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Trends may come and go, but if there’s one thing that will never change about the restaurant industry, it’s that finding a place to open your eatery can be awfully hard.

Irrespective of what kind of food you want to serve or what city you want to operate out of, finding a building that can meet the needs of your restaurant, while offering the space you need to serve guests, while fitting in with your budget, can be one of the hardest parts of getting your new business venture off the ground.


It’s no surprise, then, that restaurateurs have had to get a little clever with where they open their restaurants, and warehouses have been a common source of these openings. 

On paper, it makes perfect sense. Particularly if the warehouse isn’t being used to capacity, warehouses can easily be converted, offer plenty of floor space, and potentially be the perfect unique angle any budding young restaurant needs. 


That said, converting your available warehouse space to be usable as a restaurant is another matter entirely. 


Opening Up A Restaurant Inside A Warehouse


Whether you’re the warehouse owner making your space available to a local restaurant, or a would-be business owner working with a warehouse, there’s a few things you’ll want to look into before trying to open your restaurant.


Zoning needs

Perhaps the biggest of all requirements when opening a restaurant is checking for zoning requirements. Zoning laws will vary drastically depending on your location, but by and large, each municipality will have their own regulations regarding the area your business is in, and what the property can be used for.

Look into these requirements first to make sure you’re able to use the property in a “mixed-used” fashion that being both a warehouse and restaurant would necessitate, as most zoning ordinances would make a pretty firm distinction between the two businesses. Fortunately, this sort of land use is common enough these days that many city and state governments have created special mixed-use zoning laws to accommodate just such an idea!


The right permits

Similarly, you’re going to need to be careful about the sort of permits and licenses you pull when building and/or retrofitting the planned restaurant space.

If you’ve been managing a warehouse for any length of time, you’ve surely dealt with permits before, but the ones involved with mixed-use builds can be more complex – and the ones involved with building a restaurant can be even more complex than that. Work closely with your contacts at the city and/or all needed contractors to make sure your licenses are in order, and be prepared to call in a little outside help from any business or agency that has more experience working with restaurants, since they can be a whole world unto themselves.


The design of the restaurant

Alright, your licenses are in order, and the state is allowing you to create a mixed-use development. The next step is perhaps the most important – actually getting your restaurant designed.

There’s several factors that will go into this, combining both the typical issues a restaurant faces, as well as unique new challenges faced by the fact this restaurant is being opened inside a warehouse. Issues you’ll need to look out for include:

  • Kitchen design: Is your warehouse ventilated enough to allow for things like gas ovens and water heaters? Does it have enough space for functional kitchen implements like ovens and prep stations? Do you even have enough electrical outlets for these tools? Asking these questions early on will have a big impact in both where the restaurant can be located inside the warehouse, as well as the design of the restaurant itself.
  • Storage: You might be thinking you have plenty of storage, but storing food and cooking utensils is a different matter entirely. Make sure you have plenty of safe, sterile storage like restaurant wire shelves and walk in cooler shelving to store the tools, ingredients, and supplies that a restaurant needs for their daily operations.
  • Safety implements: This might be the most challenging step from a design and construction standpoint, but restaurants and kitchens need certain safety standards to not only protect their guests and employees, but to meet whatever national and local safety codes are in place as well. Plan for things like fire suppression systems, proper ventilation, and clearly marked entrances and exits no matter where in your warehouse this restaurant is going to be located, and make sure sufficient power is available for all of the fridges and freezers to keep your food products safe.


Hopefully this makes your journey of converting a warehouse into a restaurant that much easier – or at least lets you know where to start.

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