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FAQ’s about Hospitality Design.

FAQ’s about Hospitality Design. 1024 576 Nugget Design

If you’re considering opening a Cafe, Bar or Restaurant, then here are some frequently asked questions answered to put you on the right path.

Although every cafe, bar or restaurant design project is unique most people have similar initial questions when they first get in touch with us.

Why should I engage a professional designer for my restaurant, bar or cafe?

What are design fees and how much?

How long will my restaurant or cafe take to build?

How much will my restaurant, cafe or bar cost?

Can I use my own builder, joiner or other existing suppliers?

Do you have your own contractors and suppliers

Will I have to close my cafe, bar or restaurant during refurbishment?

What planning consents will I require for my cafe, bar or restaurant?

Why should I engage a professional designer for my restaurant, bar or cafe?
A professional designer will know how to design so that your restaurant, bar or cafe will best appeal to your customers and meet your business objectives. Restaurants, bars and cafes are known to be amongst the most technically-difficult interiors to design as well as one of the most risky categories of business start-up.
An experienced designer will understand the technicalities but will also have worked with many other restaurant, bar and cafe owners. Consequently, they will know many things you have yet to learn and will have first hand experience of many of the common pitfalls. They should tell you honestly if they think your own ideas will work and if they have reservations or doubts they should not be afraid to tell you and explain why and to come up with new positive suggestions.

A professional designer will help you develop and build a strong, marketable brand with clear, focused objectives. They will work with you over the whole life of your business.

Concept Plan for The Control Tower Restaurant

Concept Sketch for Restaurant Foodcourt in Germany

What are design fees and how much?

All professional designers charge design fees.
We can’t speak for others but the main source of income for us is directly from our creative consultant work directly from our clients. We charge design fees and also share our trade discounts with our clients so its always a win win for all parties involved. Most of the time we deal with the design and the contractors deal direct with the client for the build . (Although when asked we do also offer the full turnkey design and build solutions). We choose to work this way so that our advice is impartial and intended solely to meet your business objectives. So often clients are offered cheap or free design by contractors only so they can guarantee they get the build contract. This we find is a dis service as most of the time the contractors are purely thinking of profit and how they can do your project as cheap as possible, rather than what is best for the project or your busienss. If you are offered a cheap or free design I suggest you ask the designer to confirm that they are earning income only from you.

Design fees vary widely according to the size of the project, depth of involvement and experience of the designer. Typically, they will be between 10 and 20% of the cost of building your restaurant, bar or cafe. This is a small proportion of the cost in return for which you should receive:

• A beautiful restaurant, bar or cafe that is fit for purpose and appeals to your customers
• Someone to encourage you and guide you through your project from beginning to end
• Compliance with all government obligations such as building codes and regulations
• More time to work on running your business
• The benefit of the designer’s professional indemnity insurance in case things go wrong

Initial professional design fees may include, strategy, branding, interior design, shopfront and signage design.

Birds eye view layout plan of proposed restaurant and bar layout

How long will my restaurant or cafe take to build?
The shortest time for a minor project (up to 250k) is generally around 16 weeks from starting design work to commencing trading but this depends on the availability of contractors and is best avoided since working so fast can add to costs. However for larger projects we generally suggest allowing time for a 26 week program which can be followed comfortably for the interior design and building of most projects. We need to allow time to establish the brief, site survey, conceptualise your vision, develop the design based on feedback, prepare technical drawings and specifications, submit planning applications, value engineering and the tender process. All of these stages each take weeks to deliver and you must also allow for client feedback time too. We generally allow 1 week for client review time as any longer will hold up the program substantially. Other considerations for such projects are contractor tender times, supplier lead times Aden of course the time for construction which could take anything from 6-8 weeks depending on the size of the project.

Larger projects costing over £500,000 usually take 9 months to a year or more to complete.
If my team and I are managing a complete refurbishment we will act as quickly as we can. In the UK the slowest parts of the process are usually obtaining planning consent and building regulations approval from your council and obtaining tenders and quotations from builders and other suppliers.

