How to Save Money on Your Restaurant Contractor

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Talia Voss

Whether you’re building your restaurant from scratch or you’re renovating it, the process, in either case, is far from being simple.

As usual, you aim for the stars which is quite understandable. After all, you do want your restaurant to be the best in town, if not the nation. But neither the design on paper or the finished one in your head mean much until all work is done; and you got the keys to your restaurant in your hand.  And to reach your goal of a brick and mortar restaurant business, you'll have to work closely with a restaurant contractor.

But when opening a business, you're bound to jump over hurdles, maneuver your way around some unforeseen problems, and focus on your and your contractor's on the original plans; while trying to stay within budget. Along the way plans will change, costs will soar, and your budget will go out the window. To make the process of opening a restaurant as simple, and as inexpensive as possible, we've put together a list of how to save money when working with a restaurant contractor:

Be picky & choose the right restaurant contractor.

This might sound simple enough that you think it goes without saying. But you’d be surprised how many people don’t give this step the amount of time and careful consideration it deserves. The contractor is the person who’s responsible for turning your dreams into reality. So unless they know what they’re doing, and most importantly, have a good experience and proven track record of building restaurants, then they’re not the right contractor for you. An expensive contractor doesn't always mean that they're the right one for your restaurant business.

Your contractor should be familiar with the intricacies and challenges that such a process brings forth. Their skill is what will save you a lot of money down the line. So avoid going for the cheapest contractor. In fact, you should value experience highly when choosing your contractor. When the work stops because you’re stuck, you’ll rely on the contractor’s expertise to get you back on track again. The right contractor will also steer you away from the pitfalls and costly mistakes you might make; especially if you've never opened a restaurant before. And it goes without saying but don’t pick a contractor simply because they're family, or your friend who says they know what they're doing but so concrete examples.

It’s OK to ask for a discount.

Once you’ve found the contractor that you trust with your vision, budget, and plans, it’s time to get into details. This step might be lengthy but if you have the stomach for it, it will help you shave off some of the costs.

Say you’ve found the perfect contractor. You've discussed all the plans, listened to them make suggestions on how to improve the design or maybe find alternative materials to help you bring down the costs a little and you’re satisfied. You’re confident that this is the right contractor. Now it’s time to talk money. You ask him about their fees and without hesitation they give you a number, that's out of your budget.

Even if deep down you think this contractor is a genius and that he deserves every penny of his ask, there's no harm in asking for a discount. By no means should you be grossly low balling his fee; but rather don’t just agree to the cost. Press your advantage; at the end of the day, you are a potential client. Usually, contractors’ rates are not set in stone and they are not mandated by the law. Usually, the contractor will aim high to cover their costs but there's always wiggle room. If they say no, re-evaluate your costs and see if his fee is affordable. If you come to a mutual agreement to a free, then you're set!

Ask for a fixed price.

This is a very important point. You might come across a contractor who refuses to give you a definite answer when you ask about the costs. They might wave their hand vaguely and change the subject.

Don’t fall for it. Stand your ground and be ready to negotiate until the cows come home. This will save you money because it will help you set your budget and stick with it. That vague wave of the hand will end up costing you a lot more than you’ve thought; especially when work hasn’t started yet and you still have no idea of all the little problems that will crop up on almost a daily basis and threaten your budget and deadline.

Make sure that you've written all costs down on paper including the contractor’s fee, the cost of materials, labor, permits, and all the other entries on your list. If the contractor still refuses to give you a fixed price, consider looking for another contractor. Go back to the first step and be ready to do it all over again.

Don't pay for services in advance.

That’s a common mistake that even experienced owners, who have built countless restaurants many times before, might still fall into this trap. You look for the skilled carpenter, painter, or electrician and after discussing the work you want them to do for you they demand money in advance. Big mistake. Take a step back and give a hard no. You might hear excuses such as they need to buy materials and that’s why they need the money upfront. In that case, tell them you’d purchase the materials yourself. In fact, this is something you should anyway whether the subcontractors ask for money in advance or not. Buying the materials yourself not only will save you money but allow you to get good quality materials as well. Also, you might consider doing some of the easy jobs, such as painting, yourself.

These are some of the important ways to help you find the best restaurant contractor for your project and to keep the costs under control. It’s a long process so you’ll need to be patient and keep your feet firmly on the ground.

Once you get launched, be sure to use great people management software to manage your operations and restaurant!

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