Know which utilities your hospitality site needs before you sign a lease

Gerrick Numan

December 5, 2023

Hospo Hints

Do you know which utilities your hospitality site needs?

Your venue is going to need power, water, drainage, gas, fresh air, and fire protection, but it’s not that simple…

It’s not enough to have a power board, a water feed and a sewer pipe to connect to – these things have multiple layers of complication.

I’ll break these down simply below:


In simple terms, power comes into a building in the form of a cable which carries a number of Amps (a unit of power) to the electrical distribution board (DB). A site may have 60, 180 or any other number of Amps available.

Different pieces of typical hospitality use different amounts of Amps. A large coffee machine may use 32A. A fridge may use 10A. A sandwich press 15A.

A site that has only 60A of power available will need to have the power supply increased to have enough power to supply your restaurant, cafe or bar (dependent on equipment you’re using).

The upgrade process can cost many $1,000’s of dollars and take a long time because you have to deal with utility companies that charge a lot and take a long time.

If you love the site, try to negotiate that your landlord pay for this. Always have your electrician confirm if your site has enough power for the equipment you want to use.

Don’t forget about air conditioning and mechanical extraction – these use a lot of power.


In order to drain, sewer pipes rely on gravity. So the location of your sewer connection matters a lot.

If the sewer connection is at the rear of the site, and you want to put sinks at the front, there needs to be enough ‘fall’ for the waste water in the pipes to reach the sewer connection. ‘Fall’ (the angle of the sewer pipes to allow water to drain) depends on the amount of waste water going in to them and the size of the pipes.

There are building code requirements around this and your plumber will be able to confirm this for you.

Fall can happen above ground (i.e. from under the sink) to the floor level. But if the distance from sink to the sewer connection is too long, you will have to go under the floor.

If it is a timber floor, with a cavity below it, this may be easy. If it is a concrete floor, you may need to cut the concrete, dig a trench, and reinstate it the concrete floor. If you have a car park or basement below, it may be easy.

But it’s not as simple as just connecting your sinks to the drain. Talk to your plumber to make sure what you have in mind is achievable.

Grease Trap

A grease trap or interceptor collects oil and grease from waste water to ensure the grease does not congeal in and block the sewer system.

If you are cooking with oil and washing dishes, you will need a grease trap connected to your dish washing sink.

These can be under bench units that are cleaned daily, or larger passive exterior units that are emptied by a truck with a suction hose. They have different levels of effectiveness, maintenance and costs. Learn more here.

Sometimes a site will have a ‘greasy line’ (a sewer pipe available for you to connect your dishwashing sink to) and a grease trap already installed.

Be sure to check because a grease trap is many $1,000’s of dollars.


Thankfully, water is pretty easy. Water doesn’t rely on gravity.

Water pipes are under pressure, so can be installed anywhere and you can get water where you want.

You will need to think about a hot water heater though.

These come in many types. Instant, continuous hot water systems are the best (and most expensive).

Small electric ones can run out of hot water quickly or take a long time to get hot water to a tap.

Talk to your plumber about the best one for your situation.

Fresh Air

Dirty air needs to be removed from your venue and fresh, breathable air needs to be supplied.

You will need to extract dirty air from your kitchen and bathrooms using fans, duct work and kitchen hoods.

Fresh air needs to come into your space either through openable windows or doors or mechanically introduced through fans and ductwork.

Local councils will have regulations based on what is required to keep air fresh and breathable for people using your space.

You can talk to your mechanical contractor or mechanical engineer to get exact requirements for you space.


Gas is either natural gas or LPG. Natural gas is the one in the ground, connected to the main city gas lines.

Your site may either have a natural connection connection and gas meter already, or not. If you have a meter, great, create an account with a gas retailer and you’re good to go. If there’s no meter – you’ll need one installed. You’ll need to check whether gas is available in the street.

If gas is available at your address, you’ll need to apply with your gas utility to have a meter installed. This will take time and cost money – they will need to dig up the street and footpath to install it in your site.

If natural gas is not available, you will need to use LPG bottles that a LPG supplier can drop off and replace as required. If LPG is required, you’ll need a level, caged platform that is away from openable windows and doors.

Talk to your plumber to confirm local requirements and availability.

If gas is all too hard, you can use electric equipment only. This is not standard but is a possibility if you have enough power supply.

Fire Protection

Depending on how big your space is and how many people will use it, what type of people use the building or neighbours (commercial or residential) and a number of other factors, will determine what fire protection requirements are needed for your space.

Fire protection includes types of fire alarms (visual or audible or both), whether sprinklers are required, and what type of materials are allowed in your space (i.e. timber walls may not be allowed because they can burn quickly).

There will be requirements on the number of doors people can exit from in a fire and how wide the ‘escape path’ is in an emergency.

You may be required to install ‘emergency lights’ depending on how far people have to travel to escape the building (these are lights that turn on when the power is cut to ensure people can find their way out).


This is about ensuring all types of people can use spaces that are intended to be used by the public, whether they can walk freely, are in a wheelchair, or on crutches or any other scenario.

This will mean that it is free an easy to get into the space (either through a level entry or a ramp – i.e. no stairs).

And that there is a certain width available for people to walk through a space (in New Zealand it is a clear 1.2m wide unobstructed path).

Toilets will have to be supplied that are usable by people in wheelchairs.

Not to mention payment methods.


As you can see, there are many factors that come into play on whether a site is suitable for a restaurant, cafe or bar.

Try not to sign a lease without knowing which utilities your hospitality site needs first.

If you rush into it, you can end up with huge costs that you hadn’t imagined.

You can talk to your different trades to get answers about the utilities your hospitality site needs before you proceed. Or shoot us an email or give us a call and we can help.

The next article in our Hospo Hints series discusses what to consider when looking at lease terms for your restaurant, café or bar.