The Ultimate Restaurant Opening Checklist: Your Key to Success

Today we will be discussing all the elements that go into opening a restaurant…and there are a lot. Before you start imagining your first customer walking through the door, there’s some groundwork to be done. That’s where my “Opening a New Restaurant Checklist” comes in. As always, you can find tons of useful restaurant tips on my youtube channel or at my blog,

Restaurant Opening Checklist

Step 1: The Vision and Concept

Before diving into the nitty-gritty details, you need a clear vision of your restaurant and how you want to be in restaurant management. What’s your concept? Who’s your target audience? What’s your unique selling proposition (USP)? Your vision sets the tone for everything that follows.

When thinking about your concept, consider what kind of food you want to offer. Will it be a neighborhood café serving up comfort food, an upscale fine dining establishment with a focus on gourmet dishes, or maybe a trendy fusion restaurant that combines the best of various culinary traditions?

Your concept should not only reflect your culinary passions but also cater to the preferences of your target market.

Your target audience is equally important. Understanding who your potential customers are will help you tailor your menu, decor, and marketing strategies to appeal to them.

If you’re in a college town, for example, you might want to create an affordable and casual dining experience that caters to students. On the other hand, if your restaurant is in an upscale urban area, you may want to aim for a more sophisticated atmosphere and higher-end menu items.

Also, identifying your unique selling proposition is crucial in the competitive restaurant industry. What sets your establishment apart from the rest? It could be your secret family recipes, a commitment to locally-sourced ingredients, or a one-of-a-kind theme that creates a memorable dining experience. Your USP is what will attract customers and keep them coming back.

Step 2: Business Plan

Ah, the business plan! It’s not just a formality; it’s your roadmap to success. It’s how to get your opening a restaurant checklist started.

I get so many emails asking how to open a restaurant so I went ahead and created a course to help you get started. It’s everything you need to get started: my Restaurant Start-Up Secrets & Business Plan course. This course dives deep into creating a business plan that attracts investors, lenders, and partners. You can find it here.

A well-structured business plan is essential for any new restaurant venture to develop in restaurant management. It serves as a blueprint for your restaurant’s success and provides a roadmap for achieving your goals. Let’s break down the key components of a restaurant business plan:

Executive Summary: Start with a compelling summary of your restaurant concept, its unique features, and your vision for the business. This section should grab the reader’s attention and provide a snapshot of what’s to come.

Business Description: Provide detailed information about your restaurant, including its name, location, concept, target market, and the legal structure (e.g., LLC, corporation) you’ve chosen.

Market Analysis: Conduct thorough research on your target market and competitors. Analyze demographic data, customer preferences, and market trends to demonstrate a clear understanding of your industry.

Menu and Pricing: Describe your menu offerings, highlighting any signature dishes or unique culinary experiences. Discuss pricing strategies and how your menu will appeal to your target audience.

Marketing and Sales Strategy: Outline your marketing plan, including digital marketing, social media strategies, and promotional campaigns. Detail your sales strategy and revenue projections.

Management and Staffing: Introduce your management team and their qualifications. Discuss your staffing plan, including hiring, training, and ongoing development.

Financial Projections: Present financial forecasts, including income statements, balance sheets, and cash flow projections. Discuss your funding requirements and how you plan to use any investment or financing.

Appendix: Include any additional documents or information that support your business plan, such as resumes of key team members, market research data, and lease agreements.

A well-structured business plan is not only a valuable tool for securing funding but also a roadmap for the future of your restaurant. It helps you set realistic goals, track progress, and make informed decisions as you navigate the challenges of the restaurant industry.

If you’re looking for a more in-depth guide on creating a restaurant business plan that’ll set you up for success, check out my Restaurant Start-Up Secrets & Business Plan course here.

Step 3: Location, Location, Location

Choosing the right location is crucial. Your restaurant’s success can often depend on its proximity to your target audience. Don’t forget to consider factors like foot traffic, parking, and accessibility.

