Restaurant projects come with the added challenge of having to design and craft highly specific spaces that cater not only a client’s patrons but also their brands and their team’s specific needs. Often, these can range from various complex master kitchens to lounges and entertainment facilities.

This list is a showcase of Newport Beach’s seven best and leading contractors behind some of its most recognizable restaurants and commercial spaces. These firms are also the proud recipient of countless industry accolades and have since been featured in a variety of publications. 

Shawmut Design and Construction

16842 Von Karman Ave. Suite 175, Irvine, CA 92606

Shawmut Design and Construction has offices in Irvine, CA, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, New York, Boston, Miami, and more. Each office is staffed with highly-skilled, experienced teams that are adept at highly complex projects that require both technical expertise and extreme attention to detail. In addition to some of the most beautiful and innovative restaurants, the firm’s portfolio showcases commercial build-outs, hotels, historic buildings, healthcare, educational institutions, sports venues, retail stores, and even luxury residential homes. The firm has graced various publications such as The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. Inc. 5000 recognized Shawmut as one of the nation’s leading firms, and Fortune Magazine has honored the firm as a Best Workplace four times. In addition, the firm is committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion and being a sustainable builder.

A long-time partner of Nobu Hospitality, Shawmut built the two-story Nobu Newport Beach that overlooks the harbor. Partnering with Nobu, Studio PCH, and SMS Architects, the 13,380 square foot space has floor-to-ceiling windows, giving guests a view of the Lido Village Marina. The restaurant features indoor and outdoor dining spaces, sushi bar, and lounge complemented by high-end finishes.

Slater Builders

3100-B Pullman St., Costa Mesa, CA 92626

Slater Builders is a woman-owned, full-service General Contractor serving Southern California and beyond. The firm can take any commercial project from idea to completion as it specializes in pre-construction, design-build and construction management.  As a one-stop-shop general contractor, Slater Builders coordinates and manages project architects, subcontractors, engineers, and consultants. The firm specializes in eight market sectors including Hospitality, Active Environments, Education, Healthcare, Faith-Based, Living Environments, Office/ Industrial, and Tenant Improvements. In their 28+ years in business, Slater Builders has completed over 75 restaurant builds.

The photo above depicts the firm’s work on a fine dining waterfront restaurant in Newport Beach that spans over 7,500 square feet. For this project, the remodel consisted of all new high-end finishes, including metal ceiling panels, mirror wall collage, metal sculpture on the front entry tower wall, all new lighting, new HVAC system, new kitchen and appliances, new patio with fabric awning and parking lot resurfacing, striping, handicapped stalls and path of travel. In addition, they had to install a structural concrete grade beam under the existing slab.

R.D. Olson Construction

400 Spectrum Center Drive Suite 1200, Irvine, CA 92618

R.D. Olson Construction extends its services throughout Orange County and is a national general contracting and construction management firm. It takes inspiration from over four decades of industry experience and since its inception, has worked on countless hotel, resort, multi-unit housing, country club, retail, and restaurant construction projects. As a result, the firm has established an excellent clientele list for itself. Some of its most noteworthy clients include Marriott, Kimpton Hotel & Restaurant Group, Starwood Lodging, UDR, and Affirmed Housing Group. The firm was founded in 1979 by Robert Olson. Since then, the company has grown into a company staffed by a team of experienced and successful professionals. Together, they have secured R.D. Olson’s reputation as one of the area’s premier commercial contracting firms.

The project above is an excellent example of the firm’s talent and expertise. Completed for the Drai’s Hollywood Nightclub at the W Hollywood Hotel, this restaurant is one of the area’s premier and exclusive clubs.  Spanning over 2,300 square feet, this project showcases the finest European interior finishes coupled with veneer wood wall coverings and smooth level-five drywall finishes. The firm opted for herringbone-patterned mahogany wood flooring, chandeliers, and dramatic backdrops. 

CW Driver

1501 South Harris Ct., Anaheim, CA 92806

Headquartered in Anaheim, C.W. Driver Companies offers its clients a comprehensive range of general contracting and construction management services. The firm traces its origins as far back as over a century ago when Clarence Wike Driver and John MacDonald founded the company in 1919. Now, C.W. Driver Cos. takes great pride in being the oldest licensed builder in Southern California. Their technological edge and dynamic management teams drive their diverse portfolio of projects that include work in the restaurant, retail, commercial office, hospitality/gaming, academic, entertainment/sports, civic/cultural, biomedical/life sciences, residential, and senior living industries. Below is a representative project the firm completed in the restaurant market.

