraging. Imagine that type of space if the design and construction was stunning.
Case and point.
A restaurant’s environment can shape its success.
That brings us to my first question for Jim:
What do you believe is the most important area to remember in restaurant construction, whether casual or fine dining?
As with any kind of construction, communication is paramount. The design team must be in clear dialogue with the owners in conceptual phases so that their vision is fully ingrained in the architectural drawings. The project managers must have open lines of communication with the township to gather all requirements and approvals to move forward with permitting. The general contractor must be vocal about scheduling and budget allowances so that there are no surprises in either area. Subcontractors must open up with any potential roadblocks that are presented so that there is no delay in plans. Everyone involved needs to encourage the exchange of ideas so that the flow of information isn’t barricaded to one party.
What’re some of the rookie mistakes you’ve seen from first-time restaurant owners?
We once worked with a high-end restaurant client who was eager to get the ball rolling immediately, however he had some misconceptions that we needed to mend. It’s great to be able to open earlier than anticipated, but with great speed comes a higher potential to make mistakes if planned unrealistically. Even the strongest schedules are subject to disruptions, and it is smarter to plan with a safety buffer than rush and throw off your operational plans. Fast paced construction is never a bad thing, but rushed craftsmanship is somewhat of an oxymoron.
This same client was evaluating kitchen equipment and made the case for used pressure fryers, gas ranges and combination ovens. Although this seemed like the optimal choice with a price drop, there are seldom warranties or refunds. In the long run, this typically isn’t the best way to go, despite the speed in availability and potential savings.
A different client was looking to open a fast-casual restaurant, however the furnishings associated with the brand’s prototype did not meet accessibility codes and guidelines. This was a unique situation, because there was little room for deviation from the FF&E guidelines set. Fortunately, the ADA provides clear guidance on these situations and we were able to settle the issue through reviewing the requirements. If there are fixed tables in a restaurant (attached to either the floor or a wall), there must be 5% allocated to people using a wheelchair. There also are required surface heights and knee clearance requirements that should be taken into consideration so that the physically disabled have no issue being comfortable. These areas are critical in confirming, as it is a legal discrepancy if all customers are not able to navigate a space.
Not to “toot your own horn,” but what are some of the areas you believe JH Greene has raised expectations in restaurant construction that owners should anticipate from any GC partner?
After 43 years, you see a lot of challenges that prepare you to be better equipped in the future. From a project management angle, we’ve really firmed up our controls for change management, schedule definition and team integration. This means owners should anticipate someone who should guide a project, not wait for a push. When a GC takes the time to make sure scope and quality levels are where they need to be at all times, there is a trust that owners know their project is in good hands. This is where JH Greene thrives for their restaurant clients—whether a fast-food, casual sit-down, or high-end experience.