Looking to open a restaurant, but overwhelmed with the multitude of tasks in front of you, or just not sure where to start. Here is a simple, easy to follow list of steps to opening your first restaurant.
1. Establish Your Point of Difference
Think of ways you can differentiate your restaurant from others. For example, what kind of cuisine will you serve? Are there others in the area? Create a concept to ensure success. Writing it down helps.
2. Create a Business Plan
Next create a business plan that will outline, among other things, pricing, food, expenses, rental costs, food costs, chef costs, assistant chef costs, wait staff, utilities, and any other expenses you may incur. Estimate the total operating costs per month. Be realistic with your expectations and make sure you have adequate cash on hand to weather out the first few months or longer. Go online to research rent and prices in different areas. Seek the advice of experts. Perhaps a friend, family member or another trusted person can introduce you to an experienced restaurant owner or manager.
3. Check Your Financing
You must ensure you have enough money to not only physically build your restaurant, but you must allow for startup and carrying costs while you establish and build the restaurant into a profitable business. Consult your accountant and consider getting a bank loan, short-term loan, or angel investor loan that may make sense for your restaurant.
4. Create a Legal Entity and Set Up a Business Bank Account
You will also likely need to set up up a legal entity and business bank account. Consult a licensed attorney and accountant.
5. Start Looking for a Commercial Location
Next, you must look for the right spot for your restaurant. Find a busy road or an area that meets the demographics you are targeting. Evaluate your competition, signage, parking and street visibility to make sure you are making the right location choice.
6. Get Quotes on Spaces and Visit to See the Space in Person
Get quotes on multiple spaces and make sure you visit to see the space in person to decide for yourself whether it makes sense for your restaurant needs.
7. Sign Commercial Lease
Once you are happy with the space, your next step is to sign the commercial lease after agreeing to the terms and conditions with the Landlord. Before you sign a lease make sure the location will allow a restaurant by right (properly zoned). Seek out legal advice before signing the lease.
8. Hire an Architect or Contractor to Design the Space
After or before the lease signing, hire an architect to design the space. You may need to hire an engineer to design the electrical, plumbing and fire elements of the kitchen. After the plans are complete contact known and/or recommended contractors to price out the overall improvements and finishes that were specified by the architect. Early on, contact a commercial kitchen representative. Set up a meeting and take the architects plans along with you to price out the equipment you will need. Consider purchasing good used equipment.
9. Get Permits and Begin Construction
Next, get all the permits you need to begin construction. Your architect and contractor can guide you.
10. Complete the Inspection and Get All Licenses
Next, schedule and complete the necessary permits, licenses and eventually inspections from the local city or municipality. Your contractor should be able to take care of any construction related permits and inspections, but there are likely to be other inspections and permits that you will need to arrange including health department licenses and sign permits. You may need to take a food safety preparatory class as a prerequisite to obtaining your health department permit. Also, make sure you obtain all of the business permits required by the local municipality. You usually can find out most if not all this information on the local municipality’s web site.
11. Finalize Food and Wholesale Suppliers
For your restaurant, you need to source food and other materials from suppliers. Start checking out different options available and finalize them based on cost, quality and your needs.
12.Begin Staff Interviews
You then have to make sure you have all your staff on board so start interviewing. Depending on your needs, you may need cooks, chefs, kitchen assistants, wait staff, bartenders and a restaurant manager.
13. Design Final Menu
Next, design and print the final menu for in-house dining, takeout and online. Create your website and plan your marketing strategy.
14. Turn On Utilities
Transfer utilities to your name or check with your landlord how this is done. Find out about other requirements like trash and pest control.
15. Set Up Business Systems
Make sure you have a point of sale, accounting, proper insurance and financial system in place just before launching.
16. Launch Store Offline and Online
When you are ready to open your store, make sure you have your final website in place. Consider a full-fledged digital marketing strategy with tools like online ordering, email marketing, paid advertising, social media posting and loyalty programs to draw in more customers. Use offline tools such as brochures and flyers to get more foot traffic.
Consult the experts to help as needed, including attorneys, accountants, builders, and even other experienced restauranters. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Starting your first restaurant can be overwhelming at first, but if you follow a simple step by step process, it can be less overwhelming.