This Interiors and branding phases should run hand in hand to ensure the design is consistent and coherent and that it’s all speaking the same language. When we run our projects we consider the full look and feel of both the brand and the interiors early on as part of our familiarisation and strategy – look and feel phases.

How much will my restaurant or cafe cost?
Refurbishing a cafe, bar or restaurant is never cheap. Restaurants and night clubs in particular can require very large investments. This is partly because of the need to keep up with your competition and partly to comply with all the rules and regulations that are getting more stringent every year. Also most good building and shop fitting firms are very busy and their prices reflect this. If you can find a builder who can act quickly and seems cheap then it is likely that they are not very good. Most good builders are booked well ahead.
It is impossible to say exactly how much your project will cost without preparing a design and having it properly priced. The only way to obtain an approximation is to find out what other similar, recent projects have cost. You may have been given a rough price or estimate. I advise you to be cautious of this unless it is based on project-specific drawings and has been prepared by an expert Quantity Surveyor.
We are often contacted by people who have engaged builders on flimsy agreements only to find that the price agreed did not cover even half of the work eventually needed.

Layout plans for Bank House Wine Bar and Kitchen

Your costs  and overheads

Before you even start with the design process a thorough business plan should be considered. This will help you establish your start up costs and of course all your ongoing overheads.

Although not directly associated with design and fit out costs, the overheads  do have a large impact on your total budget. 

Consider you rent, rates and services and how they may change with the design and build of the project. Existing restaurants may have little change, however new builds and full refurbishments may require the  installation of additional equipment which will almost certainly impact your overheads.

Although ,location Is super important with regards to foot traffic, it also in most cases means higher rents and rates. Ensure you consider this in terms of affordability before signing any lease. 

Almost always, your largest overhead is staff. Staffing costs will also be dependent on the type of service you offer.  Fast food offer will be significantly cheaper to operate than a fine dining restaurant .

Professional Services you may require

As the lead interior designer on you project we often are expected to work with a number of professionals to enable us to fully execute your project. This this varies depending on the specific requirements of each project.

Planning Consultants

Support with any planning applications,  regulations and permissions


Any Building structural related design works. On larger projects there is often already an architect appointed on the job.  

Quantity surveyor

Quantifies all materials required for the project and their associated costs and times.

General contractor

Responsible for all the general build 

Structural engineer

To consider any structural changes and heavy loads in the building.


Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning and fresh air flow too!

Lighting Designers

Although we consider all the light fittings and  produce lighting designs to follow the interiors lighting designers ensure everything is considered to the lux levels, ambience settings throughout the day/ night and help select the lamps specific to the look and feel your trying to achieve.

Project manager

To help ensure the project is run smoothly, on time and on budget.

 Fire Safety Consultant (Risk Accessor)

To ensure all the drawings / interiors comply with building regulations and ensure all fire doors, escape routes, exits, sprinkler and smoke alarm systems are fully considered.

Electrical and Services

Although we can identify all your small power, sockets, switches and dimmers, drainage, and water supply. In some cases a fully drawing up electrical and services plan is required. Electrical works must be signed off by a certified electrician as with any changed services by building regs. Its worth having them on the project from the outset. You may also need to deal with the local electrical board to ensure you have sufficient power supply to the premises for the loadings required for a commercial kitchen.

IT, Audio and Data.  

Everything from your internet / data and EPOS system to intergrade sound systems will depend on your final design and requirements of the project. This all needs to be considered prior to appointing a contractor to ensure everything is installed and wired before ceilings and walls go in.

Feature Elements

Such elements as New shopfronts, signage, menu boxes, awnings, windows and even new roofing can add up and become very expensive.  These are your first impressions to your clients and must have the right impact. Don’t wait till the end of the project to decide on these elements. They are not cheap, but they pay off!

