Considering a Hotel Kitchenette Cabinet Job

A quick look at the pricing and management issues involved in approaching a commercial cookie-cutter job. April 9, 2008

I've been asked to price up a small batch of cabs for hotel suite rooms that have small kitchenettes. About 50 sf of fronts, total wallcabs and bases, per kitchenette. The problem is that there are large operations that sell this stuff nationally, and the price is driven down by the competition. These outfits sell them complete, including appliances. Has anyone small found a way to compete in this kind of commercial work?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor R:
It is usually the low bid that gets this type of work and you will be hard pressed to be that guy with the competition you said you have. Most commercial work is like that. The dollar talks. There are exceptions where the commercial work has unique woodwork or cabinets that cannot be found from the factory giants. If commercial work is your deal, go for this type of work if you haven't already done so.

From contributor J:
Unless you have the scale of operation where you can knock this stuff out, I don't see how you could compete with the bigger outfits. Just like when I bid a kitchen, I can't compete with box store prices. Factories in the Midwest where the costs are very low are knocking boxes out by the truckload. They buy sheetgoods and solid stock by the truckloads, hinges and slides by the thousands. You just can't compete with mass produced stuff and expect to make a profit unless you're on the same scale. I don't try to compete against that type of product. I stick with selling quality over quantity and it works for me anyway.

From contributor C:
Be aware that there are plenty of folks out there that search out small shops, new shops and just plain naive shops to see if anyone bites. You sign a contract, build one or two units, find out what your costs are, then you can't get out easily. This happens everyday, and woodworkers are especially prone to it, due to low entry threshold (got a saw?) and low to no business experience (wanna make some money?).

Drive it from the other side: Know your costs, all your costs, add in a fair wage and fair profit, and that is what the work will cost. And yes, you are right, you will not be able to compete, nor do you want to. Find a niche and work it profitably - you are unable to beat the mass marketers.

From contributor V:
We had to do something with the residential slowing down like it did, so we bid on and got a couple of hotels (suites). We are pretty well setup with machinery - what we needed was storage of the units from completion till installation. We considered getting containers, but were concerned with humidity. Ended up renting a unit at a nearby strip mall that was empty. We ran a skeleton crew at night, and did most of the machining and dress-out then.

We couldn't have done it without our beam saw and ptp. Having all hardware screw holes predrilled (and dead on) made the dress-out that much easier. Pre-finished edge tape on 3/4" melamine boxes.

Just look carefully at the installation price (if included) - that almost got us. And think carefully about how you are going to batch (and store). This affected our delivery, and melamine drop.

From contributor J:
Base cabs laminate 140-200 per foot (laminate, wood)
Wall cabs 110-160 per foot
Laminate tops 50.00 lin foot
Solid surface (Chinese) 65 per lin ft
Cultured marble or granite outsource at cost +10% for management

Check specs and post them for actual cost.
Example: 72" hotel kitchen
300 per lin foot
1800.00 per 10 units ready at each install, minimum 18,000 for laminate.

Offer to review bid based on a written bid from national company (not verbal). We know hotel owners - they respect integrity, not cowardice. Remember, 10 units at a time. Fall in with the right bunch of guys and you will stay busy! Spell it out and control your job; many times they prefer locals for their own interest in their hotel. Help with maintenance and charge; trashed hotel rooms are hard to rent.