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How To Open a New Restaurant: A Step-by-Step Checklist



Open a New Restaurant

If you’re someone who enjoys cooking or baking, or even if you just have a passion for food, opening your own business within the food industry can be a rewarding career path. In this article, we discuss everything you need to know to start your own food business, including tips to find your niche and host a launch event.

If you enjoy making or selling unique food items and aspire to be an entrepreneur, consider starting a restaurant. New restaurants open regularly, which can make it a competitive but rewarding venture to pursue. Understanding the steps you can take to pursue this goal can help you open and run a successful business.

In this article, we explain what it means to open a restaurant and provide a step-by-step guide on how to open a new restaurant as a business venture.

What to expect when opening a restaurant


Opening a new restaurant means you can own and run a restaurant in the city and venue of your choice. When you own a restaurant, you typically only report to investors. You’re in charge of the remaining elements necessary for a restaurant to function, including a business plan, menu design and restaurant staff. To excel as an entrepreneur in the restaurant industry, it’s important to gain the right funding, invest in advertising efforts and conduct extensive research on your target market.


How to open a new restaurant in 12 steps


Before you officially open a restaurant, understand what elements are necessary to run a business. Consider working or shadowing in a restaurant or food service setting to learn how it operates and what components owners can use to be successful. Follow these steps to open a new restaurant:

1. Decide on your concept and niche

The restaurant’s concept is the type of establishment you want to open, which can include the style of food served, the type of service you offer and the surrounding atmosphere you aim to provide customers. Think about the type of food you want to serve, which can be dishes like American, Italian, Mexican or Asian cuisines.

Once you have an idea of the food you want to serve, consider the type of restaurant and atmosphere you prefer. This may be an old-fashioned diner, a fine dining restaurant or a pub. It’s also important to consider the price range and how much you intend to charge for food and drinks. Understanding the restaurant’s overall concept can be a significant starting point as you build the rest of the restaurant’s plans.


2. Pick your location and layout

As you scout locations for the restaurant, scan the surrounding area to ensure it’s the right place for the business. Determine if there are plenty of potential customers who live nearby and if they’re the type of customers you plan on targeting. For instance, if you plan on targeting business employees for lunchtime meetings, you may want to choose a location with several offices nearby. You should also look around the building to check if it has enough parking space for customers to find and use.

Learn more about the previous owners of the building and those next door and find out if other restaurants or similar businesses once operated there. If they closed down, ask the property owner or the neighbors what happened. This helps you identify any potential risks of opening a business there. Once you’re satisfied with the location, scan the inside of the building to ensure it has enough space for everything you want to be included, such as a waiting area, a bar, refrigerators, seating and restrooms.

3. Research your target demographic

When you have decided on a concept and chosen a location for your restaurant, you can begin to better understand the target demographic you want to have as customers. Review the demographic of the surrounding area you’re opening in. You can get this information by surveying the area, researching the population online and meeting community members.

Discover what people live in the area, which may be families, seniors or younger couples. Use this information to create a restaurant catered directly toward them to guarantee they visit. For instance, if you’re opening a restaurant right next to a fitness center and learn that many of the residents value healthy eating and organic foods, include these menu items and market them to this audience.


4. Select the brand and name

Before choosing the name of the restaurant, decide on its brand. A restaurant’s brand is the image you want customers to picture when they think of your establishment. You can communicate its brand through your messaging, graphics, mission statement and values. Consider the values of your target demographic and choose a brand concept that is likely to resonate with this audience.

From there, choose a name that conveys the image, style and purpose of the restaurant. It can be something meaningful to you or a play on words related to the theme or brand of the business. Make sure the business’s name is unique, but still easy for customers to understand, identify and pronounce.


5. Build a business plan

A restaurant’s business plan is a written document stating the different aspects of the business for investors to review. It should help you establish the important details of the restaurant, from your concept to your plan for bringing in steady income. When you apply for various small business loans, use this document to detail the business and your plan for making it successful. Key elements of a strong business plan include:

Executive summary

Investors view this section first, as it summarizes your entire plan and the following sections they’re about to read. Consider writing it once you finish the rest of the document.

Overview and company description
Describe the restaurant and its purpose in more detail. Expand on your executive summary and give the readers an idea of what the company is and the goals you aim to achieve with it.

