How to Open a Restaurant - Ultimate Checklist Guide

May 31, 2023

Intro + Table of Contents

Get ready! This is going to be a long post, but a very informative one!

Embarking on the journey of opening a new restaurant is an exciting and challenging endeavor. Aspiring restaurateurs must navigate a myriad of considerations, from conceptualizing the menu and designing the ambiance to hiring staff and securing funding. To help you stay organized and ensure no vital steps are overlooked, we have crafted a comprehensive checklist for opening a new restaurant. Whether you're a seasoned industry professional or a passionate food enthusiast with a dream, this guide will provide you with the essential steps and insights to set your restaurant up for success. So, grab your notepad and let's dive into the checklist that will transform your vision into a thriving dining establishment.

What we'll be covering in this guide:

  • Concept Development

  • Business Plan + Key Resources

  • Pick Your Financing

  • Licenses

  • Building Your Restaurant

  • Staffing & Training

  • Important Finishing Touches

  • Marketing Plan Tips

  • Next Steps Running the Business

Step 1: Concept Development


Let’s nail down your product! These are great starter questions for you to nail down the concept of your restaurant. Fill these in as best as you can, and don’t be afraid to write multiple versions. But once you have your concept 90% there, move on to the next steps!

  1. What cuisines will we offer?

  2. Who is our target customer? (age, ethnicity, income level, family vs single, etc.)

  3. How much should a meal at my restaurant cost per person?

  4. What is my signature dish?

  5. What restaurants are you going to try be like?

  6. What are 3 restaurant name ideas?

  7. Name 3 feelings that describe the ambiance of your restaurant in a nutshell?

Checklist: Business Plan + Key Resources to Start

OK – this part isn’t as fun for some but it’s critical to your success. Not having a proper business plan and the right resources in place is often a leading cause of restaurant failure within the first year. Don’t skip this step!

  1. Document your business plan

  2. Budget Plan 12 months before launch and 12 months after

  3. Marketing Collateral

    • Website

    • Social Media

    • Google Listings

  4. Important Resources

    • Commercial Real Estate Agent

    • Attorney

    • Graphic Designers

Side Note: 

  • Remember to setup your EIN (Employer Identification Number)

  • Open a business bank account

Pick Your Financing Options


Pick one or a mix!

Personal Savings: Use your own savings to cover the initial costs of opening a restaurant, providing full control over the funds without the need for interest payments or external investors.

Bank Loans: Obtain traditional bank loans, such as small business loans or equipment financing, to secure capital for startup expenses, equipment purchases, and working capital by presenting a solid business plan, good credit score, and collateral.

Investors: Seek investment from individuals or groups interested in your restaurant concept, exchanging capital for a share of ownership or a return on investment, which brings expertise and networks but also entails sharing decision-making power and potential profits.

Crowdfunding: Utilize platforms like Kickstarter or Indiegogo to pitch your restaurant concept and gather financial contributions from individuals who believe in your vision, building buzz and a community around your restaurant.

Small Business Administration (SBA) Loans: Access loans specifically tailored for small businesses, including restaurants, offered by the U.S. Small Business Administration, featuring more favorable terms, lower interest rates, and requiring comprehensive financial information, business plans, and collateral.

Checklist for Licenses

Depending on your business you may need all of these or not! Don’t skip steps with this process! The paperwork takes time but it’s a must.

  1. Rent or purchase your location

  2. Purchase insurance

  3. Get the applicable licenses and permits for your restaurant

  4. Business license

  5. Certificate of occupancy

  6. Sign permit

  7. Food service license

  8. Liquor license

  9. Building health permit

  10. Employee health permit

  11. Food safety certification

  12. Seller’s permit

  13. Valet parking permit

  14. Dumpster placement permit

  15. Live entertainment license

  16. Music license

  17. Resale permit

Checklist: Building Your Restaurant


Here’s where a lot of the capital you raised will go! Give yourself at least 12 months before opening to nail down these items. You may need some of all of these!

  1. Create a floor plan

  2. Purchase equipment and furniture

  3. Kitchen

    • Ovens and grills

    • Ranges and ventilation

    • Freezers and refrigerators

    • Storage racks and shelving

    • Food processors

    • Mixers

    • Slicers

    • Knives

    • Storage containers

    • Sinks

    • Kitchen display system

    • (KDS)

    • Washing equipment

    • Microwave

    • Ice maker

    • Aprons

  4. Dining area

    • Tables

    • Chairs/booths

    • Tableware

    • Utensils

    • Napkins

    • Lighting fixtures

    • Wall decorations

    • Outdoor furniture for patio

    • Order counter

  5. Safety and health

    • Fire extinguishers

    • Wet floor signs

    • First aid kit

    • Hairnets

    • Gloves (dishwashing,

    • cut-resistant, freezer, etc.)

    • Slip-resistant mats

    • Hand sanitizer

  6. Bathroom

    • Toilet paper

    • Paper towels

    • Hand dryers

    • Hand soap

  7. Office (if there is one)

    • Pens

    • Paper

    • Computer

    • Desk

  8. Begin sourcing food and beverage

  9. Inventory

  10. Identify and procure suppliers

  11. Research restaurant point of sale system (POS)

  12. Start planning your restaurant menu

  13. Order and install outdoor signage

Checklist: Staffing & Training


Try to get this down 6 months before opening! 3 months at a minimum. Remember that as the owner you have to rely on working getting done through other people. Otherwise you’ll get burnt out very quickly if you find that you’ve hired the wrong people. People are your most valuable asset as an entrepreneur.

