How To Open a Restaurant in Dublin

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Allie Van DuyneAuthor

Thinking about opening a restaurant in Dublin?

Dublin is a city that’s famous for its cosy pubs serving hearty Irish stews and freshly caught seafood. You can't wander far without bumping into artisan cafes and bakeries churning out everything from traditional soda bread to the trendiest avo toast. 

It’s a great location to make your mark as a restauranteur, so if you're dreaming of opening your own restaurant in Dublin, you're embarking on an exciting journey – yet one filled with its own set of challenges. According to exclusive data from Toast, the average monthly revenue for a new restaurant that’s less than 12 months old is €102,622. The average profit margin for a restaurant is typically between 3-5 per cent.

These days, diving into Dublin's restaurant scene requires a savvy touch and an eye for detail like never before. To kickstart your Dublin dining dream, we've whipped up a complete guide that breaks down the journey step by step:

  • A customisable restaurant business plan template to map out your vision
  • How to secure restaurant financing and capital to make your vision a reality
  • The licenses and permits you'll need to secure to operate a restaurant business
  • Tips on how to do restaurant marketing and,
  • Additional insights to help make your new restaurant venture a success.

Let's dive into it: Here's how to open a restaurant in Dublin. 

1. Decide on a Restaurant Idea

In Dublin, the choices for dining out are as varied as the city's history, with everything from centuries-old pubs to cutting-edge eateries. With approximately 2,500 cafes and restaurants in Dublin, the competition is fierce, and distinguishing yourself in such a vibrant market is crucial for drawing in a crowd.

What culinary delights will you offer? Perhaps you're eyeing the chance to showcase locally sourced Irish produce, or maybe you're all about creating the ultimate build-your-own pizza experience. Or are you setting your sights on becoming Dublin's go-to spot for the freshest sushi? Whatever your ambition, it's time to get those ideas down on paper.

Spend some time defining what your restaurant will stand for, honing in on your mission and core values to capture the essence of your brand. Then, move on to designing a standout logo and creating a vibe for your space that's as inviting as a warm Dublin welcome – ensuring every touchpoint, from marketing materials to takeaway packaging, resonates with your vision.

Testing the waters with a pop-up restaurant or a food truck in one of Dublin's bustling neighbourhoods can be a smart move. It's a chance to show off your concept in a real-world setting, gather a following, and prove to potential backers that your idea has legs.

As you flesh out your restaurant’s concept, it will begin to set the stage for what's next on your journey to opening a restaurant in Dublin.

2.  Create a Restaurant Business Plan

Crafting a detailed, robust business plan is non-negotiable if you're aiming to open the next hot spot in Dublin's dining scene. Think of your business plan as the map that charts the course from concept to reality, detailing every aspect of how your restaurant will come to life and thrive.

This plan isn't just internal homework—it's your pitch to potential backers, the key to unlocking the capital needed to transform your culinary dreams into Dublin’s next dining destination.

Here's what a winning business plan for a Dublin restaurant needs to cover:

  • Executive summary, including your restaurant name
  • Company overview, including your business model
  • Industry analysis focusing on Dublin’s market, including target demographics, location study, and competitive landscape
  • Marketing plan
  • Business model and service model (Are you a quick service restaurant? Fine dining? Fast food? Dining room sit down? Decide that here)
  • Operations plan (staffing, customer service policies and procedures, restaurant point of sale, payroll)
  • Financial analysis and business model (investment plan, projected profit and loss statement, break-even analysis, expected cash flow)

If you're new to the Dublin restaurant scene and this is your first foray into business planning, don't hesitate to seek guidance from someone who knows the ropes—a mentor who's navigated Dublin's culinary waters can be invaluable in ensuring your plan is as solid as it can be. 

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Restaurant Profit and Loss Statement Template

Evaluate your restaurant's financial strengths and weaknesses with the free P&L and income statement template.

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3. Secure Restaurant Capital

Let's not beat around the bush: diving into Dublin's restaurant scene is going to hit your finances hard. For a clearer picture, take a look at our breakdown of what it really costs to set up shop, giving you the lowdown on all the expenses and start-up costs that come with opening a restaurant in the city.

