Fitting out a restaurant, cafe or bar can be overwhelming - with so many intricate moving parts and things to consider - it can be hard to know where to start. Good news! We've put together some handy helpful information to hopefully demystify some elements and help move you towards your goals.

Click on the links below to go straight to the section or just scroll on down to get a breakdown of useful information we've learned and pulled together over the many years we've been doing this.


The New Zealand Building Code (NZBC) dictates construction requirements to comply with the building code. If you are taking over an existing space and only want to make minor changes, you may be able to get away with an exemption from consent instead of a building consent. Check with your local council or with us if you’re unsure.

There are a number of key elements that generally need to be covered off in order for your fit out to comply with the NZBC.


Every building consent application requires a fire report. A fire engineer will review your proposed plans and produce a report that dictates amongst other things: the type of fire alarm system needed, number of occupants allowed (based on size and availability of egress routes), locations of emergency exit signage, requirements for fire rating of walls, ceilings, penetrations and doors and other fire elements. These requirements vary for every site depending on the type of use, number of occupants, whether the building is stand alone or shared, purely commercial or commercial + residential and many other factors. It's crucial that your architect/designer/draftsperson understand the fire report and communicate it's requirements on the plans, and that your contractors construct what is approved in your building consent.  The requirements for fire protection are covered in Acceptable Solutions C1-C6 Protection from Fire.


These sections cover the ability to get in and out of buildings, including people that have higher accessibility needs (i.e. those in wheelchairs, injured, older people). Key dimensions include a 1200mm wide clear path from accessible car parking, through a minimum 760mm clear wide entry to the counter/reception, and through to the bathroom and workspaces. Also the need to have an accessible counter at a defined height so that counters are not impractical for wheelchair users. The key objective of these requirements is to make buildings accessible to as many of the population as possible. Other elements dictated include stairway and handrail dimensions, ramp angles, ceiling clearances and many others. Requirements can be viewed in Acceptable Solution D1/AS1.


These elements include the need to have hand wash basins in commercial kitchens, the minimum dimensions of W/C's, the quantity and type of W/C's required (unisex, male, female, accessible), the specification of light coloured, easily cleanable, impervious surfaces in food preparation areas and other health and hygiene related directives. These can be viewed in Acceptable Solution's G1/AS1 and G3/AS1.


Other sections that may dictate your requirements depending on the size and scope of your fit-out could include Structural, Internal Moisture, External Moisture, Ventilation etc. Your various consultants will bring together this knowledge and provide you with design details to ensure compliance with the building code. For an overview of the various Acceptable Solutions, that provide solutions to comply with the building code, follow this link


Your cafe, restaurant or bar will likely cost more to fit out than you think. But if you're prepared, some costs may not come as such a shock. Below are a number of fees you will likely have to pay when producing a building consent. Everything is naturally project dependent, keeping in mind variables depend on the scale of what you are doing. 


If you are changing the use of your space, increasing occupancy numbers, altering anything to do with the building envelope or creating new connections to the sewer system, you are going to need a building consent. You can find these typical costings and consent fees on your council's website or by googling it. The fees will vary depending on the value of the work but typically you can estimate it will be a few thousand dollars. You'll pay a deposit initially and then a final fee once your consent has been approved and is ready to pick up. If you are only doing minor works, you may be able to get away with an 'exemption from consent'. Google it to do some ground research or send us an email and we'll help you figure it out.


If you’re getting a building consent, you will need professionals to pull together the compliance documentation. Below are the professionals you customarily need to engage to gain a successful submission: 


Typically a designer will cost you approximately 10% of your build costs. They will pull together your drawing package including a proposed layout, demolition, walls, flooring, ceilings, accessibility, lighting, etc and will generally manage the below sub consultants and pull together and submit your building consent package. Their service can also include design and construction documentation. This is the bread and butter of what Millé does. 


Every building consent requires a fire report. The report covers how the public will be protected from fire, how they will escape in an emergency, permitted wall linings, alarm systems and other fire related elements. Typically these costs can fall in and around $2,500 plus GST.


Most sites (except exceptionally small floor areas) require emergency lighting. Emergency lighting will turn on in the event of a power cut and illuminate the emergency exit path. This needs to be designed by a qualified electrical engineer. Typically costs can fall in and around $1,200 - $1,500 plus GST.


Your space will likely require extraction of stale air and introduction of fresh air. A mechanical engineer will inspect, quote, design and specify fan and duct sizes and advise what ventilation requirements are required to meet the building code. Typically these costs can fall in and around $1,000 to $2,000 plus GST. Some contractors will offer a design & build service whereby they will refund the design fee if you engage them to install the mechanical work.


If your are moving walls or creating new openings in existing walls, you will likely need a structural engineer. Cost will depend on the scope of works. 


