A closer look into Hospitality Construction

CONTRACTOR TALKPJ Jenkins Jr, answers some questions from Bodman Law legal expert and Treps Nest co-founder Michael Melfi about hospitality construction trends, the challenges of the building process, and he tells how differentiates itself in the busy hospitality sector.

Michael: What hospitality design and construction trends are owner/operators in search of?

PJ: The trends in the hospitality sector are shifting dramatically in a very cool, progressive way. For that reason alone, we are seeing a lot of different requests come through our office. Instead of the communal tables and large spaces in which was a big trend years ago with the Starck designs, now owners are asking for intimate spaces with open kitchens and private chef’s tables to really showcase the chef and the art of cuisine. With today’s reality world featuring many celebrity chef’s the hospitality world has become an industry designed around the chef’s needs. From a building materials standpoint, we are seeing a lot of action with subway tile and reclaimed wood mixed with a unique millwork style that fill in the property, such as at Greenspace Cafe in Ferndale, Michigan. I worked closely with project designer and architect John Janviriya of JJV Design in taking a raw 4000 sq ft space and cross utilized materials to create a beautiful plant based restaurant.  Other creative design elements we have seen incorporated within the design theme is the incredible space at Buddakan in New York where the entire space is the wow factor but the use of a custom functional buddha cabinets throughout are also a big trend we are noticing lately. Another big trend we are seeing being implemented are the “GREEN” design restaurants like The Plant Cafe Organic in San Francisco, which has a solar system on the roof to power their kitchen. It is certainly exciting to see designers and contractors working together to create such unique spaces.

We are also seeing some very cool and unique trends in the the bar game within the restaurant and we are fulfilling a multitude of requests for this specific area. In particular owners have begun to implement and create more cool mixology beverage programs. The best I have seen is the Aviary in Chicago. This place is a sophisticated open cocktail kitchen that takes the term mixology to a new height.  Having a trend in the restaurant and bar side makes building a venue exciting as it’s like building two venues under one roof. We feel fortunate to be a player in this space. It gives us builders who enjoy the creativity a chance to showcase our unique style of building.

Michael: What are the three biggest challenges of hospitality construction and why?

PJ: I would say the biggest challenge is for sure the actual coordination of the project— the amount of mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) associated with a project usually make up about half of the entire project budget. These elements take up large areas within the walls and ceilings, and our goal as contractors is to make these pieces disappear so it isn’t visible to the customer enjoying their meal or create a space that exposes the MEP’s in a creative way by design. So basically, along with being a contractor we are also magicians’ ha!

Another challenge is the idea of making sure all key components within the property are meet the requirements associated with each individual use. For example, the requirements for the dish washing room are much different than the requirements for an open kitchen, and even more so than the fabric and materials that occupy the main dining area. All these elements need to work together in terms of durability, function, and how they will be utilized by guests.

Lastly, and most importantly, is making sure the contractor, owner and architect/designer are all in sync well in advance at the time of signing the lease for the space. This part is crucial. If there is a gap in communication in the slightest bit, the project could be delayed significantly and the budget could get out of hand in which we try to avoid at all cost. I suggest to owners to find a group that has an existing chemistry. Projects are much smoother when all parties developing the project have been on the same playing field before.

This sounds like a simple concept, but often, owners are moving forward with brokers who are pushing their own agenda to try to get the deal closed. It’s not uncommon for owners to be brought into a property that doesn’t have the core elements necessary to make it a restaurant. Things like having exhaust assemblies for going to the roof, proper water line size, and even sprinkler systems are not the broker’s focus when trying to close a deal. Brokers are very helpful when looking for potential spaces but my advice is to make sure not to move too fast and involve an architect/designer and/or a contractor in the process from the very beginning, you’ll be able to prevent yourself from making these very costly mistakes.

Michael: What kind of things has MIG done to differentiate your business from others that focus in the same market?

PJ: We have developed several hospitality projects around the world and each project is unique. Different rules, different markets, different designs. So, when we get a hospitality project we are dedicated to the owner to make sure they can be successful. An advantage we have is that we have been on every side of the hospitality business; from ownership to consultant to developing the concept to building the space, we understand the ownership side in which creates sensitivity for any project. Our value engineering practices is also an area in which we differentiate ourselves from others in the industry. While we can save money, it is imperative that we preserve the design intent. This means we find creative ways to switch out products that offer a significant cost savings while maintaining the integrity of the project.

Additionally, with regards to our company, one of the main focuses we have is making sure all of the owners and the key staff members are involved in the process. It’s important to us to make sure that the kitchen is set up for the chef, rather than meeting the general manager’s criteria, or even the owner’s criteria in some cases. We make sure each area is setup to meet the needs of the team who will occupy and make the decisions in the space.

As we have been a part of many hospitality projects in major markets we have a keen eye for the necessities. We are always looking to implement ideas that do not cost the owners extra money, while still making a property functional. Providing this service means the owner doesn’t have to spend additional money for a beautiful space that is functional for both restaurant staff and its guests.


PJ Jenkins, Jr. is the Director of Strategic Growth and Business Development for MIG Construction, a commercial general contractor and construction management firm with offices in Detroit, Michigan and Atlanta Georgia. To learn more, visit www.migconstruction.com and  www.migsouth.com

 Michael S. Melfi is an Intellectual Property attorney at Bodman Law and Co-Founder of Treps Nest.  Michael has a dynamic background that allows him to provide insightful legal services, while creating business development strategies for funding and growth. To learn more, visit www.michaelsmelfi.comwww.trepsnest.com


A closer look into Hospitality Construction

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