Going the franchise route, teaming up with a partner, or braving it solo—all paths to restaurant ownership in Dublin come with their fair share of financial hurdles. But don't let a thin wallet deter you. There's a silver lining with a variety of small business loan options available to budding restaurateurs in Dublin. Here's a peek at some of the financial lifelines you can explore:

  • Equipment and Technology Loans. Negotiate with your bank or provider a way to procure loans for kitchen equipment and restaurant technology, which can be one of the most expensive costs. 
  • Working Capital Loans. Working capital loans help cover operating costs while your restaurant has more expenses than income. Ideally, budget six to twelve months of operating costs until you reach the break-even point.
  • Lines of Credit. If you’re approved for a business line of credit, you’ll get a maximum credit amount but will only have to pay what you use. Like a credit card, the line of credit constantly revolves. As you pay your balance, you’ll have more credit to draw on for future expenses.

When hunting for the funds to fuel your Dublin dining dream, cast a wide net to include commercial banks, local credit unions, and even the companies behind your point of sale and payment processing systems. Whether you're itching to unveil a new spot in a buzzing Dublin district, splash out on the latest kitchen gadgets (thinking of a shiny new oven or a state-of-the-art walk-in?), or simply need to keep the financial wheels turning smoothly, securing a dependable funding stream is key to bringing your culinary visions to life.

4. Choose a Restaurant Location

Nailing the perfect spot for your Dublin eatery is absolutely vital. Diving into the local demographics, scoping out the competition, and getting to grips with the quirks of your potential space—including its size, how visible it is, and its backstory—are all key steps. Thinking about skipping the traditional setup? The ghost kitchen route might be up your alley, cutting overheads and focusing on delivery.

If your heart's set on a brick-and-mortar location in Dublin, you've got choices: snap up a property, sign a lease, or start from scratch with a new build. When sizing up potential spots, keep these factors in mind:

  • The audience you're aiming to attract and their spending habits
  • The state of the local property market
  • The vibe of the neighbourhood
  • The premises size
  • The history of the space

The character and configuration of your chosen location should make your concept pop. Dreaming of launching a steakhouse? A standalone property might be on the cards. Fancy dishing out casual bites like fish and chips to Dublin's beach crowd or park-goers? A food truck could be just the ticket.

Remember, the floor plan and the kitchen's layout are massively influenced by the space you've got to play with. Planning a bustling Italian concept with an open kitchen? You'll need ample space and maybe even a revamp to fit in all your plans—something not all landlords will be on board with.

5. Apply for Restaurant Licences and Permits

Navigating the maze of paperwork and waiting periods is part of setting up a restaurant in Dublin. The specific mix of licences and permits you need, not to mention the cost of getting them, varies widely based on what you're serving up and where in Dublin you plan to do it. Some licences, like those for food safety, are non-negotiable for any eatery, whereas others, such as liquor licences, depend on whether your patrons will be toasting with their meals.

For a Dublin-based restaurant, you're likely to need:

  • A Restaurant Licence to legally operate
  • A Food Safety Certificate ensuring your kitchen meets health standards
  • An Intoxicating Liquor Licence if you plan to serve alcohol
  • Employer Registration for hiring staff
  • Compliance with the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) regulations

Securing these licences is neither quick nor cheap. To avoid any delays in your grand opening, it's a good idea to start this legwork well in advance.

6. Develop A Memorable Restaurant Menu and Beverage Program

Sit down with your head chef and bar manager to get the creative juices flowing for your Dublin restaurant's menu and drinks list. The direction you take hinges on the kind of dining experience you aim to offer.

Take, for instance, a barbecue spot. Dublin might have its fair share, but what will make your smoked meats stand out? Perhaps a Guinness-infused barbecue sauce or locally sourced Irish garnishes could set you apart. Consider how your menu can tell the story of your brand—maybe through dishes named after Dublin landmarks or drinks inspired by Irish literary giants. Also, think about how your pricing stacks up against similar spots in the city.

When it comes to setting those prices, you'll dive deep into the numbers, from the cost of ingredients to anticipated sales, keeping a keen eye on maintaining healthy profit margins without sacrificing quality or value. Effective inventory management is critical, not just for your bottom line but also to comply with strict food safety and health standards in Ireland.

Crafting a menu that resonates with Dubliners involves more than just picking dishes; it's about creating an experience that's both unique and authentic, from the food and drink selection to the ambience your menu helps to create.