A hydraulic engineer will design and specify your water, drainage & gas layout. They will create drawings which outline the size, falls & reticulation of pipes, hot water cylinders, grease trap sizes, vent locations and a thousand other complicated things. Typically a hydraulic design is around $3,000.


There are many trades involved in pulling together a fit out. Below is a list of common trades. 


The easiest and best way to fit out your space is to engage a main contractor. This is typically a builder or building company who directly engages all the sub trades required to complete your project. They manage your build program, instruct sub trades when to complete work (and remedy any errors), manage all council inspections and ensure all compliance documentation is collected and collated to ensure you receive your final CCC (code compliance certificate - issued by your council - it states that your building work complies with the building code - you will need this for insurance purposes).

A fit out is a multi-faceted, fast moving, complicated process that is almost always riddled with problems, delays and frustrations. Using a main contractor means you have one point of contact, one company you can lean on to ensure that all work is completed to satisfaction. This naturally comes at a cost. In our experience this cost is worth it. However often on smaller projects, the cost is prohibitive and the owner ends up managing the sub trades directly. This can lead to a very stressful experience for the owner trying to manage hundreds of unfamiliar questions and decisions (and consequences). But if you've got a taste for it and can accept the inevitable mistakes and difficulties of construction, there is a lot to learn.


Plumbing will add up to a significant cost for your project. If you're installing toilets (quantities are determined by the building code), these can add a fair amount of cost. Thereafter you'll need to connect all your sinks, coffee machines, dishwashers, ice machine's etc. If you have a concrete floor, you may ned to cut and trench this to get the required fall to the sewer line, or if you're lucky you can reticulate your waste pipes within timber framed walls. If you have gas equipment, often your plumber will do this work too. They'll need to provide PS3's (producer statements) and gas certificates on completion of the work for compliance purposes. 


Your electrician will install all your electrical and data wiring, sockets and lighting. They will also install your emergency exit signage and emergency lighting. If you're installing CCTV or AV systems, they can install these too (or you can use specialist companies for this work). The electrician will also make up a significant cost of your project.


Your joiner will produce your counters, banquettes, booths, retail shelving etc. This is detailed workmanship that is manufactured offsite in a factory, then dropped to site when required, installed and connected to other services such as electricity and plumbing as needed. Depending on your design, joinery can up to a significant cost. 


Depending on your project, you may have significant flooring requirements. Hospitality projects will require vinyl or tile floors in kitchen areas with coving to all walls. Most projects will have decorative flooring requirements, whether polished concrete floors, laying new timber floors or carpets, flooring can add up to a considerable expense. 


Ceilings are another project dependent element. You may be able to get away with no ceilings or you may have an existing ceiling that just needs a paint job. If you are installing a commercial kitchen you will need to have a light, smooth cleanable, accessible ceilings with no areas that dust, dirt or grease can collect. You may install a grid and tile ceiling, or painted plasterboard on timber framing with panels for access to services. Your other consideration with ceilings is acoustics. If you have hard surfaces everywhere, sound will reverberate and make it difficult to hold a conversation. Ceilings and decorative panels or divisions/baffles etc can break sound waves and create a more enjoyable environment. If you have a whole lot of unsightly services above (waste pipes, mechanical ducting etc) you can often make it all disappear by spraying with black paint. If you are installing a ceiling you may need to have it engineered to comply with seismic (earthquake) legislation. Your options and compliance requirements are endless and will be project and budget dependent. 


These will usually be installed by your builder. Whether it is plasterboard or timber, seratone or tiles, wall linings and finishes can make up a significant part of the project budget. Wet areas will require impervious surfaces, kitchen hotlines will require fire resistant linings & stainless steel. Timber wall linings will often require intumescent paint to fire rate them (your fire report will dictate this). There are a lot of design, compliance and budgetary decisions when it comes to wall linings & finishes.


Your mechanical contractor will install any fresh air & extraction ducts and fans. They may also install your heating and air conditioning. If you are installing a commercial kitchen, these costs can be huge, due to the size of ducting and fans and the need to bring ducting and exhaust points to the roof and away from openable windows and doors. If your landlord has specified the requirement for UV hoods in your lease, be cautious as these can cost many tens of thousands of dollars. 


The building code requires significant fire protection for spaces used by the public. Your fire report will dictate these requirements and can be as simple as a basic fire alarm and as complicated as sprinklers and smoke curtains. If you need to add/move sprinklers, these can add up to significant costs. 

These are an over view of the  main trades generally involved in a fit out. If you have any queries or want any clarifications, feel free to reach out and send us an email. We're happy to help. Also, check out the budget worksheet download available in our guides. 

All of the above are project dependent. 


A running budget is critical to stay on top of your fit-out costs. Enter your email below to receive a copy of a fully editable excel worksheet (PDF printout below to see what you'll get).