Beginner’s Guide to Opening a Restaurant

Have you been toying with the idea of opening your own restaurant? To ensure that your idea can become a reality, you can’t afford to wing it — you need a detailed plan in place to have a hope of making it. To get you started, The Kitchen Spot has compiled an easy-to-follow guide to give you an idea of what it will take to open the restaurant of your dreams.

Cooking Up Some Initial Concepts

There are multiple steps to take when opening a restaurant — some obvious, and many less so. From commercial kitchen equipment to the restaurant design and everything in between, you’ll want to take the proper planning steps, in this sequence, to ensure you’re creating the exact restaurant you want.

1. Make a Business Plan

To get started with your business plan, you should ask yourself two big questions:

  1. What type of restaurant are you planning to open?
  2. What type of food, specifically, do you intend to serve?

Once you can answer those questions, you can move on to start calculating your startup costs and developing the rest of your business plan. Traditional business plans should include a combination of the following nine items.

Executive Summary
Create an Executive Summary

This should be a brief description of your company, including a mission statement, information about your products or services, and a general outline of the company organization. If you need to arrange financing, you’ll also want to add financial information and growth plans.

Company Description
Detail a Company Description

Highlight the problems your restaurant can solve and the customers, organizations, or other businesses that you plan to serve once you’re open. Highlight what makes your restaurant unique and helps it stand out from other businesses in the same area.

Market Analysis
Develop a Market Analysis

Research similar restaurants in your industry and gather information about your target market. Look for trends or themes and see what other businesses are excelling at to see if you can do the same thing just as well or even better.

Org Managment
Structure Organization & Management

Decide how the restaurant will be structured and who will run it. You will also need to figure out what type of corporation the restaurant should be — a general partnership or you as the sole owner? Layout an organization chart to list everyone involved and how they will help the restaurant succeed.

Describe Your Service or Product

Give a brief description of your food and how you plan to sell it. Explain what the product life-cycle looks like and how your customers will benefit from eating at your restaurant. If you have special recipes or ways that you make your food, you’ll want to include it here.

Plan for Marketing & Sales

Develop a strategy for how you will begin to market your restaurant. This plan should be able to grow with your business and change to accommodate future needs. Use this section to focus on how you will bring in customers and keep them coming back.

Piggy Bank
Outline Your Funding Requests

Clearly explain how much funding you are looking for, how long you will need it, and what you will use it for. Determine if you’d like to hold the debt or if investors can earn equity in the restaurant from their funding. There should also be a plan for future financial issues you may face.

Financial Projections
Think About Financial Projections

The point of financial projections is to prove that your restaurant will be successful and generate income. Aim to think about funds for the next five years and break it down with graphs and charts to show where the money will go and how it is projected to grow.

Include an Appendix

Any other resources that you have, including supporting documents, credit histories, letters of reference, permits, legal documents, and anything else you want to include that would help people want to invest in your restaurant.

2. Select a Restaurant Location

“Keeping It Local” is the motto of Neighborhood Jam, an Oklahoma City favorite built by The Kitchen Spot Expert, Market Source.
The primary things you want to consider when choosing a location for your restaurant are visibility and access. If people can’t see or easily get to your restaurant, they aren’t going to come in and try your delicious food.

Another thing you will want to think about is the local competition in your area. You wouldn’t want to open your restaurant right next door to a similar restaurant because you’ll be instantly embroiled in direct competition. Find the perfect location for your restaurant that makes you stand out and allows your customers to find you quickly and easily.

3. Consider Staffing Needs

Your staffing needs are going to vary depending on what type of restaurant you are planning to open. However, there are some basic numbers you can follow for each restaurant type.

  • Self-Service: Plan for one server, per shift, for every 12 tables that you have. There should also be at least four back-of-house employees for every 50 customers in a shift
  • Seated, Casual Dining: You’ll want more employees in this type of restaurant, so you should have one server for every five to six tables each shift. Again, there should be four back-of-house staff per 50 tables to ensure an even balance
  • Fine Dining: Customers will expect more attention and care with fine dining, so you’ll want one server for every three to four tables per shift as well as six to seven back-of-house employees per 50 customers

In conjunction with your wait and cooking staff, you’ll want to make sure you account for additional staff like a sommelier, a maitre d’, cashiers, or multiple chefs, depending on which type of restaurant you are opening.

