Let’s face it! Getting building permits for your new franchise is a colossal pain! However, it’s a necessary step in getting your franchise space built and your doors open for business. Perhaps the most frustrating part of the process is that it is one of the few aspects of the project that is out of the franchisee’s control. Even the most seasoned veterans in the franchise business world can find the permitting process overwhelming in terms of time, money, and the amount of paperwork required to complete it.
A large part of the frustration undoubtedly stems from how greatly the process can vary from city to city and state to state. It’s not just the process that varies, but it’s also the permitting office’s capabilities that can be as different as night and day.
For instance, right now in St. Paul, Minnesota, the Department of Safety and Inspections is trying to catch up on a backlog of nearly 60,000 open permits that amassed between 2007 and 2017, according to a report in the Star Tribune. Meanwhile, Miami recently upgraded its antiquated permit system and promises to deliver feedback from city staff within two hours of submitting plans. Of course, as with any new system, it takes time to work out glitches and other problems.
From a distance, the permitting process might appear easy. Once a franchisee has his or her construction documents in hand, a registered architect must stamp and sign the plans. Then, with the help of the architect or general contractor the franchisee files the documents with the city and/or county permit office, which reviews the documents to ensure that the plans meet locally adopted building codes and regulations. Easy, right?
If only it were that easy. The fact is that the process varies greatly from city to city. Some require plans and documents to be filed in person. Others have moved to an electronic filing system. Most cities follow international building codes, but many have their own specific rules and regulations. The costs also vary, from hundreds of dollars to thousands of dollars.
The process becomes even more complicated if your franchise is related to food service or health services. In those instances, separate permits may be required from the county and or state health departments.
Once the plans have been filed, the permitting office reviews all of the documents. Again, depending on the location, that process can range anywhere from two hours, as Miami alleges, to six weeks. Based on our experience, the average is probably closer to 30 days, give or take one week.
After that first review, the permitting office will provide feedback with required revisions. Once those revisions are incorporated into the construction plans, they must be resubmitted for a second review, which generally takes less time than the initial review.
But the fun doesn’t stop there. Once construction begins, there will be planned inspections throughout the process to ensure that the space is being built per the approved plans. The inspections vary from location to location. However, most franchisees should expect, at a minimum, inspections for framing, ceiling, electrical, mechanical, and plumbing. Other inspections may be required, depending on the scope and extent of the construction required. Once construction is complete, there will be a final inspection in order to obtain the certificate of occupancy. This certificate will allow the franchisee to open the space for business.
Suffice it to say, there are a lot of steps. And, we may have mentioned this once or twice in these articles, but the franchisee, whether this is his first business or 31st, has a lot to do to prepare for the opening. Dealing with the additional challenges of permitting is too much for most business owners.
As a result, many franchisees partner with firms like ours to not only help them navigate the process but to actually handle all of the details and ensure that nothing falls through the cracks, which could unnecessarily delay the franchise opening.
There are several advantages to bringing in a partner like Site Genius on to handle the permitting, not the least of which is removing a major source of frustration from the franchisee’s plate.
Because we operate in so many places, we have built local knowledge of the various permitting rules and regs. Even when we enter a new location, we speak the language of permitting offices and officials, so there is no learning curve related to translating the terms and jargon of the office.
While hiring a firm such as Site Genius to manage and troubleshoot permitting won’t necessarily speed up the process, having a knowledgeable partner ensures that the process runs smoothly and won’t be delayed by missed deadlines, misunderstandings, or other missteps that could easily trip up even the most experienced franchisee.
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