  1. Determine staffing needs and begin to hire employees

    • Host

    • Restaurant manager

    • Assistant manager

    • Servers

    • Bussers

    • Dishwasher

    • Kitchen manager

    • Chef

    • Sous chef

    • Line cooks

    • Cleaning staff

    • Expeditor

    • Bartender

    • Cashier

    • Delivery driver

  2. Develop staff training documentation

    • Cleaning procedures

    • Restaurant training manual

    • Staff onboarding process

    • Safety procedures

    • Cash handling

Note: as you get closer to opening remember to book an appointment with health inspectors

Checklist: Important Final Touches

Try to get this down 6 months before opening! 3 months at a minimum. Remember that as the owner you have to rely on working getting done through other people. Otherwise you’ll get burnt out very quickly if you find that you’ve hired the wrong people. People are your most valuable asset as an entrepreneur.

  1. Restaurant Wifi 

  2. Restaurant Phone System

  3. Setup POS (point-of-sale) System

    • Train employees on how to use it — this may take longer than expected!

  4. Other restaurant tech considerations

  5. Finalize Your Back-of-House

    • Test Recipes

    • Test Speed of Making Food

    • Test Food Quality

    • Finalize Ingredients List and Costs

    • Order Non-Perishable Foods

  6. Finalize & Test Safety Systems

    • Smoke Alarms

    • Security Systems

    • Fire Extinguishers Setup

  7. Final Marketing Touches

    • Create Yelp Listing

    • Create Google My Business Listing (needs to be verified via mail)

    • Pre-Launch Marketing Plan

    • Post-Launch Marketing Plan

Marketing Plan Tips


Pre-Opening Ideas

In addition to your marketing plan, try these 3 ideas to ensure success for your opening!

  1. Engage with local influencers: Partnering with local influencers or food bloggers can help generate buzz and reach a broader audience. Invite them for a special tasting experience or offer exclusive deals for their followers. Their endorsements can significantly impact your restaurant's visibility and reputation.

  2. Host a soft opening event: Organize a soft opening event for friends, family, and influential community members. Encourage them to share their experiences on social media, generating word-of-mouth marketing.

  3. Collaborate with local businesses: Forge partnerships with nearby businesses such as hotels, theaters, or gyms. Offer special promotions or discounts to their patrons and establish cross-promotional opportunities to tap into their customer base. Imagine putting flyers and postcards at the front-desks of nearby businesses! 

Post-Opening Ideas

Once your open and grooving, we consider these must-haves in addition to your current marketing plan:

  1. Online Reputation Management: In today's digital age, online reputation plays a significant role in attracting customers. Monitor and respond to reviews on popular platforms like Google, Yelp, and TripAdvisor. Promptly address any negative feedback and express gratitude for positive reviews. Encourage satisfied customers to leave reviews, as positive testimonials can influence potential diners. Utilize social media platforms to engage with customers, share updates, and showcase the unique aspects of your restaurant. Engaging in online reputation management helps build trust, improve your restaurant's image, and attract new customers.

  2. Capture contact info for patrons to remarket to them: Email marketing is a cost-effective and powerful tool for staying connected with your customer base. Develop a database of customer emails through online reservations, website sign-ups, or loyalty programs. Send regular newsletters featuring updates, promotions, and exclusive offers. Personalize your emails based on customer preferences and behavior, ensuring relevant and engaging content. Use enticing visuals and persuasive language to encourage repeat visits and word-of-mouth referrals. By leveraging targeted email marketing, you can nurture customer relationships, drive repeat business, and increase customer loyalty.

Final Checklist: Running the Business

Congratulations on realizing your long-awaited restaurant dreams! However, the grand opening was only the start of your journey. Now, it's crucial to maintain control over your finances, inventory, and customer service. Here are key considerations to bear in mind once your restaurant is open for business.

  1. Staff Management is a Top Priority Every Week

    • Schedule 1-on-1 check-ins with staff members or middle managers if you’re a larger restaurant

    • Set a regular meeting cadence for your restaurants needs, such as pre-opening stand-ups to make sure everyone is aligned on any special items for the day.

    • Set a dedicated meeting for company updates and trainings

  2. Keep a Close Eye on Reviews!

  3. Keep a Consistent Social Media Presence!

  4. Always iterate on the following

    • Cost of dishes and ingredients

    • Cost of waste in the kitchen / food waste

    • Labor costs

    • Menu items

Important Note: Remember that your business was launched off a lot of critical assumptions. Now that your restaurant (product) is launched, it’s critical to always iterate and make improvements as you receive feedback from customers. Don’t make knee-jerk reactions to customer feedback, but always be considering potential improvements! You’re always learning as an entrepreneur!

All done! What are you waiting for?


If you made it to the end of this blog post, you're ready to get started! Hopefully this was helpful and we wish you the best of luck in your journey. Check-out the Chowbus blog For more tips and guides on restaurant operations, marketing, finances, and more!

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