Moving your restaurant is an exciting opportunity and a sign of success. If you’re moving it’s because you can afford a bigger space, a better location, or maybe just because you’ve had your eye on a space that feels just right for your brand. Whatever the reason, congratulations!
But there’s still the question of how. This is a fully equipped restaurant, after all, not a college apartment. This is going to take more than a pick-up truck and some shoeboxes.
Here are some simple steps to make your big move feel not so overwhelming.
Make Sure Your Customers Know
Whether they’re regulars, or people checking you out for the first time, the last thing you need is for them to go to your old location and find no one there. Or worse: find a competitor there.
So as soon as you’ve closed on the new location, start letting your customers know. Post banners and flyers in your restaurant that include the new location and the date of your move. Update your information on your website and social media profiles, and use those avenues to announce the move as well.
As the move gets closer, start putting “coming soon” promotions up at your new location. Consider holding a grand (re)opening for the new location to get customers, new and old, excited. You want them to be as excited about your brand new space as you are.
Measure and Prep The New Space
In addition to making sure your customers are ready for your new location, you should make sure the location itself is ready. You want to be up and running as quickly as possible, so what you should be shooting for is the ability to get everything inside and open the next day.
If you want to change the paint, the tile, the carpeting, or anything else, make sure you’ve hired a contractor for that well in advance. You want to have found and got them scheduled at least a month in advance, and have a completion date that’s ideally a week before your move. The contractors who specialize in commercial work are usually at a higher standard, but you don’t want to leave anything to chance.
The most important part of getting your new space is going to be measurement and planning. If you’re moving the appliances from your old space, make sure they’ll fit where the hookups are. The absolute last thing you need is to discover that your stove or fridge don’t fit where you need them to go.
The same goes for the front of the house. If you’ve got display cases, make sure you’ve marked and measured a place where they’ll fit. Map out the floorplan for where all your tables and chairs, as well as your waiting area, are going to be. Tables aren’t the biggest thing you’re moving, but they still get heavy if you don’t know where they’re going.
You should also make sure that utilities (gas, water, electricity) are turned on and in your name at some point before the move. Since this is such a vital part of your restaurant’s function, you should set this up or at least schedule it once you’ve closed on the new space, and verify it in the days before the move.
Know What You Can And Should Take With You
If you’re leasing your space, you should check to make sure that your furniture, fixtures, and equipment (FF&E) aren’t part of the lease. For the most part, these belong to you, but if they were there when you moved or replaced through an arrangement with your landlord, the situation might be a bit murkier. Check your lease to confirm who has the ownership of these items and if you have an obligation to remove them when you leave.
If you own your space, chances are you own everything in it, so this isn’t really a concern.
In both cases, what you should be asking yourself is if it makes sense to take everything with you. Here are some things to consider:
- If you’re moving to a bigger space, will your current furniture fill the front of house? If not, can you still buy matching tables/chairs, or will you be stuck with mismatched furniture?
- If you’re moving to a smaller space, will everything you have now fit easily?
- If you’re moving to a bigger or busier space, are you going to be able to support your new volume with the equipment you have?
Asking yourself questions like this will decide if you should bring these items with you, sell them and if necessary buy new ones for your new location, or if you should be reserving space in your budget to replace those items after the move.
The Day(s) Before the Move
First, decide if you’re going to use a professional/commercial service or if you’re going to do the moving yourself. It’s strongly recommended that you use a service that specializes in commercial relocation for your kitchen. The equipment there is vital, expensive, and much harder to transport than you’re expecting.
So at minimum, figure out how much of your tools and equipment are going to need to be moved professionally. Schedule with a moving service as far in advance as possible, and provide them with information on what items they’ll be moving.
For some services, this means providing a list of the items they’ll be moving along with their dimensions. Others will require you to order a specific number of crates and boxes for the items you plan to move.
Regardless of how you proceed, it’s strongly recommended that you purchase or request Commercial Shipping Crates for your high-value items. These are reinforced wooden crates that provide extra structure and support when moving vital pieces of equipment.
The rest of your inventory will be a bit easier to move by yourself, if doing so saves you money and is otherwise a good use of your time. Although if you’re using a professional service for your kitchen equipment (which again, you should) the difference in price to have them move the rest of your inventory is often negligible. Ultimately, making separate arrangements is probably only worth it if you have a different timeline for your front-of-house setup.
As long as you’re making arrangements, be sure to update your supplier agreements. Provide them with the exact dates you’ll be moving and your new location. Consider that your food inventory will and should not carry over to your new location and that you may need to place special orders to make sure you’re fully stocked the day of.
Unless you’ve made special arrangements, your move, from shutting down your current location to opening your new one, should not take more than 24-48 hours. This means having everything planned and prepped in advance.
Of course, there are a few things you haven’t been able to get to until now, most notably the things you’ve been using every day: your kitchen equipment.
Once you’ve shut down this location for the last time, the very next step you take should be to fully shut down your equipment, allowing it as much time to cool before the move as possible. Clean it completely, and remove and/or secure any parts that could move and be damaged (or cause damage) during the move. If you’re using a professional service, they’ll often provide pads and straps for this exact purpose. If they haven’t, pads and straps can be purchased to the specifications of your equipment, though the judicious application of towels and tape will often serve the same purpose.
Your front of house equipment should be likewise cleaned, disassembled, and secured. Chairs should be arranged into manageable stacks (4-6), if you can break down tables and decorations without damaging them you should do that as well.
Your plates, glasses, and other breakables are going to be a bit more time-consuming. Individually wrapping them is always going to be your best bet. If the containers you’re currently using for them keep them relatively secure, you might be able to get away with placing a layer of padding (newspaper, towel, paper towel, or custom pads) between them and using a moving wrap to secure them. Individually wrapping will still be best if you can in any way make time for it.
If you’re using a professional service to move, they should already have lists and instructions on the items that they’re moving, so once you’ve confirmed that, things will go smoother if you go ahead to the new location to begin set-up there, and facilitate the delivery of those items. Re-check that your utilities are in working order and that everything has been cleaned.
If you’ve prepared everything correctly, this should be the easiest part. Everything should already have a designated place, so all you have to do is confirm that everything is undamaged and in working order. Performing your regular end-of-shift checks and cleaning should ensure that everything is ready to go for your new location’s grand opening tomorrow.
If anything, making sure that your decorations and signage look good in their new locations is going to be the biggest part of this step. Make sure your new space doesn’t look too sparse, or too cluttered, and rearrange if need be. Giving yourself time to do this is why having everything else planned and in place is so important.
Moving your restaurant is a big task, no secret about it. This has been your livelihood, if not your life, for years. The best thing you can do is break it down into manageable steps, and have a plan for every single item in your restaurant, so the day of is as smooth as possible.
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