Located in Orange County, the Watertable Restaurant & Lobby Renovation project included the renovation of an award-winning, beachfront restaurant located in the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort & Spa. This project consisted of the renovation and enhancement of the resort’s three-meal restaurant, outdoor patio, and portions of the main kitchen. Specifically, the project scope included improvements to two lounges, one bar lounge, one buffet, two private dining rooms, the main kitchen, and a 2,000 SF outdoor dining patio. Through cohesive design and custom finishes, the renovation connects three spaces that were previously separate – lounge, restaurant, and outdoor dining area – into one seamless, flexible space. The resort remained fully occupied during renovation, and the lobby remained open at all times.

Dempsey Construction

1835 Aston Ave., Carlsbad, CA 92008

Operating out of its office in Carlsbad, Dempsey Construction services the entirety of San Diego and Southern California. It utilizes only the latest and most innovative techniques, in addition to working with only the area’s best and leading subcontractors. The firm is regarded for its highly intricate and detailed preconstruction phase that entails everything, from value-added estimations to streamlined project management and scheduling. Its team draws from decades of expertise, ensuring that clients will not have to worry about exceeding the agreed-upon budget or any construction delays. As for its main construction work, the firm’s team assists with everything, from demolition and working on the foundation to finishing touches and details. It comprises some of Carlsbad’s most talented project managers, superintendents, and job site staff. 

The photo above depicts the firm’s work for the Jamacha Village Shopping Center located in El Cajon. It entailed working on a ground-up construction that spans roughly 8,000 square feet. The firm’s team had to demolish an existing Burger King and redesigned stalls for Starbucks, Chipotle, and Jamba Juice. Some of its stand-out elements include wood and stucco with stone veneer accent elements.

Casco Contractors

9850 Irvine Center Dr., Irvine, CA 92618

Operating out of its office in Irvine, Casco Contractors takes great pride in being one of Southern California’s best and leading construction companies. It makes use of a highly innovative and technical design-build approach, which allows it to keep the entire project in-house. This lessens the challenge for clients who sometimes have to look for additional subcontractors, professionals, and artisans. The firm is proud of its status as a Certified Women’s Business Enterprise, and is also proud of its consistent, outstanding ranking throughout the years. The firm has been in business since 2000 and is the product of its founder, Cheryl Osborn. She founded the firm at her kitchen table and has since grown the company into the sixth-largest female-run business in Orange County. 

Under Cheryl’s personal leadership and highly hands-on approach, the company created the trademarked “Countdown to Zero” approach, an incentive-based program that rewards teams for their active and collaborative process with both clients and subcontractors. The firm has also become known for its expertise in a wide variety of popular architectural vernaculars in the area. The firm operates out of two offices  Irvine and San Diego. 

Riviera Building & Development, Inc.

888 San Clemente Drive Suite 260, Newport Beach, CA 92660

As its name suggests, Riviera offers its clients a complete and comprehensive range of construction and development services. It has been in business since 2004 and is the product of president and CEO Kyle Nelson. Under his leadership, the firm showcases talent and expertise for a variety of market sectors and offers its clients innovative and highly detailed approaches to its work. The firm has had the opportunity to work in excellent areas across Southern California and Hawaii. Its portfolio depicts several great hotels, residential homes, retail developments, private schools, and offices. We were also impressed by its great tenant improvements and industrial spaces. 

Since the firm’s inception, it has curated a solid clientele list for itself. Some household brands on its long list of clients include the Four Seasons, the Shangri-La, Wendy’s, and Casa del Mar. It has also established partnerships with some of the area’s best subcontractors. The project above depicts its work on the La Cañada Flintridge Country Club. It entailed an extensive renovation and the use of timeless and chic elements. 


  • Jake Gustafson

    Jake has served as Senior Editor at General Contractors and brings a wealth of experience rooted in his passion for building. Holding a degree in Construction Engineering Management from Oregon State University, he actively engaged in industry-related activities, including membership in the Associated General Contractors of America student chapter and participation in the Associated Schools in Construction student competition. Previously, Jake served as a project engineer for a prominent general contractor in Portland, where he played a pivotal role in various aspects of construction projects, from pre-construction to subcontractor management. His expertise extends to working on innovative projects, such as North America's largest CLT commercial building. Expertise: Commercial Construction, Commercial Remodeling, Home Design and Build Key Highlights: Editor at General Contractors, Project Engineer for Portland-based general contractor, Field Engineer for the largest CLT commercial building in North America Education: Oregon State University, Degree in Construction Engineering Management