How to Start a Restaurant in 13 Easy Steps

Introduction

Is it your dream to build a restaurant from the ground up? Maybe you’ve always worked in the industry and you think it’s finally time to step out on your own. Where do you even begin? How do you start a restaurant? What is the first thing you should do?

At Rentwear, we serve hundreds of restaurants and have great relationships with many owners and managers. So, we put together a checklist with 13 easy steps to take your restaurant from concept to grand opening and beyond.

Choose a Theme and Concept for Your Restaurant

Create and theme and brand for your restaurant

This is the fun part, so don’t be afraid to get creative. What do you want your customers to experience when they visit your restaurant and eat your food? What type of atmosphere do you want? The lighting, decorations and overall vibe can make or break a restaurant before customers even try your food.

With the rise of food delivery apps like DoorDash and Uber Eats, you need to offer your customers a unique experience beyond just what's on your menu. This includes not only your decorations and interior design, but also your logo and color choices. Make sure it all comes together for an experience your customers will want to return to again and again.

Write a Restaurant Business Plan

write a business plan

Writing a business plan is tedious and time-consuming, but it provides an essential roadmap to start your restaurant. Not to mention, it's a vital part of pitching potential investors (more on that next). A good business plan should include:

  • Executive Summary
  • Restaurant Description
  • Market Analysis
  • Management
  • Marketing and PR Strategies
  • Financial Projections

This article is an excellent resource if you need help getting started with your business plan.

Pitch Your Idea to Potential Investors

pitch potential investors

First things first – you need to find people interested in investing in a new restaurant. Don’t be afraid to ask family members and friends if they or anyone they know is willing to hear your pitch.

After you have investors interested, set a meeting with them so you can share your concept and business plan and answer any questions they have. It's essential to be authentic and honest in these meetings because many investors can sniff out a lie in a matter of seconds. If you're well prepared and have a great plan, your restaurant should sell itself.

Find a Location and Check Out the Competition

pick a location for your restaurant

Location, location, location. We've seen poor locations kill good restaurants too many times to count. A restaurant off the beaten path not surrounded by competition does much worse than restaurants in busy commercial areas (although the rent will be more expensive).

In most cases, it's best to go where people already are. This allows you to get high visibility and pull people in who already frequent the area. Just make sure you don't go right next to a restaurant that's too similar to your own.

Obtain Permits

make sure you have the right permits
You might need some legal help here, but you will likely need multiple permits depending on your city and state. Don't forget about that liquor license!

Create Your Food and Drink Menu

create your food and drink menu

Time to get creative again. Starting a restaurant means food is your passion, so make sure that shines through in every menu item. Think back to your brand and restaurant concept. Make sure your food a drink menu reflects your vision for what you want your customers to experience.

Also consider different menus for breakfast, lunch, dinner, happy hour and dessert. Depending on your hours, you will need to create a menu for different times of the day.

Find a Food Distribution Partner

partner with a food distributer
We recommend partnering with local vendors because you support your local economy, and you'll receive more personalized service and attention. Make sure your food distribution partner has the ingredients you need to create your menu items and has an excellent service reputation. Don't be afraid to ask friends in the industry who their vendor is and how they like them.

Hire Staff

hire chefs, managers and wait staff
Without a great manager and chef, your restaurant could collapse before it even gets off the ground. Make sure your most important positions are staffed by experienced people who know how to run a successful restaurant. After management and other key positions are filled, hire as many servers, bussers and kitchen helpers as you think you'll need. Educate them on your vision for the restaurant so that they can carry it out to the best of their ability.

Find a Linen, Towel and Floor Mat Partner

partner with a linen, towel and floor mat company

Ok maybe we're a bit biased here, but this is a critical decision. Tablecloths and napkins are expected at fine dining restaurants and clean towels are a must at every restaurant. Carpet floor mats help keep your entryway clean while rubber anti-fatigue mats make standing easier for hosts, bartenders and kitchen staff. This company will also be able to provide you with chef attire and aprons if you need them as well.

Many people think all linen companies are the same, but there are plenty of bad apples in our industry that ruin it for the rest of us. Be sure your partner's terms are clear, they're trustworthy, they don't often increase prices and they treat you fairly. We always recommend partnering with a local company, but make sure you read online reviews and references before choosing a linen, towel and floor mat company.

The Ramp logo
"I would describe Rentwear as friendly, courteous and having fast service. I couldn't ask for anything better.

Order Equipment, Tables, Chairs and Décor

purchase your equipment and décor
Make sure you have everything you need from refrigerators and grills to wall and lighting fixtures. Your tables, chairs and décor should align with your brand and contribute to the vibe you want customers to feel when they visit your location. So, while pictures of your kids may be cute, they probably don’t work in your gastropub.

Use Marketing and PR to Hype Up Your Opening

use marketing and PR to get the word out

Most local publications are willing to do a story about a new restaurant opening in town. Invite local media members and bloggers out to a soft opening so they can try your food and experience all your restaurant has to offer.

You should also create a Facebook and Instagram account and start publishing pictures and videos of your progress and food as you move throughout the process of opening your restaurant. You can even create a Facebook event for your grand opening and invite all your friends and local community members.

Host Your Grand Opening

open your restaurant doors
The day is finally here! Make sure your staff is trained, your supplies are stocked and your restaurant is clean as can be because it’s time to open your doors to the public. Great food, fast service, good drinks and fun times all contribute to a successful grand opening that will keep customers coming back again and again.

Don’t Stop There

keep going because the grind never stops
Even though it feels like the finish line, your grand opening is the starting line. Continue to make customers happy and keep costs down to ensure your restaurant is successful for years to come. Keep relationships with partners that help you succeed and ditch the ones that bring you down. It's not an easy road, but you can reach your goal if you stay focused.

Conclusion

While this list doesn’t have everything little detail you need to start a restaurant, it does have what you need to get started. Don’t be afraid to ask for help along the way because you will certainly need it. Starting a restaurant is a massive undertaking but can be very rewarding. And if you need tablecloths, napkins, towels, mats, restroom supplies or uniforms — talk to us today! Good luck!

Connor is the Director of Marketing at Rentwear Inc. and writes about how uniform, floor mat and linen service can help your company.
Connor Clay