Program that Fast Tracks Restaurant Openings Set to Expand

Opening a restaurant in New York City can be a tedious process that involves inspections by city agencies that include the Health, Buildings and Fire Departments. But the city says a pilot program started last March has shaved more than two months off the time it takes for restaurants to open in New York City. 

The program provides a point person who can coordinate appointments and help iron out problems. So far, the new business acceleration program has helped open 546 restaurants —a small portion of the roughly 4700 restaurants that open annually.

The city said those 546 restaurants generated more than 6,000 jobs, $9 million in tax revenue and $50 million in sales revenue. The program is expected to expand to all opening restaurants by the end of the 2012.

Peter Hansen from Benchmarc Restaurants recently used the program to open Ditch Plains on the Upper West Side. It took him just over 6 months - 4 months shorter than usual, he said. "That was great for us. I mean a bulk of that was construction and the build out we did there but on the permit process side honestly there were times when we had to keep up with their process.”

The program has been well received by the restaurant industry but there is concern that without more resources, expanding the program may end up slowing things down again. "Then you're right back to waiting in line and waiting for meetings and waiting for your paperwork to possibly cross someone's desk," Hansen said.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn initiated the program and said the council will monitor the program to make sure its keeping up with demand. "We found that, in the start up phases, we didn't have to add a lot of extra staff because it was really just coordinating and using the staff we already had more effectively. We hope that will continue to be the standard and the model," Quinn said.

The program is expected to expand to retail stores next. According to Quinn, three Modell's sporting goods stores have opened faster so far through the program.