How Much Does it Cost to Open a Small Restaurant in Dublin? [Small Restaurant Startup Costs]

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Katherine BoyarskyAuthor

How Much Does it Cost to Open a Small Restaurant?

May top-tier dining venues across the world thrive in compact spaces, often featuring only a handful of tables and small capacity. These smaller spaces provide a cosy environment, the chance to craft innovative or unconventional menus, and can be a launching pad for new culinary entrepreneurs with smaller budgets.

The film Jiro Dreams of Sushi shines the spotlight on one of the world’s leading sushi masters, Jiro Ono. His restaurant, Sukiyabashi Jiro, a recipient of the Michelin star in Tokyo, has space for just 10 patrons. But this doesn’t limit the experience. Rather, it enables Chef Jiro to concentrate on fine culinary artistry while ensuring only the best products.

Are you wondering about the expenses involved in starting up a small-scale restaurant? In this article, we'll review the costs to be ready for, and provide tactics and tools to assist you in reaching your grand opening — whether your aim is to launch a food truck, a quaint café or an exclusive fine dining restaurant business in Dublin.

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Average Restaurant Startup Costs

When looking closely at typical startup expenses for a restaurant big or small, several elements can influence the funding needed. Depending on your location, equipment (like restaurant pos system or kitchen display systems), furniture, and rent, the standard costs for launching a restaurant in Dublin can vary greatly, starting from around €150,000 to over and above €500,000.

Restaurant Startup Costs for a Small Restaurant

Let's take a look side-by-side at the typical expenses of a small-sized restaurant versus a moderately sized one, one of around 4,000 square feet.

For a moderately sized space, initial investment estimates typically centre around €325,500. However, smaller venues cop lower costs due to the need for less space and smaller floor plans. These estimates can shift greatly based on factors such as the restaurant's physical location, whether the premises are owned or leased, and the nature of whether you choose to do things like upgrades or renovating.

There will also be one-time costs, including the purchase of kitchen equipment, handling charges, and essentials such as point of sale (restaurant POS) systems and interior decor and furniture (further specifics on these to follow).

With the wide range in startup cost for a small restaurant in Dublin, bear in mind that your budget might stretch further if you’re leasing over buying, or if you are successful in scoring some additional funding.

Restaurant Opening Cost by Square Foot

The cost of space per square foot typically ranges from €20 to €60. But these prices fluctuate based on things like the size, style, geographical location, type of equipment, and whether the space is pre-existing or to be constructed.

A compact café or a smaller quick-service restaurant can run sweetly, just like Jiro’s, within a space of only 1,000 to 2,000 square feet, a size that can accommodate a kitchen, dining area and a bar. And don’t forget, per-square-foot price varies depending on whether the project involves renovating an existing structure or building from scratch.

For example, if you find a 1,000 square foot eatery in Dublin, complete with furnishings, appliances, and installations, you could end up paying €100,000, with an extra €30,000 needed for renovations. On the other hand, constructing a new 1,000 square foot venue from the ground up is likely to cost more.

Small Restaurant Startup Costs To Expect

Use this small restaurant startup cost checklist to get started on your budget and map out your Dublin restaurant's business plan.

1. Utilities

Even though your Dublin restaurant won’t be fully operational until opening, essential utilities such as gas, electricity, and water must be working. Typically, these utilities cost 3-5% of your total restaurant operating expenses, a significant chunk of your startup costs. There is a silver lining: for smaller restaurants; your utilities are likely to be at the lower end of the spectrum or possibly even below.

2. Location

One of the biggest choices you'll face during the launch of your restaurant in Dublin is selecting the right location. If your concept is small in size but big on hipness, Stoneybatter could be the choice location. Or if you're going for contemporary fine dining, Portobello just might be the place. 

While planning your budget, consider that the location will influence your business in the long term. Generally, a prime spot frequented by many people (read: potential customers) could prove to be a wise decision, reducing the need for marketing and public relations. 

Depending on your own restaurant’s needs and your budget, you’ll have a few options to think about, including:

  • Take an existing structure and convert it into a restaurant.
  • Purchase an operating restaurant to open your restaurant in.
  • Build an entirely new building by investing in custom construction.

Starting with an already established restaurant will incur lower expenses, while a new construction will be the priciest option. However, a new venue does provide greater customisation options and the chance to design a completely unique space.

3. Kitchen Equipment and Restaurant Furniture

It almost goes without saying that a restaurant can not function without the kitchen necessities and the interior elements to bring it all together. You'll need kitchen equipment and appliances not just to create the meals but also to help create and complement your Dublin restaurant's vibe.

And don’t forget to account for extra features such as lighting, signs, sound systems, and window dressings.

In this area, it's just so easy to blow your budget, so careful decisions are so important. The biggest influence on your budget here will be the cost of kitchen utilities and interior features like design, seating arrangements, and decor.

You can expect to spend between €50,000 - €150,000 on equipment and furnishings. 