Location, they say, is everything in the restaurant business. Your choice of location can make or break your restaurant’s success. Here’s what you need to consider:

Target Market: Start by understanding your target market. Who are your potential customers, and where do they live, work, and socialize? Your restaurant should be conveniently located for your primary customer base.

Competition: Analyze the competition in the area. Are there similar restaurants nearby? If so, what can you offer that sets you apart? It’s important to find a location with a balance between demand and competition.

Foot Traffic: Assess the foot traffic in the area, especially during the times you plan to operate. A bustling street with lots of potential customers passing by can be a great asset.

Accessibility: Consider the accessibility of the location. Is it easy for customers to reach your restaurant by car, public transportation, or on foot? Adequate parking is often a critical factor.

Zoning and Regulations: Check local zoning laws and regulations to ensure your chosen location is suitable for a restaurant. Some areas may have restrictions on the type of businesses allowed.

Lease Terms: Review the lease terms carefully. Understand the rent, lease duration, and any additional costs or obligations. Negotiate terms that are favorable for your restaurant’s financial stability.

Infrastructure: Inspect the infrastructure of the space. Ensure it meets your operational needs, including kitchen facilities, storage, and dining space.

Remember, your restaurant’s location is an integral part of your brand and can significantly impact your business’s success. Take the time to find a location that aligns with your concept and target market.

Step 4: Legalities and Permits 📝

Time to navigate the bureaucratic maze! Get the necessary permits, licenses, and registrations in place. You don’t want any surprises down the road.

Running a restaurant involves complying with a variety of legal requirements and obtaining the right permits and licenses. Here’s a checklist to help you navigate the legalities:

Business Structure: Choose a legal structure for your restaurant, such as a sole proprietorship, LLC, corporation, or partnership. Each structure has different tax implications and liability considerations.

Business Name: Register your business name with the appropriate authorities. Ensure it’s unique and not already in use by another business.

Employer Identification Number (EIN): Obtain an EIN from the IRS for tax purposes. This is essential for hiring employees and paying taxes.

Food Service License: Apply for a food service license from your local health department. This will cover things such as Food Handling and Storage, Compliance with Health Regulations, Staff trainings, etc. You’ll need to meet specific health and safety standards to operate a restaurant.

Alcohol License: If you plan to serve alcohol, you’ll need an alcohol license, which often involves a separate application process and compliance with alcohol regulations. You’ll need to figure out if the area is zoned for such permits, have a business entity formation, background checks, attend hearings, obtain insurance, waiting period, final inspections and more.

Business Permits: Check with your local city to see what kind of business permits are required for the city you are doing business in as each city has it’s own requirements. You will want to build a good relationship with the city you plan to have your restaurant in. Believe me, it will help down the line.


Your Journey to Restaurant Success Begins Here

You’ve now navigated the comprehensive checklist for how to open your restaurant, a journey that began with a vision and ends with your vision coming true. Every step along the way has been meticulously planned to ensure your restaurant’s success.

Remember, the restaurant business is a dynamic and ever-evolving world. As you move forward, keep honing your skills, listening to your customers, and staying attuned to industry trends. Adapt, innovate, and continue to provide extraordinary experiences that keep patrons coming back for more.

As you open your doors and welcome your first guests, do so with pride, confidence, and a commitment to excellence. Your restaurant has the potential to not only satisfy appetites but also create lasting memories, nourish communities, and become a cherished part of the culinary landscape.

That’s all for today, I hope you have an idea now of what checklist you will need in order to get your restaurant idea into a reality. You can find me on YouTube (TheRealBarman) HERE or listen to my podcast (TheRealBarman) HERE.

I’m always here for you and if you have any questions, reach out to me via email HERE. Check out my Restaurant Management Masterclass HERE. Whatever you do, make it a good one and be the best boss you can be.

I also have an Inventory App and software once you are up and running and can be found HERE (Bar Patrol). Cheers!