You have put your renovation plan in place by setting aside a budget, drawing out the design and layout with your consultants. The next step is to see those designs materialise and for that, you would hire a professional contractor. You have heard stories of contractors who went missing, owners landed with consequences of jobs poorly done and a lot of cleaning up of mess that caused inconveniences and added costs. How then can you have a greater level of certainty of having found the right person to do the job?
RUN A BACKGROUND CHECK
There is a difference between contractors who do residential projects and one who is versed with commercial sites; the latter should be familiar with the rules and regulations of such facilities, for example, fire prevention and escape, ventilation system, commercial grade materials and equipment. Talk to people you know who are involved in food and beverage operations and they will be more than willing to share information on the reliable contractors. When meeting contracting companies, ask to see their previous projects. This is because some companies may choose to specialise in only a few areas of refurbishment while others do everything; therefore it is a matter of selecting the contractor that fits what you need.
If you are satisfied with one contractor’s credentials and intend to engage the company, it would be wise to check the number of projects it is handling within your timeframe as you do not want their numerous projects to hold up yours. Even if the contractor promises that the team would be able to handle it, you can set a projection on how long a delay (should it occur) can you accept and if you feel that the company is unlikely to fulfill your timeline, it may be better to find someone else. There is no hard and fast rule on this factor; the contractor’s previous works can offer an idea but going with your instincts might help.
There is no negotiating that this area needs to be one of clarity. On your side, it would be excellent to prepare a brief; listing down your renovation ideas, allocation of time and money, the class of material you want the contractor to use and other aspects. The more
information that you supply potential contractors; the better they can provide you feedback on their end to help you make an informed decision on your eventual candidate. When you brief them, take note on how comfortable and clear is it when talking to them. Are they asking constructive questions and giving suggestions that can
improve on your ideas? Even if they repeat your brief in a question form, it means they listened, understood and seek confirmation. Or are they simply nodding to everything you said, which could be a signal of communication breakdown. Companies tendering or your project should ideally present their proposal visually together with a concise explanation, not send you a proposal in an essay form. Once you have decided on the main contractor, it is common practice for the company to engage their own subcontractors like plumbers and electricians. The way they communicate matters as well. Observe if they respect each other when offering suggestions or if one party is ‘instructing’ the other without considering their opinion. For some people, how their project team works is more important than the price as the value is in the individuals who are able to gel and bring innovative ideas for best solutions. You also want to make it clear with your contractor on expectations. Let them know how much on-site supervision you need; the intervals that he or she must provide reports on the job progress; especially if the contractor is not doing the actual labour and is performing a supervisory role. If you feel more at ease to have someone supervising throughout the day, do not hesitate to bring it up to the contractor.
LAYING DOWN THE COSTS
Apart from the overall costing, it is reasonable to request for price estimates for each item that would go into renovation from contractors bidding for your project. Do your independent research and with that information, look out for prices that seem too high or too low from what you saw. If costing is surprisingly low, it could signal that the contractor may be hasty with an intention of making a quick buck and sourced cheap materials. On the other hand, if a quotation is higher than others, it is also possible that the other teams missed out an important aspect, resulting in a lower estimate. To better decide, it goes back to asking people who have done similar refurbishments to help you have a better idea on the real cost. In terms of materials, you could choose to buy your own although most contractors would not recommend and usually are not responsible should the item is faulty, a wrong size or gets broken. When it comes to payment, it is crucial to negotiate how and when you will pay the contractor. Include an allocation of paying for surprise expenses or potential changes that occur. Some companies would ask for a certain percentage of deposit which is fair enough – you
can negotiate an amount that you are comfortable with. Avoid paying fully until you are satisfied with the job done as well as small details such as unpainted areas, loose tiles or improper fittings are ironed out.
THE SUBTLER THINGS
Make it a point to go on site visits regularly within the week to personally check on the work. No matter how experienced or professional a team is; you want to be on top of each process to ensure the possibility of issues cropping up is minimal and if there are any, they are addressed immediately and not affect your timeline adversely. A reliable contractor might provide after-work support, advice and maintenance for certain duration after project completion and factor it into the cost. You could check with the company beforehand and even if it is not part of the project cost, would they be available to offer the assistance required at any time?
As you look forward to a better operation system in your facility or a new look for the restaurant, the groundwork must be solid and for greater success, working with the right refurbishment partner matters.