January 24, 2019 |
“Employing a project manager for a restaurant fit-out is a waste of time and money!”
This statement was an interesting way to start a conversation, but that was how it began.
It was interesting also because the person who said it to me knew we had successfully project managed several restaurants in a number of locations throughout the UAE last year. I wasn’t sure if this was an attempt at a bit of good old Aussie sledging (after all, it is cricket season back in Australia) or something a little deeper. So I waited for the next sentence which would give me some sort of indication whether this was going to be a tirade of bad project experiences or a bit of a laugh. In the end, it was a bit of both, and I must admit, if I had experienced the same situations that this person had endured, then I probably would have formed the same opinion myself.
But I knew this person did not have the skills to manage the project by themselves, let alone have the time away from their normal daily grind, so we both agreed a project manager was needed. But the conversation did stop me for a minute and I found myself running through the pros and cons for restaurants to use a project manager, and here’s what I collated:
Firstly, the negatives…
It was explained to me that project managers “change things” and that this adds time taken to complete the project. That sounded a bit odd to me, because in all my time managing projects, I have only ever suggested a project change when things were starting to head off the rails. So yes, change can happen, but it very rarely emanates from the project manager.
I have sometimes heard of a project manager who was just a ‘post-box’ and didn’t add value towards the project succeeding. It is unfortunate and not the way it should be, but it can happen if you don’t use the right project manager.
Obviously any professional advice worth value, whether that be a project manager or someone else, will cost money. This is a fact. Normally however, for a typical restaurant it will be a few days or a week of someone’s time, a little more in the beginning and a little more towards the end, but it should be the cost of an experienced professional who would need to be paid for their time.
Now I get to the pros, and interestingly they cover the same headings:
Managing expectations with realistic approval time frames, identifying long lead items and creating the correct contractor procurement route can save a project significant time. Time saved in restaurant fit-outs ensures they open in time for peak season rather than just in time for everyone to go on holidays.
I would agree that PMs who act as a post-box, simply passing on pieces of paper, is not the value clients should expect. Restaurant fit-outs require someone to get in early, set the procurement strategy, establish the project implementation plan which identifies the key risks and how to mitigate them, creating the ‘right’ programme and then managing the project with the timely input of all design disciplines, approvals durations, and stakeholder approval processes. This is true value and if managed well, ensures project success.
For the marginal cost of a project manager’s time, it can save the project weeks and sometimes months in delays due to the identification of design errors, management of critical path activities, identification of missing FF&E and OS&E, and so on. When restaurants consider the revenue lost from over-shooting opening dates, the cost of a professional project manager pales into insignificance.
But of course, you can’t lay all that down with someone who is coming off a bad experience. Their experience is their experience. Project managers cannot control everything… sure, we can manage every aspect of the project from inception through to operation. But we cannot guarantee success because we are not in control of owner’s desires, Authority approval times, ingrained contractor or supplier nominations, and what a contractor will find when they open up a ceiling void and discover unexpected issues with services, for instance.
All I would say to the owners, operators and restaurant developers who are about to embark on a restaurant fit-out is this: If an owner or operator wants to design, tender and fit-out a restaurant, get in touch with a project manager who has experience in restaurant work and have a chat. If they feel that this company can take the burden of dealing with the project issues away from them, and that they trust that the project manager will save time, cost and add value, then crack on. If you pick the right project management firm, while things may not always be perfect, the end result be a darn sight better, cheaper and quicker than if you don’t use one!
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