Case Study: Restoring a High-end Restaurant


1. Share a little bit about your company.

Zolman Restoration was established in 2013 by Todd Sachse. As a sister company to Sachse Construction, a renowned national commercial general contractor, we bring a wealth of experience and expertise to the table. With two convenient locations in Walled Lake and Sterling Heights, Mich., we are well-positioned to serve the southeast Michigan region. However, we are always ready to expand our reach across the nation to meet the needs of our valued clients.

2. When did you first get the call about the loss? How did you land this job? Did you have a prior relationship, referral, online search, etc?

This fire happened at a high-end mall in Metro Detroit, and affected several stores and high-end restaurants. When Todd Sachse received the call about the fire that night, it was not unexpected. Sachse Construction has maintained a long-standing relationship with the mall’s ownership, and been involved in working at that mall since its inception. Given Zolman’s strong connection with Sachse Construction, there was never a doubt that they recognized our capabilities and had confidence in our ability to handle such a significant project. As days passed following the incident, we ultimately secured a contract with a renowned national restaurant chain to undertake the necessary repairs, for which they were responsible in their lease agreement.

3. Walk us thru the loss:

The fire originated from a restaurant hood vent on the first floor of the mall and extended through the second and third floors before reaching a booster building on the roof.

The welded one-piece ductwork of the vent sustained severe damage. The fire breached a small area outside the fire chase, which triggered a fire suppression head and caused significant damage to the back corridors of the mall. The restaurant’s kitchen, including fixtures, carpeting, and equipment above the ceiling tiles, also suffered extensive damage.

The activation of the fire suppression head on the third floor resulted in water damage that affected multiple retail stores and restaurants throughout the mall, all the way down to the first floor. Mitigation efforts were necessary to address the aftermath of the water damage.

To manage the cleanup, water removal, and demolition, we mobilized a dedicated team of over 30 members and partners who worked tirelessly throughout the night and continued their efforts for several weeks afterward. In addition to addressing the site and fire-damaged areas, we conducted necessary demolition work in the back corridors, tackling challenging tasks such as reaching inaccessible areas, working with utilities, piping, and dealing with tall heights.

4. What was the biggest challenge on this loss? What was the biggest win?

The greatest challenge on the loss was being able to isolate the affected areas of the mall as safely and quickly as possible in order to not further disrupt the operations of the mall and all of the operating tenants. Fortunately, the greatest amount of damage was limited to non-public facing areas of the mall. Isolating this restaurant was relatively easy as we were able to keep all exterior doors to the restaurant closed and locked and black out the windows with graphics and film. The other heavily-affected areas were the back of house corridors that are generally used for deliveries, employees, maintenance crews, etc., and the roof. As is generally the case, the first few days/nights where extremely long as we worked collaboratively with the mall’s management and our third-party vendors to isolate power, create safe passageways, and ensure air flow monitoring was stabilized to protect the community at large.

5. What is the biggest lesson your team learned, good or bad, on this loss?

The greatest lesson that was reinforced to our team is the need for strong leadership, communication, and documentation. It sounds very cliché and simple, but until you have been thrust into a fast moving, traumatic situation with heightened emotions, it is very difficult to appreciate these skills. A level head, calm demeanor, and a well communicated game plan/strategy for stabilization is unquestionably the key to getting control of the situation and pacifying the stakeholders in the immediate aftermath of an event such as we experienced on the job. Once stabilization is under control, you have the ability to see the bigger picture and start strategizing on a more granular level. So, to answer the question, the biggest lesson was reinforced, not necessarily learned.  Nothing replaces great leadership.

6. How long did the restoration process take?

From the time of the loss to completion of the restoration process, the project spanned approximately 13 months. We worked closely with mall management to prioritize areas of work so operationally, key stake holders were inconvenienced as little as possible.

7. How was communication with the carrier/adjuster throughout the process? How long did it take to get paid in full?

Large, institutional losses can be complex as they relate to insurance coverage and underwriting.  The untangling of who owes for what and when the policy kicks in is critically important and the sooner one gets a handle on the nuances of the policy, the better for all. Consistent communication with the carriers and consultants is equally as important ensuring all parti page and the communication is disseminated timely and accurately. At the end of the day, we made our way through the complex web of information and are appreciative to all involved for their diligence and commitment to keep the project moving forward. 

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