You have a BIG dream for your restaurant – it’s going to be the hottest spot in town with a vibe that can beat the hippest of locales. You’re going to do this by shipping in rare wood from across the world for paneling and using tiles from an ancient castle for your floors.  But, what if we told you that none of that is needed for the restaurant of your dreams, that you could get that ultimate hot-spot vibe people will drool over and have everything look the way you want at a fraction of the price? That is value engineering.

“Value engineering is the art of taking a design and, while making no perceivable changes, reducing the overall cost of construction by selectively modifying materials and methods,” says Rob Mescolotto, owner of Hospitality Construction Services.

Mescolotto characterizes the savings from value engineering this way:

  • Up to 10% savings – Achieving savings up to 10% on your project could be just about making smart choices and intelligent decisions.
  • Up to 20% savings – To achieve this level of savings, you need to be aggressive and creative with the design and construction of your project.  Material selection, means, and methods all play a big role in value engineered savings.
  • 20%+ savings – If you’re aiming for more than 20% savings, you may want to re-evaluate your vision for the project. What you end up getting might not be what you had in mind for your original design.

He says there is a process he uses to ensure your dream is maintained, the architect’s vision is respected, and you save money. Now, we’ll dive into the process of value engineering for restaurants, identifying who the key players are in that process and offering tips and examples of how it all works.

The Restaurant Value Engineering Process

1. Identify what’s off limits

First, determine what are the absolute must-haves. Make a list of the things you want to keep in the project. This ensures that, if there is something you’re really attached to, it remains outside the value engineering process. In this step, it’s important to remember that it’s not always the big items that help save you money.

As Mescolotto says, it’s not always saving $10,000 on one thing; it’s finding $100 on 100 things..

Things for you to consider when making your lists:

  • Is it going to be seen? In the case of plumbing, pipes utilizing PVC in lieu of copper or cast iron may provide substantial cost savings for your project.
  • What are you willing to substitute? Every project should be scrutinized for ways to substitute one product for another. The intent is to provide a product that is similar in appearance yet more budget friendly. You really can save a lot of money by substituting.
  • Best price or similar materials? A great general contractor knows what material providers have the best prices, and often they can find you the same exact materials or very similar materials for significantly less.

2. Meet with architects, owners & subcontractors  

Hospitality Construction Services actually brings their subcontractors to meetings with the architect and owner. This helps maintain an open dialogue with the team and ensures everyone is on the same page. Hospitality Construction Services finds that this extra step prevents misunderstandings between parties and allows for a smoother process.

Prior to these meetings, we will:

  • Interview subcontractors – Hospitality Construction Services will meet with several subcontractors to get their ideas on ways to save money for the project. The most qualified and competitive bid is awarded the project.
  • Identify the architect’s intent – The architect has been working with the owner from the beginning. The architect has a design intent that is intimately related to the owner’s desires. Mescolotto makes sure he understands that intent and works within the design parameters.
  • Talk about potential material substitutions – A lot of research goes into discovering potential material substitutions. The owner and architect are provided ample examples of potential savings through material substitution.

3. Present a value engineering menu to the restaurateur owner & architect

The menu is a list of potential substitutions compared to the original items with savings amounts. This list enables the owner to make clear and cost-effective decisions regarding the construction of their project.

Architects use this list to tailor the project and regularly offer compromises to the owner, which may be alternate solutions for restaurant value engineering.

It’s Hospitality Construction Services’ job to make sure that you build the right job at the right price.

When discussing the menu with the owner and architect, the contractor:

  • Brings samples – The contractor should bring samples of the substitutions for you to review. You may like the substitutions better when you see the cost savings!
  • Explains the substitutions – Mescolotto explains how something as simple as having a different variety of wood can make a difference.
  • Example: Mescolotto had a client who wanted heart pine wood for the restaurant. He explained how using Douglas fir wood and staining it would look almost exactly the same and save them $50,000. They were sold on that substitution!

Be Creative, Yet Realistic

Ultimately, owners can save a significant amount of money by being creative and having realistic expectations about the product.

Finally, Mescolotto emphasizes that restaurant value engineering is a team job. He works seamlessly with the owner, architect, and subcontractors to make it work.

There’s help!

We know this is a lot to consider, in addition to the logistics of opening a restaurant. The good news is that you don’t have to do this all yourself! Hospitality Construction Services is here to help. We have years of experience and would love to help you meet your budgetary goals by assessing the pros and cons of any prospective property you are looking at.

Have questions about restaurant value engineering? Call us today at (240) 425-3038 or email me at

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