So you've taken the plunge into the franchise industry, be it a restaurant, fast food outlet, or retail store. It could be the first shop of its kind, the beginning of a franchise venture, or a new addition to an established franchise.

One thing for sure: you will need experienced professional architects and engineers working with you from day one to ensure that your new business is a great success.

If this is your first space, there's a lot more than the interior décor to be considered. If it is an established venture that you are franchising, you now have to consider the logistics of each new location. If you are a franchisee setting up your first franchise location, you will need to take an established concept and fit it to your selected space.

When selecting a design professional, look for the complete package: you want a firm that has both architectural and engineering in-house, and that can go where you go.... Be it your first space, or your 20th franchise space in a state on the other side of the country.

Here are some considerations:

1. Getting It Built:

Most importantly, commercial spaces can not be built or renovated without the proper approvals from your local municipality, including a building permit and possibly environmental and health department approvals.

Landscaping and parking lot requirements may even be involved, so do yourself a favor and hire a firm that can get you from concept to construction anywhere you decide to set up shop. Selecting an architectural/engineering firm licensed nationwide is going to save you time and money, as they will have the knowledge and experience working with many different municipalities throughout the country. And by all means, consult with the architect and engineer before signing a lease. It could mean spending more money for electrical service, heating/cooling, water and many other services that could have been negotiated in the lease terms.


2. Access Issues:

You have a great location, but is it ADA compliant? The Americans with Disabilities Act is being enforced throughout the US, and will come into play even if it's only an interior renovation that you are planning.

Meeting ADA requirements may entail renovating existing bathrooms or even installing new bathrooms. You may be required to install a ramp outside your entrance, provide a handicap parking space, and may even affect your flooring choices (exterior as well as interior). Hiring a design professional will help you identify and comply with these requirements, and avoid the costly do-over.

3. Space Planning:

Whether it's a restaurant, a frozen yogurt shop or a retail store each space needs to be planned out to maximize traffic, minimize obstructions that limit a customer's access/view of goods for sale and most important meet existing requirements mandated by the building code.

The empty space you looked at last week will fill up quickly. You need someone with experience and familiarity with code issues to help you plan the space layout. From a retail clothing store to a fast-food bar, you want to facilitate the flow through your space so that the customers can easily enter, review the merchandise, and check out with ease.

Using an architect at the beginning stages of planning can help you get the most out of your space.

4. Finishes and Interior Design:

From the flooring to the wall coverings to the ceilings, these are more than just style....there is also the issue of functionality and cost-effective designing. You love the laminate flooring you saw last week, but is it the best choice for a shop that serves beverages, and has sinks in the serving counter out front?

Will your flooring choice stand up to heavy foot traffic? Is it easy to maintain, will it retain its shine?

Will high hat lighting work in your space? Can you switch out the existing light fixtures in the mall space you selected? Do you have stand alone shelving or do you want to use built-in cabinetry?

The franchise requires specific seating; do you have the space for it?

5. Utility Considerations for Plumbing, HVAC and Electrical Services:

You saw a great walk -in cooler that you just have to use in your restaurant.... But do you have the electrical service requirements or room for expansion? Can the proper plumbing be installed? What are the landlord requirements with regards to built-in equipment in your space? What are the code requirements? Can you install a waterless water heater? What kind of grease trap does your building department require?

Working with an architectural firm with in-house engineering will get answers to your questions, and ensure that all drawings will pass building department scrutiny when you submit for your permit.

6. Why In-House Engineering:

The vast majority of architectural firms employ engineers as consultants and as such these consultants work for numerous architectural firms producing the engineering construction documents.

This creates delays in producing your construction documents for your project. Having an in-house engineer allows the architect to control the schedule for your project including the engineering directly. The engineer sits feet away from the architectural staff and can immediately communicate project information and needn't wait for return phone calls or emails. This coordination internally produces a better quality product in a shorter amount of time and at a less cost than hiring an outside consultant.

Additionally, it provides the benefit of a call only to the architect's office to resolves questions when they come up.

7. Branding:

You want to be seen, and remembered. And you want both to be for good reasons. An important first step is having an image that customers remember. Designing your logo and even your interior space can define your brand, even before the first item is purchased. Apple's apple doesn't need any text to be recognized ... consumers immediately associate the image with the merchandise, and they identify it with high quality technology.

Even established franchises update or renovate their image... some with new logo's, some change color scheme, and some even update/renovate furnishings. Check out your local Chili's next time you drive by... their updated exterior façade and new signs give them the look of a new restaurant.

Presenting a name, logo, and style for your commercial endeavor that customers remember is referred to as successful "branding." From a start-up business that needs a look that pops with the public, to an established franchise that could use a makeover, branding is where it begins. Selecting an architectural firm with experience in both franchises and interior design gets you on the right path from the start.

Shorten the learning curve:

In summary, there's a lot that goes into building a business, be it a new endeavor or opening an established franchise in a new location. It takes more than the snap of your fingers to get it done. Even with an established franchise, there are always site-specific requirements that must be met.

So get off on the right foot - Lasky Architect PA is licensed throughout the US, has in-house engineering, interior designers, and personnel with expertise designing any type of commercial enterprise, and experience growing franchises in multiple state locales.

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