4. Create a Mouth-Watering Menu

When you first thought of opening a restaurant, it was probably because you had a secret recipe or a unique way of cooking that you wanted to share with the world. That should be the basis for creating your new menu. Once you know what type of food you want to serve, you’ll want to figure out how it will be made, portion sizes, and pricing.

Having too many choices can overwhelm your customers and make it hard for them to narrow down what they want to eat. Additionally, the more your kitchen has to cook various types of food, the more it will slow down. Aim to have a simple, concise menu that highlights the food types you want to offer. An added bonus is that your chefs will get better and faster working with a smaller menu, and your customers will benefit by getting delicious food quickly.

Food Supplier Considerations

Once you have finalized your menu, you will need to figure out how you’ll get your food supplies and schedule when they will come every week. Find an established, local supplier with a reputation for delivering high-quality items on time, every time.

Depending on what type of food you will be serving, you’ll typically need certain items, including:

  • Meat
  • Protein
  • Seafood
  • Seasonings, herbs, and oils
  • Starches
  • Pasta
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Grains
  • Rice
  • And more

Generally, one supplier should be able to provide all these things, but you may have to shop around to ensure you are able to get everything you need for your restaurant.

5. Design Your Layout and Choose Equipment

The Kitchen Spot Expert, Restaurant Services, Inc. of Arlington TX, designed and installed this kitchen for TGI Fridays.
The Kitchen Spot Expert, Restaurant Services, Inc. of Arlington TX, designed and installed this kitchen for TGI Fridays.

You’ve made your business plan, found the perfect location, and figured out your staff and the menu. Now it’s time to figure out what your restaurant will look like and how it will function.

Whether you are working with an existing property or building from scratch, you’ll want to make sure you are making the most of the space you have. Obviously, an existing restaurant is going to be easy and more cost-effective to work with, but don’t be afraid to take a blank space and make it truly your own.

Your restaurant should have four key areas: the kitchen, restrooms, a dining space, and an entry or waiting area. Once you have a designated space for every area, you can start designing and laying out where you want everything in the restaurant.

If you need assistance designing the layout of your restaurant, The Kitchen Spot has resources available to help you get started.

Create Your Kitchen

After you’ve chosen the space for your kitchen, you can start thinking about the layout and design. Keep in mind that about 30% to 40% of the restaurant should be reserved for the kitchen to accommodate prep work and cooking, so ensure that you have enough space in which to work. Think about how you want your kitchen to run, so that you can choose between an assembly line kitchen, island kitchen, or zone kitchen layout.

Fill the Kitchen

Once the kitchen is designed and laid out, it’s time to fill it up! You’ll need commercial kitchen equipment, commercial appliances, and the various supplies that help a kitchen run smoothly. Some restaurant equipment that you might be looking for could include:

  • Broilers
  • Fryers
  • Ovens
  • Microwaves
  • Ranges
  • Steamers
  • Warming and holding equipment
  • Toasters
  • Refrigerators
  • Freezers
  • Dishwashers
  • And more

Kitchen supply stores can also provide you will everything else your restaurant needs, including food and drink prep items, tabletop and serveware, storage, plumbing and parts, and janitorial and disposables items as needed.

The Kitchen Spot Experts carry all the top kitchen equipment brands to ensure you get exactly what you are looking for. When you shop with these experts, you can choose from a wide range of items from trusted brands, including:

All Types of Equipment

No matter what equipment you need for you kitchen, you can find it here. Looking for an under-counter freezer or open display refrigerator? Check. Maybe you need convection ovens or HVAC fans and freezer doors? The Kitchen Spot experts have those, too. You’ll want to make sure you have a fully stocked and efficient kitchen that includes all of the equipment that you’ll need. The Kitchen Spot experts are here to help.

Purchase Prep Products

To create delicious food for your customers, you’ll need best prep equipment available. Find high-quality food processors, every cutlery item on the market, blenders, drink dispensers, and milkshake makers with The Kitchen Spot.

Decorate Your Tables

Once you’ve made your signature food, your customers are going to need plates, utensils, cups, and more to be able to eat the food. You should consider what you want your table sets to look like and purchase items accordingly. Don’t forget to include linens, such as tablecloths and napkins, if you have an upmarket style of restaurant.

Store Food and Cookware

To maintain food freshness, you’ll want high-quality storage containers. These can also help keep your fridge and prep space organized to comply with health and safety requirements. You should also consider getting additional storage bins or carts for dishes and other restaurant items.

