Made to Order
DesertBuild Construction serves the restaurant niche…and more
When customers choose to eat fast food, they expect the restaurant to deliver the food at a certain quality and in a speedy manner. The word “fast,” after all, is part of the description.
So, it’s not exactly a surprise that fast-food restaurants have similar expectations from their vendors and builders: They’re looking for an expedient construction process with high-quality results.
DesertBuild Construction (DesertBuild) is one firm that has made those elements a priority. And in doing so, the Arizona company has established itself as a leader among restaurant owners and the industry as a whole.
“Not only do we do great work, we also put ourselves in our clients’ shoes,” DesertBuild President Josh Wagner says. “We use the best subcontractors with the best prices and pay them ahead of industry standards. This allows us to get our subs on site when needed along with great quality work. We want our subs happy to give our customers the best quality. Our jobs are typically completed faster, which means client sales start sooner.”
Up and Running Quickly
The company aims to complete restaurant projects 120 days after breaking ground—if not sooner.
“That’s incredibly fast to go from a dirt lot to a business that is up and functioning, but we can execute it with a high level of quality because of our experience and our relationships with subcontractors,” says DesertBuild Construction Project Manager Sara Nichols, who started with the company in 2019.
An overwhelming majority of DesertBuild’s business—about 85%—has been food or restaurant projects. Focused entirely on commercial builds, DesertBuild made a real name for itself in just a little over two years by executing projects for restaurants including Burger King, Jack in the Box, Denny’s, Dutch Bros Coffee, Culver’s and Taco Bell.
Building a restaurant requires special skills and an extra level of detail compared to other construction projects. Not only does one have to build to meet city and building codes, restaurant projects must also meet health code requirements.
“When you can build a restaurant that can pass inspection, you can build anything,” Nichols says.
DesertBuild’s restaurant expertise has positioned the company as a niche leader. The team has worked on enough projects to know what to expect, how to stay on a timeline and how to recognize potential issues before they become problems.
There have been times that the building plans have included details, drain placement for example, that the DesertBuild’s team knows won’t meet health code, so the team adjusts accordingly to make sure it will pass inspection. Builders with less food industry experience might miss a detail like that, and if the inspection fails, it slows things for the customer, Nichols says.
“When you’re good at building restaurants, word gets around, and you find yourself staying busy with more and more restaurants,” she says.
Wagner and Nichols say one reason why DesertBuild can work at such a high level is because of their project managers’ holistic approach.
Streamlined and Efficient
DesertBuild’s project managers bid a job and then oversee it once the contract has been awarded. That process helps keep things streamlined and efficient when compared to what can happen when components of the process are handed off to different employees.
“Because I put the bid together, I already have knowledge about the project, and I know what’s coming up,” Nichols says. “We know what to expect, which helps things run smoothly.”
Though it is open to tenant improvements and remodeling, more than 90% of DesertBuild’s work is on ground-up projects.
“We get to work after a client has found a dirt lot and we do everything,” Nichols says. “We take the plot of land and turn it into a functioning site.”
DesertBuild is currently beginning to expand its roster of clients and the type of work it completes. Beyond restaurant work, DesertBuild has completed projects for Salon Plaza, My Salon Suite and Planet Fitness, as well as collision centers and other retail locations.
“We will build anything a client’s heart desires, and with our group of architects that we trust, we will design anything that anyone can think up,” Wagner says. “The process is easy. We will come to you or you can come to us. Whatever the case, once we shake hands, we will relentlessly push your project to the promised land.“
Hitting the two-year mark and establishing financial milestones has opened up DesertBuild to a growing number of clients, including those financed by third parties. Previously, it had been limited to customers who were self-funded.
“It’s opened us to all kinds of new opportunities,” Nichols says. “The next 12 months is all about building relationships and bidding on jobs that haven’t been available to us before, including projects in the three million to four million dollar range.”
The company doubled its business, year to year, since founded in 2018, but is looking to push even further. However, Wagner wants to grow while maintaining a warm and welcoming environment on job sites and in its Avondale, Arizona, office, where the president, three project managers and a bid coordinator are headquartered.
“This is truly an environment that encourages people to ask questions and learn more, and that’s true for employees and customers alike,” Nichols says. “It’s all about understanding what is going on and how we can get the best results.”
The bulk of DesertBuild’s work has been executed in Arizona, but Wagner, Nichols and the rest of the team have also been on job sites in California and Texas. When contemplating the future, the team is willing to work just about anywhere—whatever it takes to keep clients satisfied and word-of-mouth growing.
As Nichols says, “We want to keep existing customers happy, keep quality at a high level and continue to look forward and find ways to grow.”