Reduce Restaurant Building Cost – Design Decisions to Plan Early

When building a restaurant for fast casual dining or take out, some initial design decisions will save on construction cost.

Start with Use/Occupancy Type – Restaurants are typically Assembly Group A-2 Classification 

When planning a new restaurant or restaurant renovation, there are important construction/occupational requirements.

First, the restaurant building is an Assembly Occupancy Classification. To receive a Use and Occupancy Permit for a restaurant, you must meet International Building Codes requirements for Assembly Group A-2.

This assembly classification that is typical for many architects and contractors, so restaurant owners can easily find experienced professionals in most cities.


Second, you need to calculate the occupant load. The use of areas within the buildings determine the occupant load. For A-2, the typical use areas would include:

Assembly with fixed seats: 1 person per seat

Assembly without fixed seats:

  • Standing Space 5 net sf per person
  • Chairs only 7 net sf per person
  • Tables and chairs 15 net sf per person

Kitchen, commercial: 200 gross sf per person

Accessory storage areas: 300 gross sf per person

a2 construction type

IBC 303.3: Assembly Group A-2 with examples.

The best building type for fast casual and take out restaurant in terms of COST FOR CONSTRUCTION is:

– Construction Type V-B building

– No fire sprinkler system

– Single story

– Less than 6,000 square feet.


This Construction Type includes no cost for plumbing upgrades for a costly sprinkler system, no cost for fire resistant construction at walls and roofs, and no fire separation within the restaurant (i.e. the dining and kitchen do not need a separation wall).

Planning for Occupant Load

Occupant Load is determined by the use of areas in the building. For Group A-2, the typical use areas would include:

Assembly with fixed seats:   1 person per seat

Assembly without fixed seats:

  • Standing Space        5 net sf per person
  • Chairs only                 7 net sf per person
  • Tables and chairs    15 net sf per person

Kitchen, commercial:       200 gross sf per person

Accessory storage areas:  300 gross sf per person


For Group A-2 Occupancy with fixed seating, the seats are counted to determine the occupant load.  Seating for multiple people without dividing arms (like benches) are calculated at 18 linear inches of seating length per person.

Additional occupied space (like a waiting area) is calculated using the occupant load factor for that space, which is then added to the number of fixed seats.

pizza restaurant plan

Plan of 312 Pizza Restaurant by CMArchitects

Designing within Net and Gross Floor Area

Gross floor area is measured within the inside surface of the walls, and includes all occupied and non occupied spaces.

Bathrooms, closets, electrical/mechanical rooms, and other non occupied spaces are never subtracted from the gross floor area.

Net floor area is calculated for occupied areas only.

Non occupied spaces like corridors, stairs, bathrooms, electrical/mechanical rooms, closets, and fixed equipment are subtracted from the gross floor area to determine the net floor area.


Author: Brent Hunter

fast casual restaurant design architect tn nashville

McDonald’s Interior Renovations by CMArchitects

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If you are new to restaurant ownership, or are curious about restaurants as a business, we also recommend Toast’s Restaurant Business Plan Tips.


Fire suppression systems can be a very costly line item, especially if your restaurant design did not meet minimum requirements during construction. Check out this fire suppression system vs cost to ask the right questions from the beginning – Kitchen Fire Suppression Systems

CMArchitects PLLC offers expertise in restaurant construction planning and code compliance. We work with owners, developers and franchisees to design renovations for restrooms, services areas, dining areas and kitchens in new and existing construction in over 100 restaurant projects throughout Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Missouri, Alabama and Illinois.


Our services include:

ADA and Universal Design Consulting

Existing Conditions Surveys and Barrier Reports

Post Construction Surveys and Close-out

New Build and Renovation Experience

Technology Upgrades at POS

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