The cost of restaurant renovation can vary significantly based on the scope of the project. For instance, are you opening a restaurant in the location of a former restaurant already equipped with a functional kitchen, electrical, and gas or will you be starting from scratch with your restaurant? Where is it located? What quality of finishes will you want throughout it? What kind of professionals do you plan to hire?

The Building Journal estimates a 5,000 square foot restaurant with mid-level finishes costs on average $160 per square foot. About $480,000. This cost includes everything from build-out to permits, design, and equipment. Until you sit down to develop your budget, your restaurant’s cost is unclear. As you plan out that initial budget, here are a few things to take into consideration.

Cost of Restaurant Design

Starting a restaurant can be a creative endeavor for many chefs or entrepreneurs. These types want to be hands-on through the design and construction process. They’ll want to work closely with the general contractor, architect, and designer to bring their vision to life.

Granted, not every project is going to require a designer. For instance, bringing a small cafe to life probably doesn’t warrant the hiring of a restaurant designer. However, anyone who does bring in a designer could pay anywhere from $25,000 to $500,000 or even more. In California, the “celebrity” quotient of the designer is always a pricing factor. Other factors include the amount of restaurant renovations needed to implement a certain design and exactly how elaborate the decor needs to be.

A good restaurant designer doesn’t just help you establish a place’s look and feel. They are also responsible for the all-important layout of your restaurant. A restaurant’s layout impacts the service flow from the kitchen to its patrons. Good flow gives your staff the ability to effectively perform their jobs even at the busiest of times.

Hiring an architect early in the process arms you with cost-effective expertise from the beginning of a project to its end. Not only will this spare you some headaches, but it can also save you significant money by avoiding costly mistakes or delays. A full-service architect can provide you with project management as well as interior design.

An experienced designer will figure out how to seat more patrons in your establishment. This alone equates to ROI since it increases income in the long run.

Cost of MEP (Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing) Components

Before you decide to rent or buy any space, it’s critical that you understand its MEPs (Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing) components. Something like a decrepit HVAC system can completely blow your budget and make another space more logistically and economically viable.

Cost to Acquire All Necessary Permits

A lot of local, state, and federal government regulations will need to be met; whether you’re renovating an existing restaurant or fitting out a new one. You’ll be dealing with zoning or building departments, fire departments, and utility providers. If you intend to serve alcohol at your establishment, and you’re moving into a space without a current liquor license, you’ll be looking at further permit delays.

General Construction Costs

Restaurant Owner, an industry publication, concluded in a recent survey that construction or build-out costs alone are $50 per square foot on average for a medium-sized restaurant around 3,200 square feet.

Even if you’re looking at a turnkey restaurant, which seems to be ready to go, things like 1990’s Americans With Disability Act – requiring accessibility for those with disabilities – could mean adding wheelchair accessible ramps, restrooms, and doorways. These are often unanticipated construction costs.

Equipment Costs

Things like fitting out a kitchen or a bar must be factored into restaurant renovation costs. Things like counters, burners, ventilation systems, and espresso machines can be unassuming big budget line items. The same Restaurant Owner’s survey mentioned earlier concluded that the average cost of a 1,000-square-foot kitchen and bar renovation, including necessary equipment, was roughly $75,000 or $80 per square foot.

Second-hand equipment is sometimes an option but be sure anything you buy that’s used is first inspected by a technician. Leasing equipment is another alternative. This will reduce money needed up front but may ultimately cost you more in the long run. However, some leasing companies offer different types of money-saving incentives like free repairs or regularly-supplied detergent for a dishwasher.


H.W. Holmes, Inc. is a Ventura County-based commercial contractor specializing in L.A. area restaurant renovations and construction. With decades of experience in the Southern California region, we are linked to some of the best architects, designers, mechanical engineers, and lawyers in the area. We’ll be able to estimate construction costs and perhaps recommend you to other industry professionals to navigate you through other parts of restaurant renovation or construction. Contact us today at (805) 383-9929 to discuss your project.