Menu and concept

Talk about the menu items and style of food you plan to serve. Detail the restaurant’s overall theme and concept. You can also explain why you think this type of restaurant is popular in that area.

Ownership and management structure

Consider using a chart or visual aid to outline who is in charge of the business and what responsibilities they hold. Mention what you’re in charge of and the management teams you’re hiring to handle other important tasks.

Employee needs

List the number of team members necessary to complete all the tasks and responsibilities that go into a restaurant, including servers, cooks and bussers.

Competitor analysis

Research your key demographic and provide those details in this section. Use this research to give the reader an analysis of the competition and the audience you’re targeting.

Marketing and advertising strategies

Using your analysis, build marketing and advertising strategies. Detail how these plans can help you effectively reach and attract your target audience and use them to create your advertising budget.

Financial projection and summary

This section is typically the most important for investors to view, as it outlines your sales and revenue forecast. It also explains how much funding you can benefit from and if investors are receiving a strong income from the funding they provide.


6. Design your menu

Knowing your concept, brand and location makes it easier to design your menu and choose which food to sell. Your menu should be easy for customers to read, with a clean layout and descriptive dishes. Include a simple font and quality paper that’s difficult to damage or tear.

Make sure your menu targets your key demographic. Ensure your menu items are in the right price range for your restaurant concept and target customer. For instance, if your target market is families, include a kids’ menu with items that children enjoy. For upscale restaurants, feature a detailed wine list.

7. Purchase equipment

Deciding which menu items to feature can help you select your equipment, inventory and budget for them. Start with a list of basic equipment items necessary for a general restaurant. This can include stove tops, ovens and refrigeration units.

You may want additional items depending on the type of food you serve. For instance, if you’re opening an Italian restaurant, you may want to purchase a pasta maker. For pizzerias, you can buy a pizza oven and large amounts of dough and flour.


8. Get a license

To become an official and legal business, you can register it with your state and get licenses for operation. Apply for a business license to ensure you can legally operate in the country. The cost of the license and the type necessary to get often vary depending on the state you’re in. Research your state’s requirements and apply for your employee identification number to become an official business and for authorization to hire employees and set up payrolls.

To legally serve food at the restaurant, apply for a food service license. An inspector visits the restaurant to ensure it meets the food and safety regulations before rewarding you with this license. If you plan to serve alcohol at the restaurant, apply for your liquor license as well by researching your state’s liquor laws, submitting the required documents and paying the established licensing fee.

9. Hire team members

List all the employees you want to hire to ensure the restaurant operates smoothly and efficiently. Think about the hours and days the restaurant operates and how many shifts you want employees to work. Consider how many people you want working in different sections of the restaurant at all times. In the kitchen, you may want to hire team members like dishwashers, line cooks, sous chefs, dessert chefs and head chefs.

For your front-of-house staff members, consider hiring food runners, bussers, hosts and servers, depending on how many guests you expect to be in the dining area at once. Hire management as well to oversee different teams, like a general manager, front-of-house manager and kitchen manager. If the restaurant has a bar, hire team members to work behind it, including cocktail servers or bartenders.

10. Begin advertising

When you have an opening date for the restaurant, start marketing it to the community to increase its awareness and attract your target demographic. Your marketing and advertising efforts should include basic information about the restaurant so that potential customers know its location, contact information and hours.

Ways to market and advertise the business include:

Creating a website

Build a user-friendly and attractive website that’s simple for users to navigate. Make it easy to find basic information about the restaurant business and consider including a feature for customers to make reservations, schedule deliveries or request takeout orders.


Building social media pages


Establish a strong social media presence by building accounts on popular outlets. Share news or promotional opportunities to gain strong followership.

Registering on review sites


Restaurant review sites make it easy for potential customers to discover your website and allow current customers to leave positive reviews about your food and service.

11. Host a soft opening

Before you’re entirely ready to open the restaurant, consider hosting a soft opening with a limited number of guests. This can help you and your staff test operational strategies to ensure all team members collaborate and provide guests with a positive dining experience. This can also help you test menu items and serving techniques to learn more about customer preferences before you open to the public.

12. Organize a grand opening

Host a grand opening of the restaurant and post about it on social media sites or tell others in the community about it. Make the event a fun party to attend by providing live music or samplings for guests to enjoy.



Open a New Restaurant

Open a New Restaurant

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