7. Hire Top-Notch Restaurant Staff

Your team is the heartbeat of your Dublin eatery, embodying your brand and playing a pivotal role in its triumph. Whether it's the welcoming smile of your front-of-house staff or the culinary magic happening behind the scenes, every role contributes to the tapestry of your restaurant's story.

Finding the right crew in Dublin offers a range of paths, from tapping into the rich network of referrals within the local hospitality community to leveraging job boards and career websites. But attracting stellar candidates is just the start; keeping them means creating a workplace that's more than just a job. It's about fostering an environment where passion for food and service can thrive, where every team member feels valued and invested in the restaurant's journey.

8. Invest in Equipment and Restaurant Technology

Relying on old-school pen and paper for orders in Dublin’s fast-paced dining scene just won’t cut it anymore. Diners are looking for slick, seamless service, and with the tech revolution in full swing, integrating cutting-edge solutions is no longer optional—it’s expected. According to Toast’s Restaurant Technology Report, 95% of restaurateurs agree that technology improves business efficiency. 

The pandemic has only accelerated this trend, highlighting the importance of offering a top-notch off-premise dining experience alongside traditional sit-down meals. For Dublin's newest culinary ventures, here’s a tech toolkit worth considering:

  • A cloud-based restaurant point of sale system or pos solution
  • Kitchen display screens
  • An online ordering system for restaurants
  • Restaurant reporting and analytics
  • Restaurant inventory management software
  • Restaurant accounting software
  • Simple scheduling and team communication
  • A restaurant payroll solution
  • A restaurant loyalty or rewards solution
  • Contactless payment options and order-and-pay-at-the-table technology that makes guests feel comfortable

Embracing these technologies will not only enhance your operational efficiency but also significantly boost your revenue potential and solidify your place in Dublin’s competitive restaurant landscape.

9. Create a Restaurant Marketing Plan

Launching a Dublin eatery demands a marketing strategy as rich and varied as the city's culinary landscape. Your plan should spell out how you'll drum up excitement and draw crowds from day one, incorporating everything from enticing launch offers to weekly specials alongside a robust presence on social media and tailored email campaigns.

A comprehensive marketing strategy for your restaurant means plotting out promotional activities day by day, tapping into every channel at your disposal—be it Instagram, local radio spots, or traditional print ads dotted around Dublin's bustling streets.

There's no cookie-cutter approach here; your marketing efforts need to zero in on the platforms that promise the closest touchpoints with your target audience. And what's the kickoff point for any solid marketing playbook? A buzz-worthy campaign to celebrate the launch of your Dublin restaurant! 

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Restaurant Marketing Plan

Create a marketing plan that'll drive repeat business with this customizable marketing playbook template and interactive calendar.

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10. Host a Soft-Opening and Grand-Opening

When your Dublin restaurant is ready to make its debut, planning both a soft opening and a grand opening is essential to make a splash in the local scene. Think of the soft opening as a rehearsal dinner but for your restaurant, where you invite a close-knit group—think friends, family, and perhaps even the neighbours—to experience your menu and ambience. This "test run" allows you and your team to iron out any operational wrinkles in a relatively low-pressure environment, ensuring that everyone from the kitchen to the front of the house is in sync.

The soft opening is kept under wraps from the general public, creating an intimate setting where you can gather honest feedback and make necessary tweaks. On the other hand, the grand opening is your big moment in the spotlight, where you throw open the doors to the wider Dublin community, inviting them to sample what you've been cooking up. It's your chance to start building the buzz that will carry your restaurant forward.

Remember, perfection from the get-go is a tall order; anticipate a few hiccups as part of the journey. And be sure to document these milestone moments for your social media followers—not just as a marketing tool but as a cherished record of where you started.

Launching a restaurant is no small feat—it's the culmination of dreams, hard work, and a splash of daring. As you settle into the rhythm of daily operations, remember to keep a close eye on your financials, welcome customer feedback, and occasionally pause to appreciate the magic of the hospitality industry.

Here's to the thrilling adventure of running a restaurant in Dublin! And if, down the line, you decide to expand your restaurant business or open multiple locations, you know where to find us.

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DISCLAIMER: This information is provided for general informational purposes only, and publication does not constitute an endorsement. Toast does not warrant the accuracy or completeness of any information, text, graphics, links, or other items contained within this content. Toast does not guarantee you will achieve any specific results if you follow any advice herein. It may be advisable for you to consult with a professional such as a lawyer, accountant, or business advisor for advice specific to your situation.