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How to Convert a Retail Store into Restaurant Space


The conversion from an old retail space to be restaurant-specific can have its appeal over ground up development, but you should understand and anticipate the new challenges it can present. 


In this type of redevelopment, (not a former restaurant use), there are some critical points to keep in mind. For example, since the site was not already equipped for a restaurant, you’ll likely need to increase the parking, improve access, construct a turn-in lane, or all of the above.  


Here’s the important information you need to know before getting started.    


What to Know

A good place to start when evaluating the prospective property is by first confirming there are no active violations against the building. Also, is it current on all its permits (i.e. driveway, use, or right-of-way)? 


How compliant is it with the current building code? These requirements for safety include but are not limited to the number of exits, non-flammable stairwells, accessibility/ramps, doorway width, and handicapped restrooms.


Another restaurant-specific change would be determining what all is needed to become compliant with the Department of Health. Is the electrical load and cooling capacity sufficient? Since there is not already equipment in place, you need to invest upwards of at least $25,000 for refrigeration, ventilation, and cooking products.  


Real-life Example

Although it may seem like biting off more than you can chew, rest assured that developers well-versed in this type of redevelopment could be greatly beneficial to you because they’ve already seen a thing or two. 


For example, on a bustling corner in the heart of the Arizona State University trade area in Tempe, once stood an obsolete building that was not taking advantage of its location. SimonCRE recognized this opportunity for a refresh and stepped in to redevelop the property for two compelling restaurant concepts: Blaze Pizza and First Watch.


What was once a ZIA Records and bike shop that served the community well had become an underperforming building that wasn’t driving as much traffic as it could be. Times were changing and the neighborhood needed to reflect the community’s new desires. 


The plans included bringing the interior to a vanilla shell, renovating the exterior facade, and completing various site and utility improvements. As beneficial of an idea it was to convert the old retail to restaurant space, it was not without its fair share of challenges. Some items the SimonCRE team worked to overcome on the 30+ year old building included increasing parking to the new required amount, adjusting the water capacity, installing sprinklers, enhancing power, and adding grease traps. 


For more details on how we jumped over these hurdles and some more tips, check out the case study here.

Freestanding retail building Redevelopment Commercial Real Estate Development Planning Seller Tenant Buyer

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