Most projects are late. In the F&B industry in particular, missed deadlines are an occupational hazard – especially in time-pressured, high-cost Hong Kong. But there is no reason this should be the case.
The biggest problem is this: a lot of people go into a project thinking it’s going to be easy. It isn’t, as they rapidly discover when they sit down and start thinking in detail about everything they need to do. The challenge is to identify at the start which are the time-consuming tasks, and which are most likely to be subject to delays – and then prioritise ruthlessly.
With a lot of projects, but F&B ones in particular, I often talk to clients who have a clear idea about the broad strokes – the general design they want, the theme, the ambience they’re trying to create. What they sometimes fail to appreciate is the amount of services, infrastructure and general building guts that go into bringing that design to life.
Most people’s idea of what’s most likely to delay them, moreover, is not what in fact delays them. Licensing might sound like something that will slow you down, but if you’re organised there’s no reason why it should. In fact delays in licensing are usually caused by delays in construction.
Specifically, they happen because people don’t read what are called the landlord provisions. This is a document that sets out everything you need to do in order to run your business on those premises, and do so legally. It’s something that most restaurant operators don’t even think about in advance – but they need to. I’ve seen so many operators sign tenancy agreements without even looking at the landlord provisions; this is a huge mistake because if your very first step is wrong, you’re already on the wrong path.
Numerous buildings in Hong Kong come with unreliable paperwork, illegal structures and other impediments to Buildings Department approval – and the older the building is, the more likely those things are to be a problem. I’ve looked at buildings where owners or tenants have made additions or alterations, which mean that the reality of the building no longer matches the building plans, creating a whole lot of potential regulatory headaches. Getting this sort of thing right is the very first step you need to take. And once construction work starts, avoiding delays means strict prioritisation: in other words, getting the various jobs done in the right order.
Design ideas are often very personal, and people can become emotionally invested in them and want every detail to be perfect. That, plus the gap between what a design looks like on a drawing and what it looks like in reality, can often cause people to change their minds about design details on the fly. I would advise very strongly against this: changes to the plan slow things down in themselves, but they can also mean a design that previously met the building code no longer does. In other words: get it right at the start, and don’t try to make changes, because you might not be able to do so without them costing you time and, more importantly, money.
Ivan – 28/01/2018