Construction Case Study: Transforming a Restaurant into a Wellness Center
What does it take to transform a high-end restaurant into a sophisticated wellness center? A lot of creativity and expertise (and some elbow grease).
When our clients asked us to build their wellness center, we were excited for the challenge. This project has only grown into something bigger and better as we’ve gone on, and turning our client’s big dream into reality has been one of the highlights of our year.
When we started this build the client’s vision included treatment rooms, a yoga studio, a juice bar and small kitchen, plus rooms for massage and acupuncture. Then, it evolved to include a hydrotherapy room, shower, sauna, and water feature (and a few more fun features we can’t wait to reveal).
Keep in mind...this is all being built from a restaurant.
How we Transformed the Space
Turning an upscale restaurant into a luxury wellness space is no easy task. The two spaces have specialized needs, presenting interesting challenges when trying to make big things happen while also finding creative ways to save. But— this task isn’t impossible. Here’s how we did it.
An “Everything’s My Job” Attitude
Getting this kind of project done requires all hands on deck, and it requires experienced and ambitious project managers to take it on.
At Optimum Construction, founders Kendrick and Ryan take the helm on all projects. “We’re inherently invested in the client’s success, so we make a point to be part of every phase of the project. Shared Success is one of our company values, The phrase ‘not my job’ simply has no place in our vocabulary.”
A project manager is essential to an on-budget and on-time build process. Having 1-2 point people for all of the various stakeholders, sub contractors, and other professionals involved ensures that all knowledge of the project remains centralized. “We work hard to setup the necessary permits so that we can run with all of their big ideas.”
Communication Between Entities
In this case the owner of the wellness center is also the owner of the building, which made many steps of the process faster. However, most often a business rents their space, and when that happens we become a liaison between the business owner and the building owner. Yes, they already know each other, but we have a distinct understanding of each of their perspectives, and this allows us to deftly navigate any snags we may hit along the way.
And let’s not forget the architect.
Because this fit up was such a dramatic change, an architect played a major role in the process. Usually, an architect’s job is done before construction begins, but as collaborators, we like to make suggestions of our own along the way from practical experience.
While it’s common for a general contractor to communicate with the architect, re-designing an architect-drawn plan to save the client money is rare. But, we take the view that what’s in the client’s best interest is in our best interest and act accordingly. Remember: everything is our job.
Key To Success: Value Engineering
How do you realize a project with major ambitions and a (relatively) moderate budget?
By finding ways to value engineer the project.
For example, let’s say that client has their heart set on flooring with all the charm of patina and years of wear. Sure, one option would be to go out and purchase reclaimed wood, or some faux, beat-up wood flooring for $6/yard (at best).
Installing white pine hardwoods with cut nails as early in the build as possible, before all the subcontractors come in to do their work. After months of construction work, that floor will have the beaten-up patina the client loves, at ⅓ the price.
And if the client is also the building owner? Then they’ve just added the same amount of value to their building for a much lower price. Their space will be worth the same whether they buy “new” rustic flooring, or do DIY rustic flooring.
One of our biggest goals is to figure out a new way to get the same end result for a client, for less cost. And we know that many of our clients don’t know what they don’t know about construction, so every step of the way we provide them with options to make an informed choice.
Being Part of the Solution
We started with a 50 seat restaurant, including a large, fully equipped kitchen, which means we have had a lot of hurdles to overcome to get the desired end result. The central design feature of the original design layout was an extra large range hood that took up a lot of square feet. Removing the range hood would cost $8K, and installing a new one, would cost $13K. We put our heads together and talked about how to redesign the kitchen using the original space design. (A move that would save our client $20K+). We worked with the original kitchen designer from the restaurant and presented our plans. He said it would never work.
But, being solution oriented, we worked with the kitchen designer to create a new layout, using the original plumbing, gas lines, etc, and showed him lots of reasons why it would work, until finally, the designer saw our vision and agreed. Along the way we communicated with our client, and although going through all of this certainly wasn’t the easy road, it was good for the client and it saved them thousands of dollars.
The Bottom Line
When it comes to a construction project (or really, anything in life) we make it our mission to put our relationships above getting a bigger cut.
When it came to the range hood, we weren’t really responsible for handling any of that. It wasn’t in our contract, but we saw a need, so we took care of it.