Why investing in your architect during the construction process could save you thousands

You’ve spent countless hours coordinating with your architect and designer to achieve carefully articulated drawings, and you’ve finally gotten the permit to begin construction. Ideally, you’ve had a discussion with your architect about who is going to make sure these plans come to life accurately, seamlessly and on-time before the project began. However, if you haven’t, it’s not too late. Here’s why you should have the conversation that puts construction administration in the architect’s hands and the architect’s eyes on your new development from the ground up.

They pay attention and can adapt the project

A design drawing is the intended building layout, but life happens. There are many factors or impediments that cause changes during construction, such as unexpected existing conditions and conflicts. This means that the fundamental makeup of your completed building may differ from the original design documents. However, the finished building’s skeleton can still be accurately reflected in an as-built drawing. These are drawings that the architect creates during construction to document and track any changes during the process. The design is updated “as the building is built” to reflect the most accurate depiction of the building’s construction versus its intended construction. These drawing updates also allow the project to be thoroughly re-coordinated as changes occur, rather than just addressing the singular change outside of its overall context.

When you’re ready to renovate seven to ten years down the road, having as-built documents will make that process easier and cheaper. You won’t have to pay an architect to come survey the entire space again. Even if you do, many of the changes tracked in as-builts are beneath the surface, making them very costly surprises once construction commences. Re-designing to accommodate for these surprises can take a considerable amount of time, and time is money during construction. The architects may have to redraw the changes (or simply note them), the revision may have to go through permitting again, and the sub-contractors could find other jobs if demobilized.

"time is money during construction."

This delay may sometimes take you from potentially beating your lease’s start date and earning revenue before you start paying rent to not starting on time and losing money once you start paying rent. Such losses, however, are avoidable by knowing what you’re going in to and planning accordingly based on your as-builts. Having an as-built can also financially benefit you by increasing the value of the facility if you go to sell it in the future. These documents can help take some of the guesswork out of the buyer’s due diligence process and thus increase the property’s potential value.

They keep you in check.

The architect may ask, “will you need a Certified Substantial Completion document signed?” Many landlords and lenders require tenants to have a signed Certified Substantial Completion and may not distribute their tenant improvement allowance without it. It’s important for an Owner or restauranteur to check their lease and/or loan documents to see if this requirement applies before construction begins, because it must be written and signed by the architect. The architect is verifying that the general contractor has does its job, which the architect can not claim unless they regularly visited the site. If the architect is responsible for the construction administration, they will already be visiting the site and can confirm that the job was done properly for no additional fee, as well as make sure that you know to check for this requirement.

Having an architect involved in construction administration can also save you from surprising, expensive change orders. Restauranteurs often visit emerging concept job sites to “check up on things.” This gives Contractors easy access to the Owner to ask in-the-moment questions. While it may sound convenient, it can often lead to costly change orders that the Owner didn’t realize were piling up. Then once construction is complete, the Contractors can come back and say “remember when you were on-site and agreed to this? Well, that change costs $100,000.” However, if the architect manages the change order and payment process, any change request is not valid unless it goes through the architect and gets signed off by the Owner.

They keep construction in check.

Another facet that often falls through the cracks when the architect is not kept involved is scheduling special inspections. Significant construction projects often require that a third-party vendor has a structural engineer sign off on proper installations. General contractors may say they can handle calling the inspectors in to scrutinize their work. This may not be your first rodeo with construction, and you may be confident in your ability to manage the process. Regardless, you both have other jobs to do and scheduling special inspections is often forgotten. This means you end up having to tear down completed construction to have certain parts inspected, which can cost several thousand dollars.

They keep your best interest in mind.

As a middleman between your vision and the execution of that vision, the architect is responsible for protecting your investment. Since they are the only ones that know the intricacies of how you want your space defined and the practical technicalities that are necessary to make it happen, they are equipped to ensure that what you think the space is going to look like is what is being built. Additionally, if the contractor says doing something differently will save money, but doesn’t know it will interfere with another design aspect that you expressed is important to you, the architect can step in and inform you of the decision you’ll need to consider. Being an intermediary also includes making sure you see the benefit from any savings promised.

At a bare minimum, you should be paying your architect to pay attention: creating as-builts, reminding you to check your lease, keeping an eye on the site, scheduling special inspections and making sure you know exactly what is being built.

You entrusted the architect with the details of your design. Entrust them with paying attention to the execution of those details as well.

1 problem, 3 solutions: QSR design challenges

With consumer trends changing and the fast-casual industry booming, it can be tough for quick service restaurants (QSR’s) to stay competitive. They’re expected to uphold their characteristic, high-speed production while now accommodating for the growth of mobile ordering and delivery. Then there’s the uphill battle against product quality perception when compared to their fast-casual counterparts, no matter how much they invest in high quality ingredients. The trick for QSR’s to overcome these obstacles and differentiate themselves in the market lies in strategically capitalizing on and taking advantage of design solutions that are already at their fingertips.