Kitchen Bar Equipment Suppliers

We assume you already know the style of restaurant you want and the food you will be serving. This will allow you to make considered decisions on all the equipment you need for both the bar, kitchen and even waiter / service stations. We always suggest working with the head to ensure you are integrating the right equipment fir their needs. This equipment is very expensive and takes up a chunk of the budget, however in many cases our clients also lease all the equipment which is easier from the outset and also benefits from the regular servicing offered. Its also worth the kitchen suppliers working closely wioth the HVAC team to ensure all considered, air con and extraction is considered when defining their location and placement

Joiner for Bespoke Fittings

More often than not when creating a restaurant we design bespoke joinery such as the bar, feature walls, banquette seating,  shelving nd waiter stations. Bespoke jounery is more expensive than anything off the shelf but its fit for purpose and makes the most of all available space you have. The choice of martials used will determine the costs. However you shouldn’t let this discourage you from going bespoke. If we specify soldi wood, but the project comes in more than expected, we can always value engineer the materials down to veneers, and laminates if need be while still keeping the same look and feel and benefiting from having bespoke joinery. You mist plan this joinery into the schedule carefully  as they have longer lead times than anything off the shelf.

FF&E (Furniture, fixtures and equipment)

This refers to the movable or fixed furniture that doesn’t have a permanent fixture to the restuarnat / bar or café.. FF&E solutions enhancing the appeal of an interior but can also range hugely in cost. This however is the finishing touches to your project, has the most impact  and also often what makes the customer feel welcome and comfortable. The choices made with regards to flooring, wall coverings, artwork, tables and seating are what helps create the atmosphere your after. Being open with the designer at the oputset helps establish budgets for such items and allows the designer to specifiy accordingly while also creating the inviting, on brand space that your customers want to visit and return visiting to.


Most contractors allow for a contingency of around 10%. This is to allow for anything unforeseen that pops up along the way and still keep the project in budget.

We also suggest to our clients that they do the you don’t have to make any compromises on the design choices that come up along the way.

Example above shows how a considered layout will work in any size premises. This will ensure that your vision will be able to be implemented into any space whose also future proofing the designs making room for growth
Ole, Juice and smooth Kiosk in Budapest, Hungary

OK, but what are some rough costs?
Bearing in mind what we have mentioned above, here are some very rough example costs for complete refurbishments based on UK prices.

• A small cafe or wine bar of 20-50 covers started from scratch with new equipment will often cost about £75,000 to £150,000.
• A small restaurant of 50-70 covers, requiring an internal refurbishment but with an existing kitchen will often cost between £150,000 and £750,000.
• A medium-sized restaurant of 70-150 covers and a new rear building extension for kitchens or toilets usually costs at least £300,000 but can easily cost more than £1M.
• A large bar with a restaurant and function area for 300 users will often cost between
£500,000 and £2.5M.
• Work in big city centres such as London often costs more than work in the provinces because of higher labour costs, difficult site access, parking and other restrictions.
• Fitting out work in malls and other new developments often requires starting from scratch and working to high standards, especially in the Middle East. . We find that this is generally much more than most novice clients expect, but that it accords with our own experience. Regional prices vary due to different labour and material rates, but many fixtures and fittings are proprietary and so cost much the same all over the world.

No one project or client is the same . of course the project can be cheaper and also more expensive. It all depends on the client, their expectations and budgets they are prepared to invest.

An example of a clean yet cost effective shopfront solution.
Planning Layout for proposed Bank House Garden Extension

Can I use my own builder, joiner or other existing suppliers?
Absolutely. We will work with contractors and suppliers who are experienced, professional and capable of implementing our designs properly. You may know such people or firms or you may prefer us to make suggestions and recommendations from companies our other clients have used successfully. We will be pleased to work with you in either event. We’ll may well refuse to work with unqualified people or anyone whose normal work is not refurbishing cafes, bars or restaurants or up to the standard we expect for our clients.

