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Crews Serve Up a ’Cookout’ From the Ground on Down

Tue November 29, 2011 - Southeast Edition
Peter Hildebrandt

Atlantic Restaurant Concepts LLC, Duncan, S.C., has had good luck constructing a growing number of Cookout Restaurants around the Southeast — most in 90 days or less. These restaurants are now going up in Tennessee, Virginia and the Carolinas. The Cookout being constructed in Rock Hill, S.C., joins others in the state being built in Columbia, Sumter and Hartsville.

Robert Dancy, superintendent on site for Atlantic Restaurant Concepts explained how this site had what he terms “bad dirt” or a clay substance most likely related to montmorillonite, an extremely soft, pliable group of minerals. Montmorillonite is a member of the smectite family that is a 2:1 clay, with two tetrahedral sheets sandwiching a main octahedral sheet; it also is the chief component of a volcanic ash weathering substance known as bentonite.

“This substance expands, dries out, contracts and truly moves around too much to build upon so we had to dig some eight feet under the earth where the slab would be, until we hit solid ground,” explained Dancy. “Then we filled it back up one foot at a time, packed it, put down another foot, packed that and so on. It was quite a bit of work for several days. Normally you don’t run into that bad a condition of soil on a work site. You might have to have the dirt packed, but you don’t have to dig it out unless there’s been something on the location in the past such as a dump site.”

Scott Werts, Geology professor at Winthrop University said he understands the soil challenges Dancy dealt with on site. “This is a common problem in this area of South Carolina. We’ve got lots of pockets of materials like that.

“I’ve seen home foundations that have to be redone. McConnells, a town not far from here, has extensive troubles with the soil.”

As a result of those soil conditions, many of the homes in the town have very big yards with their own septic systems, according to Werts. These septic systems have to be two or three times the size of a usual septic system because of these particular kinds of clays. They swell. Water doesn’t flow through them very quickly due to an ionic charge that they have on them, delaying water flow and restricting water from draining like it should. The drain pipes subsequently have to be made two or three times as long as those of normal size in order to accommodate the amount of flow out of the septic system. Yards in turn must be two or three times the normal size in order to control the flow off the property.

“This is kind of a strange area,” added Werts. “We have all of these volcanic rocks, which don’t lay down in nice flat layers and you have different kinds of rocks popping up in diverse areas, which give you different types of clays. These develop in various areas when you have them with the 2:1 (expanding clay) or active clay, while some areas don’t have all that much at all.”

The parent material (bedrock) for the soil in this area is gabbro, according to Werts. Gabbro is a volcanic rock rich in basic materials, like calcium and magnesium. These rocks tend to weather over time into what is called a 2:1 clay.

One of the more common forms from gabbro is called montmorillonite when it is allowed to weather within the soil environment. What will basically happen is that after a rainfall, some of the water will percolate down through the soil, interacting with the soil minerals as it does. The water, carrying materials that have a positive polarity (cations), will interact and temporarily bond with the highly negative charges on these clays. The clays will swell or expand in order to accommodate the water and other ions. If there is enough of this clay, the disruption from the swelling may reach a foundation or footings. As the soil dries out, the soil material will settle into some of the larger pores originally caused by the swelling.

“The next time it rains, the soils will expand again,” explained Werts. “This swelling does not occur on a very large scale, mind you, but if you can imagine this happening after every rainfall in the humid Carolina piedmont, you can see the surface will never fully be at rest or completely stable.”

In order to ensure stability, about 1,500 cu. yds. (1,146 cu m) of soil had to be moved and then replaced at the Cookout site. Soil used to fill in where the poor soil was removed had to be purchased and brought on site from another site.

Equipment used on site included a John Deere 650 dozer, a John Deere 904, and a John Deere 310 J backhoe loader.

“We rent all of the equipment we need for our construction projects,” said Dancy. “It’s gotten to where it’s hardly worth owning equipment due to the fact that if something tears up or if you’re not using the equipment you don’t have to pay for it. We have accounts with Blanchard Equipment Rental Companies around the state of South Carolina.”

Once the soil was ready, footers and a four-inch slab were poured.

“The footer running around the outside edge had to be two feet thick, one and a half foot wide and with a footer underneath each column that had to be five foot by five foot by four feet in depth,” said Dancy. “Then we did the monolithic slab which turns down the two feet so it gets you back up on the site.”

The electrician and plumber have both done their under-the-slab work; a cooler has been installed and put in place. For the steel erection work, RSC Equipment Rental supplied the cranes. Sumter Steel Erector cranes also did the work of putting the metal studwork in place.

The project should be completed by Dec. 1, 2011. Normally it only takes approximately 90 days to construct one of these buildings.

“But the soil work needing to be done underneath the slab caused us to have to play around with the schedule,” adds Dancy. “This included having a soil test done and the compaction rate correct. We weren’t counting on having to do this extra work, but you can’t remove the soil from underneath the building after it’s built; therefore we had to get the soil issues right before the rest of the construction work started.”

ARC has constructed Cookout restaurants in Hartsville, Sumter, Rock Hill, Knoxville, Tenn., and some in Virginia. This is the sixth one they’ve started.

Construction of the building site, not including the land, was approximately $650,000.

Each Cookout restaurant is a little different than the next, but this is one of their bigger ones, according to Dancy.

“Some of the restaurants are rather small. This one will feature indoor seating. Cookout restaurants grill burgers on charcoal grills similar to backyard grills. Getting people in and out of the drive-thru as fast a possible is their specialty. We pride ourselves in getting the restaurants up as quickly as we can too.” CEG

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