Updated: Sep 18, 2019
Becoming a new franchisee can often be a daunting experience, and wrapping your arms around all of the steps may be difficult. The design and permitting process should not be. The first step in helping to ease your stress will be to hire a competent design professional. One with retail experience, who knows the process and can help walk you through the steps.
The franchisor will likely have a design professional that they use and who understands the brand standards. While using this person may make sense for you, keep in mind that in most situations you are not required to do so. As a franchisee you have the freedom to select the design professional you wish and are not tied down to what the franchisor tells you.
Saying that, moving away from the franchisors design professional may have risks. Working with someone not familiar with the brand standards may cost you more time as they work to familiarize themselves with all the standards. Whatever road you take, understand who you are selecting and make sure you feel comfortable. Remember, this is your dream and your money, so you need to feel right with the person you select.
Once you have your architect onboard I recommend sitting with them and having a conversation about the process. As a franchisee you will most likely be concerned about timing. How long with it take to complete the construction documents and obtain a building permit so you can start building your store.
A good design professional will have a schedule built based on past experience with this type of franchise. They will be able to walk you through the steps it takes to complete the documents. Keep in mind that a design schedule will be based on using the franchise brand standards as the base for the documents. Any deviation from the approved brand standards will in most cases extend the schedule as the architect will need to take additional time to make the necessary changes to the prototype set.
In addition, the cost for the set of documents may be based on using the prototype set of brand standards. Again, any changes to those documents may add additional money to the design fee.
Now that the drawings are completed you will proceed into the permitting part of the process. This is the part that will test your patience and stress levels. The permitting process will be different depending on the municipality you are in and navigating each one can be a challenge. While each municipality will most likely use the International Building Code (IBC) they may also have their own amendments to the IBC.
In addition, each municipality will have a different timetable as to how long they take to review drawings. In some locations you may be able to obtain a permit in a couple weeks and others it may be a couple months. Make sure this is built into your overall project schedule so there are no surprises.
As a franchisee you will have a choice to make with regards to permitting. In some cases, you may want to try to permit the drawings on your own depending on the complexity of the municipality you are working in. Doing this may save you a couple thousand dollars by not having your architect take care of it. However, make note that if you are trying to get a permit in Miami, Florida it will likely be much more challenging than trying to get a permit in Alamosa, Colorado. If you do decide to try and handle the permitting process yourself make sure you do your homework and fully understand the process.
My recommendation is to have your architect handle this process. Yes, you will pay more but your stress level will be reduced significantly. Many times, if you are working with an architect who completes drawings for many locations across the country, they will be familiar with the differing processes. Make note, that once the drawings are submitted for permit, they are in the hands of a government. Try to be patient, they will not care much about your own personal deadlines. In addition, they may ask for things that you think are totally ridiculous however you will not get a permit without them.
In the end, be patient and work with your architect. You hired them for a reason, trust that they know what they are doing and are working with your best interest in mind.
Takeaway: Having a good design professional will help you navigate the process and reduce the stress that comes with opening your own franchise.
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