Select Plumbing Pieces

Whether you’re building from scratch and seeking new faucets or just want to upgrade what you currently have, The Kitchen Spot has a variety of options to choose from. You can also get drains, pipe bumpers, stainless steel sinks, or bar sinks to complete the space.

Mats and More

To make your restaurant safer and a little more comfortable for your employees, rubber mats are a must. These mats can help ease standing fatigue and protect against slips and falls in the kitchen.

7. Market to the Masses

For your restaurant to get off the ground, people need to know that it exists! The best way to do this is to market to everyone. There are a couple of different ways you can start getting the word out, but most of it boils down to advertising and creating a website.

Account for Advertising

The best thing about advertising is that you can create a variety of different ad types to draw in a wide range of customers. Most advertisers will start with signage, so you should focus on making indoor and outdoor signs, menu boards, and a logo that represents your restaurant. This logo should be displayed on receipts, food containers, the menu, and many other places to tie each aspect of your restaurant together.

Some creative ways you could bring in more business could include having a social media account, running in-house contests and games, or partnering with food delivery services. You could also create a customer loyalty program to keep people coming back to your restaurant.

You can also send out a monthly email newsletter to highlight different aspects of the restaurant, or perhaps start a blog to give people an inside look into your business. Many restaurants also utilize business card giveaways as an easy way for customers to win a lunch or some other prize. Owners can also use those business cards as a point of contact to send emails to those who didn’t win, and invite them to sign up for a newsletter or customer loyalty program.

Try unique, fun advertising options to see what works best for you and your business.

Welcome a Website

While the idea of having a website can seem daunting, it is one of the most practical ways to market your business and bring in customers. A website should be welcoming, engaging, and make people want to visit your restaurant. Consider including things like an easy-to-read menu, current deals and promotions, online ordering or a reservation button (if applicable), social media links, and your rewards/loyalty program information if you have one. In addition to the fun parts of the site, you should also include the basics, like your contact information, restaurant location, any disclaimers you may have, and a career option for people to apply to join your team.

With so many people relying on internet searches to find restaurant recommendations, you want to make sure your website is one that they find. In this day and age, a website is just as important as the restaurant’s physical address.

8. Stand Out From Competitors

The Kitchen Spot Expert, Fein Brothers, designed and installed the bar and kitchen for Campsite 131 in Milwaukee WI.
The Kitchen Spot Expert, Fein Brothers, designed and installed the bar and kitchen for Campsite 131 in Milwaukee WI.

One final thing to consider before opening your restaurant is what you can do to stand out from other restaurants in your area. The current trend in the market is to create a unique experience that your customers can’t find anywhere else.

You could consider rotating a featured chef every month to highlight different cuisines and unique menus. Maybe you want to partner with a local brewery to serve craft beer on tap? Perhaps you want to incorporate a pop culture theme based on an on-trend movie or TV show.

Some restaurateurs add a food truck in addition to the physical building so that they can take a selection of their most popular foods to more people. You could also find additional ways to give back to your community, through outreach programs or by hosting donations to local charities.

No matter what you want to try, you want to make sure that you are creating a restaurant that will draw your customers in and keep them coming back for more.

9. Finally, the Grand Opening

You’ve developed your business plan, picked the perfect location, hired your staff, created your menu, designed the layout, purchased all your restaurant equipment, and covered all the marketing aspects. Now it’s time to bring all of that together and have a grand opening for your restaurant. The goal of a grand opening is to let people know about your restaurant and welcome them in to try your food.

There are a couple of things you could consider to help the grand opening go smoothly.

  • Have a small, soft opening to work out initial kinks
  • Partner with other local businesses or a charity to promote community involvement
  • Offer opening-day freebies, such as free drinks with a meal purchase or branded swag
  • Invite local social media influencers to help drum up your business and reach a wider audience

You could also try some unique ideas to make the grand opening more memorable and enticing.

  • If your restaurant has a theme, highlight it and play it up during the opening
  • Hire a local band or partner with a brewery to cement your place in the neighborhood
  • Incorporate fun or interactive decorations that will allow your guests to have a good time while eating memorable food
  • You could also consider hosting multiple events throughout your first month of business to continue generating hype and excitement about your business

Don’t let the process of opening a restaurant keep you from creating the restaurant of your dreams. Follow these steps to make the process easier and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a landmark eatery in your community.

Contact a Kitchen Spot Expert today.