10 Steps to Starting a Restaurant
1. Choose Your Restaurant Concept
The first consideration when starting and opening a new restaurant is to pick your idea and your niche. Is your opening a restaurant to follow your passion or to make the most money possible with high margin products?
Are you considering opening a farm-to-table type environment? A casual-dining restaurant? Do you want to specialize in any particular kinds of foods dishes like seafood, steak, hamburgers, or pizza? Or maybe you’re going to start a brewery that only serves bar food.
Choosing your concept is probably the hardest decision but obviously is imperative before moving on to step two.
2. Pick the Best Location Possible
A restaurant’s success or failure can come down to the location. So you want to get this right the first time. Just like picking a house to live in, you’ll want to look at multiple properties for your restaurant to find the best fit. Is there high visibility for your signage or storefront in a busy area with exceptional foot traffic or car traffic?
If you’re starting a coffee shop, you want good foot traffic and need to be found easily, think Starbucks. Are you looking for a high-end trendy, active spot, or off the beaten path to save on rent? Either way, you need to make sure there is ample parking. Just be cautious of the space that has been six different types of restaurants in the last six months. You don’t want to have any adverse association right off the bat.
3. Pick Your Restaurant Name
Your restaurant name can be a lot of fun to create. Your restaurant name can be a description of the type of food you sell, a symbol of your location or theme, or perhaps even your name.
Or a combination of those as mentioned earlier. i.e., Jay’s Downtown Diner or Gordon Ramsay’s Steak. The possibilities are endless, so have fun with it.
4. Finalize Your Restaurant Business Plan
Unless you’re self-financing or have partners and investors ready to pick up the tab so to speak for the restaurant, you’re going to need an efficient restaurant business plan. That’s because if you’re getting financing from a bank, they will want to see a business plan before lending you any money.
No matter where you get the funding from (investor, bank, small business loan), you want to be prepared for any pitfalls not yet considered, and a proper plan helps to eliminate issues before you even get started. Here’s another great article from OpenTable on how to write a restaurant business plan.
5. Get Your Permits and Licenses in Order
Be sure to get your permits and licenses started for approval because the process can sometimes take weeks or even months. Just as you get your financing, you need to initiate the process of completing the paperwork.
A few of the current permits and licenses you’re going to consider are a business license, liquor license if you’re selling alcohol, fire department permits, signage permits, state and federal licenses. Check for your local city and state requirements where you can get a list of everything you need to comply.
6. Design Your Restaurant and Style
It can be easy to spend a lot here with all the different options for kitchen equipment, furnishings, tables, chairs, bars, artwork, etc. You might want to consider hiring a professional restaurant designer to help you stay on budget and to get the job done on time.
Also a professional can help you find that perfect balance to accommodate optimal seating capacity while maintaining your design style. Most food distributors will have someone locally they can recommend.
7. Complete your Restaurant Menu
You’ll want to create a restaurant menu that is clear, concise, and easy to read. It’s also a good idea not to have too many menu items. Too many choices make it difficult for your customers to make a decision and even harder for your kitchen to make 100 different food items.
Your food distributor will have someone they can recommend to prepare the physical menu for you or they may even do it free to earn your business in some cases, so be sure to ask.
8. Complete the Restaurant Build Out, Get a POS System, Purchase Food
In conjunction with #6 and #7 above, after you complete your restaurant design and menu, you’ll want to acquire all the equipment and furniture and finalize the build-out of your new restaurant. You can purchase new equipment, find used hardware, or in some cases lease equipment.
Additionally, now is an excellent time to choose a new POS system and we have several options to consider with our free Harbortouch POS systems.
If you’re not familiar with POS systems, a Harbortouch dealer has some great examples and a definition of POS here.
There are a lot of considerations when purchasing POS software and hardware, so don’t make this your last step. Depending on the system, It can take 3-4 weeks or longer in some cases to get a new point-of-sale system programmed with your menu and installed.
Once you have the restaurant wholly built out and ready for operations, you can work with your food supplier to start purchasing food for preparation and sale.
9. Hire Personnel For Your Restaurant
Your staff is the heart of your business, so obviously you’ll want to start this process a month or two before you open. Give yourself ample time to choose the best fit for each position. You don’t want to wait until the last minute to start hiring people, because you may end up taking whoever you can get instead of performing a thorough interview process.
Also, make sure to train all staff on the menu, POS system, policies and procedures for opening day. Another great tip is to give yourself and your employees a soft opening day or week to get up to speed. One idea is to invite your friends and family to your soft opening and practice on them and get their feedback.
10. Advertise Your New Restaurant
It’s highly recommended you work an ongoing advertising budget in your business plan. To advertise a new restaurant opening, you’ll want to consider placing a newspaper ad but don’t discount social media as well. Starting a Facebook page following the build of your restaurant and getting people excited about your opening is also a good start.
Even a quality website with proper SEO from a professional web design company can go a long way to help people find you online. Avoid skimping on advertising can’t be stressed enough and a social media plan for your restaurant is crucial to success.
In summary, opening a new restaurant or bar can be a very challenging experience full of up and downs and can be a lot of work. Hopefully, with this checklist for starting a new restaurant, you’ll have a good overview of everything you need to consider before getting started.
If you have any comments or would like to add your thoughts about our list, please do so below.
And if you need a point of sale system for your new restaurant, take a look at Harbortouch Bar and Restaurant. Harbortouch is the only POS system officially endorsed by Jon Taffer of Bar Rescue fame so that you won’t be disappointed