The franchise agreement is signed but store build-outs can be a minefield if not handled correctly. David E. Gross of GF55 Partners shows you how to make the process trouble-free.
You want the process to be fast and smooth. So how do you do that? Here are five points from an architect’s view that will save you time, money and frustration.
Experience in franchise work
National vs local architect
Build your team
1. Experience in franchise work
The architects are the team leaders and their experience is one of the most critical parts of your build out.
Choose an architect and general contractor with franchise experience that listen, and can see the boulders in the road to anticipate problems in advance. They will understand the needs and goals of your franchisee and serve as your advocate. An experienced team will be able to maximize advantages, provide solutions, be skilled at assessing and make the best design adjustments. This allows you to focus on other crucial aspects of the business, such as hiring staff and planning for your grand opening.
2. National vs. local architect
Often new franchisees debate whether to hire a nationally experienced franchise architect or a local architect. Always go with experience! A national architect knows the DNA of the brand and can help you move ahead without delay. It is not necessary to be local in order to design and complete a successful build out. Franchise professionals understand the work that needs to be done which saves you time and money. A national architect often costs less money because they become efficient and can grow with your franchise. You are not stuck trying to reinvent the wheel.
Understanding the mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems can save on build out costs. A proactive and experienced architecture team will discuss the landlord provided work with the client, and offer advice on what to negotiate.
3. Build your team
Build a team that shares your beliefs and is dedicated to accomplishing your goals. A successful team will work together, communicate and always look for ways to improve quality of space. The franchisee relies on the architect to coordinate with the client, brand, general contractor, building department, engineer and expeditor (if required). The architect plays a key role in minimizing extra costs to keep on budget and pushing the project forward with the fast time lines.
Having an experienced contractor or plan expediter who knows how to navigate local building departments for filing and approval process helps to make the job go smoother. One or two rounds of modifications with the DOB is not uncommon or an indication of a problem. Every building department has different inspectors who interpret the code slightly differently and issue different comments.
Large metropolitan areas require Building Department Expeditors to move drawings through the system and obtain building permits. In smaller towns and suburbs, the contractor will process the drawings though the Building Department.
The goal is to make the process seamless and to create efficient spaces with a fast turnaround time. An open and positive dialogue between franchisee, architect and general contractor is critical to achieving that goal. Things always come up during construction and the team should be able to work out field conditions collaboratively.
The architect will act as the team leader staying active on the job from site selection to grand opening. When a location is selected and currently occupied, the existing construction will often have hidden conditions. The architect will strongly advise you to negotiate your lease so the space is delivered clean and demolished to limit unforeseen conditions. If the space is not delivered clean and empty, confirm all the dimensions as there will be minor adjustments after demolition.
General contractors need to communicate upfront about conflicts in the field. Knowing early on in the process will allow the architect to provide the best solution with the lowest cost and least time wasted.
5. Size matters
The size of your store matters for many reasons. First, the larger your store, the more your construction costs will be. There are code issues and occupancy laws that will require more than one bathroom over a certain square footage. The electrical systems often have larger service sizes provided to larger spaces which can lead to more design work.
The size of existing HVAC unit and electrical panel matters. The landlord should provide this information to the architect to ensure sufficient capacity.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
David E. Gross, AIA is a founding partner of GF55 Partners, an architecture and interior design firm headquartered in New York City with an office in Miami. David leads the firm in Design and Project Development, as well as GF55’s Franchise Division. www.GF55.com
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