For many people, eating isn’t just a necessity, it’s an experience, and the right setting can either elevate it or detract from it. Savvy restaurateurs know that their guests come not only for the food, but for the atmosphere, making it crucial to find architects, designers and contractors who get it. It doesn’t mean that one aspect – setting or sustenance – overrides the other, but that both play equal parts in creating a unique identity.
“People are now officially eating with their eyes before they eat with their mouths,” explains Alburt Lefebvre, vice president of Build It By Design. “So restaurants need to be able to get the message of their food across first with design and then back it up with the food.”
Knowing that this is the new goal for restaurateurs, partners Simon Shahin and Lefebvre created Build it By Design in 2008 to serve the unique needs of this industry. The full-service contracting firm handles commercial interior fit-outs and 95 percent of its work is for the restaurant industry. The firm provides general contracting, project management, consulting and integrated design services, as well as custom metal fabrication and millwork at its 25,000-square-foot facility. Its clients are free to partner with the company for any one of its many services, but Build It By Design says it offers the most value when clients choose a collaborative design/build process.
“We believe there should be one point of contact,” explains Shahin, who is CEO of the company. “We don’t believe in that old-school philosophy that companies should deal with the equipment guy and the flooring guy and all these individual parties themselves. We believe they should be able to come to us and we handle everything they need from a development point of view. Opening a restaurant in and of itself is difficult and construction is one of the first pieces in that process. It can be quite stressful, so we try to take that stress off the owners and shoulder it ourselves, so they can concentrate on what they have to do.”
It’s a philosophy that steers away from a strict client-contractor model and moves toward an integrated partnership. It does not mean, however, that Build It By Design takes carte blanche when it comes to the design and construction process. Instead the company works with restaurant owners on the big picture ideas, hashing out details along the way. Build it By Design then does the heavy lifting with putting those details into place – site selection, architectural design, permitting, engineering, equipment purchasing, construction and millwork, all the way to final handover.
Build It By Design’s thoughtful approach to commercial contracting has resonated with its partners. Based in Ontario, Canada, the company has a growing list of clients and often works with repeat clients. In fact, its first restaurant completed with Coffee Culture and Café led to four more projects in its first year of business with the chain. Chain restaurants have become a niche within a niche for the firm. It recently built a new KFC Fresh, which is the newest restaurant concept from KFC in Canada and the first of its kind.
“It’s a total spinoff away from the typical KFC and we did the true original here in Canada,” Shahin says. “It sets the stage for where KFC is going.”
The company also did a five-store rollout for The Burger’s Priest in just three months. “It’s a specialty market,” Shahin says. “Other contractors can build a restaurant but we know the ins and outs of them. With franchises, especially, it’s not just one restaurant owner, it’s dealing with a whole different system. We understand the responsibilities that the owner has to the franchisor and vice versa so we can help both of them meet those needs.”
In addition to franchise operations, Build It By Design also sees strong growth among independent operators. The company is part of the award-winning team behind the Via Cibo Italian street food restaurant in Toronto. The design was led by Jump Branding and Design. Build It By Design acted as general contractor.
The company is also working with Stonies Bread Company, a well-known restaurant in Oakville, Ontario, on its first expansion with a second store opening soon. Also, it recently completed a 5,000-square-foot food court at the Airmills shopping center. Today, Build It By Design is focused on the foodservice area for the new Aquatic Centre being built for the 2015 Pan Am Games.
Building a Lifestyle
For instance, Build It By Design uses a tailored project management software that assists in scheduling and communication. The cloud-based tool allows the contractor to communicate with subcontractors and restaurant owners.
The company also believes in continuous education. Each employee team member receives three months of intense training that is reinforced with continued learning – whether at conferences or formal training events. Lefebvre says they want their employees team members to know the industry well so they can see their careers as less of a job and more of a lifestyle.
“It’s our determination, drive and perseverance that has put us over the competition,” Lefebvre says. “We are a 24/7 company and everyone here understands that. We operate more like a lifestyle brand where we don’t believe in having work and personal life separation. We believe you should be living your life and working with us is part of your lifestyle. It’s like a family, we can call each other at any time of day and we always pick up. A client can call us at any time and we will always answer.”