An example of the creative concept stage. Food court concept design for shopping centre

Do you have your own contractors and suppliers?
Over the years we have forged wonderful relationships with contractors, manufacturers, joineres and suppliers. however we are happy for you to suggest and recommend builders and other suppliers we may not know, if you wish. We do not add any hidden mark-ups or make any secret profits from this. We get trade discounts where we can and we split them with our clients. This is a win win for all parties. You end up getting your items cheaper than retail and our time is also covered for the sourcing, specifications, and time it takes to procure these. We feel this is fair and so do all our clients.

Will I have to close my cafe, bar or restaurant during refurbishment?
It is almost impossible to safely and efficiently refurbish a trading cafe, bar or restaurant without closing, unless it is large enough so that the work can be phased. Even then the disruption to trade is so significant that it is often better to close temporarily and get the work over and done with sooner rather than later. You can then have an exciting re opening event when the work is finished and often this will more than make up for the lost business.
We aim to plan all building works so that as much as possible is done off site beforehand and the closed time is minimized.

What planning consents will I require for my cafe, bar or restaurant?

This again is a big topic and possibly one for another blog post, however we will try answer briefly below.

If you have a restaurant, pub or bar or takeaway you will require a premises with A3, A4 or A5 use classification. Some sandwich bars can be operated in premises with A1 use classification, usually when there is no primary food preparation or cooking on the premises but this is not always clear in the planning policies so we advise you to check with your local council’s planning department.
Normally, consent is easily obtained to convert an A5, A4, A3 or A2 premises to A1, but it is much more difficult to convert an A1 or A2 premises to A3, A4 or A5 or an A1 premises to A2, especially if it is larger than 150 sqm. A planning consultant can check the council policies in your area for you.
In addition, you’ll require planning permission for almost all external alterations to your premises including the installation of new shopfronts, building extensions, fume extraction, air-handing and plant, ductwork and signage.

We often are happy to introduce you to expert town planning consultants who advise you as the client and us as the designers and who can run appeals in the event of refusal.

In most countries you will require building control regulations approval (or the local equivalent) for many alterations. In the UK if your property is a listed building you will require listed buildings consent.
It is a criminal offence punishable with large fines or even imprisonment not to comply with the CDM 2015 (Construction Design and Management) Regulations.
In many countries if you are going to serve alcohol you will require a liquor license.
If you are planning to have live performances or play music you may also require a public entertainments license.

A set of good drawings often proves invaluable in obtaining consent quickly and inexpensively.
If you are a tenant you will require the consent of your landlord before you alter the premises.

Your solicitor will deal with this and we can provide them with any drawings they require; again good drawings will speed the process.
It is helpful to obtain a full structure and condition survey of any buildings you
are planning to convert to a cafe, bar or restaurant.
It is often advisable to have soil contamination, electrical, plumbing and drainage surveys – especially if the building is old. These can help us specify appropriate remedial works and protect you from unplanned delays and the costs of any damage caused by your builders.

If your project requires structural building alterations or inspections you will require a Structural Engineer.

If your project is large or complicated you may require a professional Mechanical and Electrical (M and E) consultant. This consultant will deal with all of the service installations, including heating, air handling, lighting, and fire services.

When you market the project you may require a public relations consultant, marketing materials, advertising a web site and social media prescence. We can provide you with all of these services as part of our design services.

Restaurant, Bar and Cafe Branding and identity design should guide and compliment the interior design

We hope you’ve enjoyed our notes
And remember, if you want a professional job, get a professional to do it : )

Good design makes good business sense. If you know you want to create a bar / restaurant / cafe then appoint a designer sooner than later, not just once you have signed the lease. It’s better to move into a space with a concept or idea of what you’re trying to achieve and use the rent free period to implement the vision rather than to start designing when you should be implementing. 

Bank House: Review by Grace Dent

Common stages of our design service:
Familiarisation and strategy
Concept design
Design development
Detailed design and tender packages
Tender and value engineering

These do take time, but save you more money and time in the long run if considered at the outset of the project.

Contact us at Nugget Design if you feel we are the right professional design agency for you and your next project.

Article by Ari Phillips and Nigel Witham