Kitchen drawing showing the movement of drive-thru orders vs. walk-in/delivery orders in a kitchen with duel make-up/assembly lines.

Line up – take the leap.

The increased popularity of delivery is no surprise or novelty. Now that third-party delivery services are in the picture, how do restaurants keep up? Considering QSR’s are better able to address delivery demand than any other restaurant category, many of them have already taken the leap to do so. A standard kitchen layout has a cook line that leads to a make-up/assembly line before it gets sent out to the floor or drive-thru. The most prudent concepts looking to satisfy walk-in, drive-thru and delivery demands are incorporating dual make-up/assemblylines and sometimes even dual cooklines. They designate one line for walk-in and delivery orders and the other line to accommodate drive-thru orders. Since QSR’s typically have a 60% drive-thru to 40% walk-in order ratio, the walk-in side has the bandwidth to help accommodate for delivery. The key to the second line, however, is making sure that you manage your labor to meet delivery needs. Many restaurants either don’t add the extra line or don’t manage their labor on the second line because of the additional capital and labor costs. Yes, adding a station increases both labor and capital costs. But the market and I are here to tell you now is the time to take the dual-line leap. You can quickly offset the costs if you manage up labor to meet the potential revenue you could be making with the added capacity. And if you don’t, someone else will. Worse yet, if you don’t and ticket times increase, service levels and customer satisfaction will fall and you’ll send your restaurant into a downward spiral of mediocre performance at best.

Focus on merchandising, efficiency and taking advantage of new cooking and holding technologies.

It’s inherent that potential customers perceive fast casual dining as higher quality than QSR’s. Even if a QSR invests in more expensive, higher-quality ingredients, this predisposed perception is often so strong that it can hamstring you against the fast-casual competition. The key here is changing the way you serve your product and how the consumer experiences it. Celebrate “hero items” through how you display/merchandise or better yet, cook/prepare them – from putting homestyle sides in homestyle serving vessels to sprucing up the condiment station for sweetening and creaming your coffee. Going above and beyond in displays to create “food theatre” that emphasizes and merchandizes certain items creates a positive impression around the products and overall brand quality. At the same time, you must positively impact the consumer experience with utmost efficiency. This means exceptional operations that lead to getting the quality product to the consumer in a timely, hospitable manner. It cannot be just “food theatre” or efficiency, it has to be both.

Cooking and holding advancements

QSR’s also need to stay up-to-date on the many advancements being made in cooking and holding technologies, and should be looking to take advantage of them every chance they get. A cook-chill-retherm process, for example, prevents food from stewing, overcooking and degrading as it sits in a steamtable. Instead, the food is cooked in water or steam just until done, chilled and quickly seared upon order so that it doesn’t sit and overcook or dry out. Similar advancements include holding technologies that allow you to pay very close attention to and precisely control heat and humidity to keep food warm for longer periods of time without changing the texture. From choosing between radiant and convection heat to controlling humidity, moisture or air flow, there are incredible technologies out there – QSR’s have to be open and willing to try them. There are also some amazing technologies associated with fast, automated cooking processes. High-efficiency charbroilers, for example, maintain consistency and quality without having to rely so heavily on the cooking staff.

Look for ways that technology can improve the customer experience though increasing person to person relations.

So, you’ve incorporated technology to improve your back-of-house operations and production, now it’s time to focus on your guest again. Don’t fall into the trap that replaces people with technology. Human interaction is a biological necessity and proves to enhance customer experience. Try to find ways for advancements in technology to facilitate this connection rather than replace it. For some QSR’s, this has looked like using tablets to “line bust” drive-thrus during peak times. They bring hospitable service directly to car windows, thus taking more orders and getting more cars through the line at an increased rate. Despite using a device that typically detracts from human interaction, the tablet facilitates the person-to-person interaction by bringing an additional face and service directly to the customer.


StarrDesign, Brain Storm Shelter Restaurants partner to Launch Entertainment Complexes

Design firm assists Brainstorm Shelter Restaurants in clarifying and enhancing the Twisted Root and Truck Yard brands to increase value and make them more scalable.

Charlotte, NC (Restaurant News Release) starrdesign, the design and architecture firm behind Pronto by Giada, Firebirds Wood Fired Grill, Original ChopShop, and more, has begun redesigning and further developing the Twisted Root and Truck Yard brands with Dallas-based Brain Storm Shelter Restaurants.

The original content of this post was featured on Restaurant News Release. Read full Restaurant News Release article here.