Challenges of restaurant renovations

By Scott Hamele

restaurant renovations

Three major factors of food service design

By Scott Hamele, DBIA President and founder of Construction DesignWorks, LLC and Nationwide Commercial Inspections, LLC

If anyone has attempted the remodel or modernization of an eating establishment, you know of the challenges of restaurant renovations. Constructing a new ground-up restaurant is in most cases a simpler process because you have the ability of pre-planning the optimal location of all the underlying equipment necessary that is part of operating a restaurant.

Moving a restaurant into an existing space or remodeling an existing location has its challenges that are unique to the hospitality sector. Our experience has shown there are exclusive advantages of design-build that lend itself perfectly when remodeling an existing space for food service use.

Major considerations of restaurant renovations

Grease tank interceptor

Most building code departments in jurisdictions throughout the United States will require a grease tank interceptor. The sole purpose of this expensive piece of equipment is to remove the fats, oil and grease (FOG) before it exits into the municipal sanitary treatment system.

Some of these tanks can be the size of a large vehicle and are almost always buried underground. You can imagine the area required to install this beast and the restraints put upon it. For example, it cannot be close to an underground utility, like the building water main, or it must be constructed to withstand the weight of a semi-truck parked above it.
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Commercial kitchen ventilation

The hood above the cooking surface is just the start of the equipment required to safely vent the air and particles created from cooking food. A commercial hood not only removes heat, smoke and steam around the cooking areas, it also extracts grease-laden particles from the air by way of removable filters.

In most cases, code requires the vent hood to include a fire suppression system, also known as an Ansul System. In the case of a fire, this system is designed to suppress it with a wet chemical agent.

All this vented air must exit somewhere. It can be easy to install a vent path through the roof of a one-story building or very difficult and costly through multiple stories. This path includes highly engineered equipment to protect the building structure and people. The vent duct includes layers of insulation, structural supports and stainless-steel components. All of which need to be installed by a professionally certified installer during restaurant renovations.

Make-up air

As explained above, the job of any kitchen hood is to exhaust air out of the building. In some cases, a commercial kitchen hood will exhaust up to 6,000 cubic feet per minute (CFM) as compared to a typical kitchen hood of 450 CFM. If you are exhausting that large of an amount of air through the roof, you then must replace that volume of air or “make up” that air into the space. The challenge can be the route in which the ductwork is installed to bring in fresh air from outside to the interior of the space. A make-up air unit provides several benefits for the space.

  • Improves air quality
  • Optimizes heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) performance
  • Removes unpleasant odors
  • Reduces energy bills
  • Eliminates back-drafting
  • Reduces excess kitchen FOG