How to Start a New Restaurant

All the Big Steps You Need to Take to Open a New Restaurant

​Ashley DeLeon. © The Balance 2018

Opening a new restaurant can seem like a daunting task. There are so many different things to consider—from choosing the right location to finding financing to selecting the right name. And, let's not forget buying equipment and hiring staff. To help you get started, here is a roadmap for opening a new restaurant. 

Getting Started: Concept, Location, and Name 

The first step in opening a new restaurant is deciding what type of restaurant it is going to be. Do you want to open a high-end fine dining restaurant? or a casual 1950's-style diner? Do you have a specific type of cuisine in mind, such as Italian, French, or Indian? Perhaps you want it to be a microbrewery or a pub. Before you move on, you first need to define what kind of restaurant you want to open.

Location, location, location. It can make or break a restaurant.

Before you run out and sign a lease for your restaurant location, do your homework. Is the restaurant location in a busy area, with plenty of foot traffic? If not, is there enough parking? Have ten or twelve other restaurants opened and closed in the same spot?

Probably, the most enjoyable part of opening a new restaurant is selecting a restaurant name that means something to you. It can be a family name or it can reflect the theme or location you chose, such as Broadway Diner or The Highlands.

The Business Plan

There are two important reasons you need a restaurant business plan. One, it helps you see potential problems in your restaurant plan, such as not enough of a population base. Two, it's virtually impossible to get financing without one.

Financing is what prevents most people from opening their own restaurant. Although it is increasingly harder to get financing for a restaurant (due to their high failure rate), it is not impossible. Between banks, small business agencies, and private investors, financing is possible.

Be sure to show up to your interview prepared and professional and show potential investors that you've thought through all the mechanics of opening, and then running, a restaurant.

And remember, many licenses and permits take several weeks, even months, to be approved. So, once your financing is squared away, start filling the paperwork.

Common licenses and permits for restaurants, regardless of the state, include liquor licenses, signage permits, separate permits for outdoor space, and workers compensation.

Designing the Restaurant

A rule of thumb about designing a restaurant is that you never have as much space as your first think. Even the most cavernous of spaces quickly fill up when you start adding commercial kitchens, walk-in refrigerators, a bar, restrooms, and a waiting area. The design of a restaurant should be a balance between aesthetics and seating capacity, always keeping practicality in mind.

Choosing the right color for your restaurant will help you establish a strong brand and help you establish a welcoming ambiance for customers.

Menus, Equipment, and Staff 

A well-written restaurant menu should be descriptive, easy to read and have a clear, uncluttered layout. Also, it's better to use a fancy font and high-quality paper than muck it up with generic clip art.

Once you have your restaurant design down, you can start purchasing commercial kitchen equipment and furniture for your dining room and other areas in the front of the house. To save money, consider buying used equipment from a reliable source.

Commercial equipment with the Energy Star logo can cost more at first but will pay for itself many times over—and, it's good for the environment.

As you get closer to opening day, you need to begin hiring for both the kitchen and the floor. Kitchen staff, wait staff, and bartenders are all integral parts of any restaurant, and you want to hire the perfect person for each position.

If you can, hire people with experience in the food restaurant and if you're hiring a chef you don't know, don't be shy about test-tasting his or her food first.

Don't Forget About Advertising 

Advertising is a must for most new restaurants. Today, you can supplement traditional advertising, such as newspapers and radio ads, with new media such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Don’t overlook the power of a good website. People can't taste food online, but an aesthetically-pleasing web presence can entice diners.