How Much Will Your Restaurant or Cafe Cost?


It's Never Cheap

Refurbishing a cafe, bar or restaurant is never cheap. Restaurants and night clubs in particular can require very large investments. This is partly because of the need to keep up with your competition and partly to comply with all the rules and regulations that are getting more stringent every year. Also most good building and shop fitting firms are very busy and their prices reflect this. If you can find a builder who can act quickly and seems cheap then it is likely that they are not very good.Most good contractors are booked well ahead.

It is impossible to say exactly how much your project will cost without preparing a design and having it properly priced. The only way to obtain an approximation is to find out what other similar, recent projects have cost, perhaps by asking a Quantity Surveyor. You may have been given a rough price or estimate. I advise you to be cautious of this unless it is based on project-specific drawings and has been prepared by an independent expert Quantity Surveyor.

I am often contacted by people who have engaged builders on flimsy agreements only to find that the price agreed did not cover even half of the work eventually needed. Many of these unfortunate people ran out of money before they got open and lost everything.

OK, but what are some rough costs?

Bearing in mind what I have written above, here are some very rough example costs for complete refurbishments based on UK prices.

  • A small cafe or wine bar of 20-50 covers started from scratch with new equipment will often cost about £150,000 to £300,000.


  • A small restaurant of 50-70 covers, requiring an internal refurbishment but with an existing kitchen will often cost between £200,000 and £600,000.


  • A medium-sized restaurant of 100-150 covers and a new rear building extension for kitchens or toilets usually costs at least £300,000 but can easily cost more than £1M.


  • A large bar with a restaurant and function area for 300 users will often cost between £500,000 and £2.5M.


  • Work in big city centers such as London, New York, Mumbai, Tokyo or Dubai often costs more than work in the provinces because of higher labour costs, difficult site access, parking and other restrictions.

Refurbishing Offers Better Value - sometimes

The best value option is to find a partly finished project where someone else ran out of money but had a good idea. Alternatively, refurbishing a restaurant of cafe premises that someone else got up and running but either got bored with or did not have sufficient working capital to make it through start up can be a good option. If the building services and infrastructure are sound then you won't have to pay the considerable costs of installing them.

A few years ago I helped to turn a huge restaurant that had failed after 18 months into a big success.  Normally it would have cost £1.2M to fit out but the previous owners had skimped on the finishes to get it in their budget of £1M and it showed.  My client bought it from the receivers and only had to spend the difference to transform it.  A bargain that is still making good returns for them.

Taking on an outlet from an old business that was run down is not such a good idea. Chances are that it had no money and everything is run down and in need of replacement. Beware the property that no-one else wants - if the big operators have walked away you need to know why before you commit.

Fitting Out Mall and Travel Location Units

Fitting out bare shells in malls and other new developments, such as airports,  often requires starting from scratch and working to high standards, especially in the Middle East. Costs often exceed £2000 (GBP) per square meter excluding professional fees (at least 15%) and costs of direct supply plant and equipment. I find that this is generally much more than most novice clients expect and it unusual for any but the most well prepared to proceed. Regional prices vary due to different labour and material rates, but many fixtures and fittings are proprietary and so cost much the same all over the world.