Has anyone built a kitchen in a retail space?

Hi there,

I had a few questions on building a commercial kitchen in a retail space… It does seem the spots I see with kitchens are fine, its just location isn’t the best. There is a few locations Ive seen that I like, but they are just retail spaces.

Instead of getting into huge detail here, if you can… If you have built one can you please write on the topic and then I’ll PM you. Because I have a few questions about gas lines, hoods, etc.

Thanks so much!

I’d appreciate it.


I will be meeting my construction guy this week to bid on a build-out in a retail space. If anything, I’m sure I’ll gain some knowledge. He’s already given me a heads-up on cutting the foundation to put in drains and plumbing, increasing gas lines from 3/4" to 1 1/2", and increasing the electric to required level.

I wouldn’t mind if this thread grows…knowledge is power!


I did this as well. The space I’m in was a Karate Studio. There is very little value in any of the finish in an existing retail space. You may save a wall or two and a few outlets, but much of the finish has to be torn out which can actually ADD to your expense. Here’s a few examples from my experience:

  1. Tearing up carpet from concrete. I wanted polished concrete. The carpet has a nasty glue that is very labor intensive to remove.
  2. Bustin the floor up for drains - this is expensive by itself, but it becomes more complicated by most LL’s not having good as-builts. We sawcut right through the telephone main and a 200 amp service buried in the concrete.
  3. The existing HVAC will not be adequate for a restaurant. You’re adding hundreds of thousands of BTU’s in equipment and people. You’ll need new rooftops.
  4. Hoods are expensive. This is the one thing I was totally stunned by going into all this. The rule of thumb here is $2000/lineal foot new and installed for a type 1 hood. That adds up quick. And, if you have to go anywhere, but straight up with the ducting, it can get very expensive. Have a floor above you - be careful. It can be dang near impossible to duct through finished second story…
  5. Are the existing bathrooms adequate for the restaurant? Your architect should be able to do the calculations for you. If expanding the bathroom is not an option, tearing it out and putting a new one in can be real expensive.
  6. Are there adequate exits and are they alarmed properly. Panic bars are crazy expensive for what they do.
  7. Do you have adequate 3-phase power. You can get by with single phase, but it’s much easier if you don’t have to. I managed to squeeze my restaurant in with 400 amps of service (which includes 3 5-to rooftops with electric heat strips) but it was realllllly close.

I’m sure I’ll come up with lot more as I think back to my buildout. BTW, my buildout was 2800 square feet and I paid ~160k which included installation of the hood and a patio but my bathrooms were adequate and the LL supplied the 3 5 ton HVAC units. Hope this helps.

I sort of built out a 2600 space for around $65K. The opening was nearly 3 years ago now, and I am still not done. When I say I built it out . . . me and two kitchen guys framed the walls, hung the drywall, installed ceilings and floors. One of my guys was formerly a sheetrock mechanic, so he was a world of knowledge. Licensed tradesmen for gas, electric, plumbing and HVAC. This was a franken-building that was chock full of charm, and a huge pain in the arse to build in. It is still not quite right for what we intended, but see wisdom below.

Words of wisdom: NUMBER ONE: request a pre-construction consultation with the building and inspections department, and the fire marshall. Have them see the place before you start to make surethere are no ‘site specific issues’ that could be surprises later. Health Department may also be good idea. Get these before you pay an architect for plans . . . change orders cost money often times.

Make sure you have 15% more money than you plan out for. The harsh decisions to cut costs can make a big difference. Make sure you are certain about the HVAC load. It can be expensive to come back in for corrections later.

BALANCE THAT HOOD: your ventilation needs to be balanced with the hood or else it all ends up bogging each other down and sapping efficeincy and life expectancy. I am talking about air flow and not center of gravity. Ventilation is a vast integrated system that needs balancing and tuning to be right.

Be there when the electrician starts installing outlets and fixtures. They were conscientious here, but made some careless mistakes on placement that I found . . . made them put in right place.

Plan for dining space if you ever think you will want it. Get someone who knows what they are doing to assist with dining room planning. We did ours ‘homemade’ and have found some bind-ups in traffic flow and flexibility that someone in the know would have figured on.

Get your specs for your intended equipment (dimensions) and the kitchen space and send them to Geoorge Mills here on the Think Tank. He does layout recommendations as a service for free . . . earlier in process you do it, beter chance of being certain you are adequately powered and gassed in the right places.

Great post Nick.

Nick,Couldn’t have said it any better! What