What Do You Need to Open a Restaurant? The Beginner's Checklist

By: Allie Tetreault

6 Minute Read

Jan 07, 2019

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Have you ever thought about opening your own restaurant? How about buying an existing one? Or becoming a multi-unit operator, with several restaurant locations under your belt? 

Before you dive in, pause to consider all of the things you need to open a new restaurant — besides patience, courage, and determination. 

We've collected the best advice on opening a restaurant in an interactive ebook, How to Open a Restaurant which also includes a customizable restaurant business plan template

Here are just a few things to consider when opening a new restaurant. 

1.You Need Restaurant Capital 

restaurant capital

Opening a restaurant isn't cheap. 

Whether you're franchising, partnering, or going solo, opening a restaurant requires a hefty chunk of capital. Luckily, there are a few avenues to acquire restaurant business loans, including:

  • Small Business Association Loan
  • Term Loan
  • Merchant Cash Advance 
  • Personal Credit Card
  • Equity

Search for capital from restaurant lenders such as commercial banks, credit unions, online lenders, and even your point-of-sale partner or payment processor. 

Related Article: How Much Does it Cost to Open a Restaurant?

2. You Need A Restaurant Business Plan

There's not much use in opening a restaurant (or any business for that matter) without a well-constructed, thoroughly thought-out, and detailed business plan.


You'll not only use this to guide yourself and your team in your building stage, you'll also use it to get funding from potential investors to obtain that aforementioned and all-too-necessary restaurant capital. 

An effective business plan template includes analysis on your target market, location, competition, and finances, as well as an operations plan with expected cash flow based on marketing tactics. 

Free Resource: Restaurant Business Plan Template 

3. You Need Licenses & Permits

Some licenses are required for every restaurant (i.e. a Business License), while others are required depending on the concept (i.e. a Liquor License). Plus, every state (and specific cities and counties) has specific food licensing laws, especially regarding health licenses, music licenses, etc.

Licenses take time and money to acquire. If you're serious about opening a restaurant, get a jumpstart on procuring them early in the process. 

Free Resource: 10+ Restaurant Licenses and Food Permits Required to Open a New Restaurant

4. You Need A Location

what do you need to open a restaurant

There are two options when it comes to your restaurant location: buy an existing restaurant or build your restaurant from the ground up. Here are a few options to consider:

  • Owning or renting a building.
  • Owning or renting a space in a building.
  • Renting a pop-up space for a limited time span.
  • Running a food truck or food stand to set up at events.

Naturally, the location of your restaurant should match the concept. Elegant steakhouses might want to have their own building, but if you want to serve sandwiches or tacos to beach-goers, maybe a food truck is a more appropriate fit.

Related Article: Restaurant Real Estate: Finding Sites For Restaurant Concepts

5. You Need A Unique Restaurant Concept

what do you need to open a restaurant

Choose a concept that will stand out in your neighborhood. Don't open the tenth pizza shop in the area unless you're breaking the mold when it comes to the sauce (or the cheese). 

Plus, it's important to focus just as much on what your brand is as it isn't. Choosing what your restaurant will not focus on for its concept lets owners engage in stronger target marketing, choose a more fitting menu selection, and ultimately run a more straightforward restaurant business. 

Related Article: 75 Great Restaurant Ideas to Create an Unforgettable Concept

6. You Need A Memorable Menu

what do you need to open a restaurant

First, you'll need a menu selection. What food items is the restaurant going to serve? What item will you be known for? 

Next, you'll need to price your menu well. Here's where COGS, sales forecasting, inventory, and profit margins, and other restaurant metrics come into play. 

The truth is that there is so much that goes into crafting a restaurant menu, from meal selection, to pricing, to the design, to the placement of each meal on the menu. For more info on how this is done, check out the Menu Engineering Guide below.

Related Resource: Menu Engineering Bootcamp

7. You Need A "GOAT" Staff

what do you need to open a restaurant

From the hostess to the head chef, there are dozens of positions to hire for in your restaurant. 

Since the staff is an extension of the restaurant itself, it's arguably one of the most important aspects - or the most important aspect - of any restaurant business.

To open a restaurant, you need the GOAT — greatest of all time — staff. You can lower your restaurant's turnover rate by simplifying the hiring process and screening more qualified candidates if you customize your job listings to your restaurant brand. Download free job posting templates, interview questionnaires, and offer letter templates at the link below.

Restaurant Hiring Kit: Job Posting Templates, Interview Questionnaires, and Offer Letter Templates

8. You Need Restaurant Technology

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Taking orders with a pen on paper will get really old really fast. 

To be successful, a restaurant needs a robust, reliable restaurant POS system; one that measures sales, manages transactions, analyzes labor, and overall alleviates a ton of stress off the owner's shoulders.

Modern restaurant point of sale systems are changing the way people open and manage restaurants. Some systems make it possible for owners to make changes to the menu from the cloud and access their sales data from anywhere. It's an investment, but it's a worthwhile one. 

Assuming you take reservations at your restaurant, you'll also need an online reservation system. Tools like OpenTable not only save your staff time but also create a better experience for your guests. 

Related Article: The Definitive Guide to Restaurant POS Systems

9. You Need A Marketing Plan


Your restaurant's open. You've got a killer menu, a friendly staff, and a unique concept. But none of that matters if you don't get the word out. 

Opening a restaurant requires a marketing plan to help you connect with potential customers. Everything from opening day incentives to Tuesday night specials to your restaurant's social media plan should be encompassed in your restaurant marketing plan. 

Related Article: 2019 Restaurant Marketing Plan Template 

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