4. Pre-Operating Expenses

You will want the grand opening to go off without a hitch. This is why it's wise to invest in things like pre-opening staff training programs to ensure your team is prepared before the doors open to Dublin's public.

Ensure your inventory is fully stocked. And remember, it’s more than food, too. Think dishes, glasses, beverages, napkins, and other necessary items to offer the best dining experience you can offer. Note that the costs here can differ based on your seating capacity and various other elements. It might be wise to consider an inventory management system to help you keep track of everything. Nowadays you can have an inventory management system connected to you restaurant pos system via restaurant integrations. 

Expect €20,000 - €120,000 for food, utensils, and staffing costs. 

5. Marketing and PR

Your marketing and public relations efforts will be influenced by the type of restaurant you’re starting in Dublin. Small venues can vary from fine dining experiences to franchise operations. While franchises might already have the backing of a marketing strategy in place, a new restaurant will need some or significant marketing and PR initiatives.

Think about collaborating with a marketing agency for promotional activities or initiating your own social media campaigns early on. They can also help craft the customer experience and advise on things like gift cards for customers and loyalty programs. Effective marketing campaigns for restaurants typically involve email campaigns, social media engagement, a dedicated website, merchandise, and great branding.

Price Range: 3-6% of sales.

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6. Restaurant Capital and Business Loans

Even though your idea is awesome, there is no guarantee that your restaurant will skyrocket to success on opening night. Success typically comes through time and patience. It might take time for your clientele to build up, so be ready for a slow increase in sales, especially at the beginning.

New restaurateurs should aim to secure financial support to cover you for at least the initial six months of activity. Think of it as a safety net for unforeseen circumstances.

As a general guide, allocate six months' worth of operational expenses for emergency funds.

7. Restaurant Exterior Design

If you can, make your exterior as attractive as the interior. Investing in the outside, through elements such as lighting, gardening, and possibly an outdoor seating area, can make all the difference.

And even if extensive exterior renovations aren't possible, quality signage signals to potential customers that you're open for business, and is a way to project your brand beyond the interior, doubling as a promotional tool.

Price Range: €100 - €30,000 with the possibility of additional planning permit costs.

8. Organisational and Development Costs

There are some things that simply can’t be missed, even if it really is easy to overlook minor details amongst all the startup costs. Check and triple-check that all your Dublin restaurant's licenses and permits are in order, including utility and insurance deposits, food service licenses, and a liquor license.

While they take almost as much time as they do vital funds, you’ll want to ensure that they’re in place or risk fines and delays to your restaurant's opening. These are vital.

Price Range: €500 - €3,805 for licenses and €750 - €1,000 for insurance per year. 

9. Professional Services

Get expert help! Seasoned experts can assist in ensuring every detail is accounted for and that your financial records are meticulously maintained for the auditing period.

Specialists to consider include lawyers, consultants, architects, designers, accountants, bookkeepers, marketing agencies, and PR firms.

These pros can help streamline your operations and automate parts of the process from the beginning. But they usually charge by the hour, and their rates can vary according to their years of expertise. 

Keep in mind that you might need to tuck away up to €60K to use these professional services, but it really depends on your business.

10. Food Cost

A restaurant without food is like a pub with no beer. So to create a great customer experience, make sure your stock of food and supplies are adequate. Preparation avoids shortages during your launch and supports your team in delivering great service. The costs here depend on the types of meals and beverages on your menu. Also, keep in mind that the cost of food will fluctuate each month.

Typically, restaurants spend 25% – 35% of total food and drink sales on inventory.

10. Restaurant Staff

Your team is one of the most important parts of your Dublin restaurant's smooth operation. They are the ones who create the great customer experience. And of course, they come with a cost. The number of staff you need, along with your restaurant’s concept, will influence your labour expenses. Typically, personnel costs account for about 30% of your total gross income.

Including the calculation of your restaurant's labour expenses in your business plan will give you a better understanding of what to expect when it comes to employee wages and taxes.

Price Range: 20-30% of restaurant gross revenue.

11. Technology and Point-of-Sale Systems

Restaurant operations technology can make all the difference and take your restaurant to the next level. The right technology can enable seamless communication between the front of house and back of house kitchen staff (via pos hardware connected to a kitchen display system), and this can truly set your restaurant apart from the competition. Things to consider as part of the technology stack are how to set up online ordering,  payment processing options and card readers, credit card fees, restaurant point of sale (iPads or android based durable hardware, cloud based pos solution, system with automated tableside ordering etc). 

Explore restaurant technology options like the Toast POS system.

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Open a Small Restaurant with Big Flavours

Before diving headfirst into launching your small business in Ireland whether it’s a coffee shop or a full-service restaurant, work out your available capital and make some calls on how you’d like to allocate that budget across different sectors of your restaurant.

After all, your restaurant is uniquely yours. You may spend more than you initially planned, but creating a rock-solid budget and business plan provides a great foundation and can help you make important choices during the opening phase.

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