How to Start a Restaurant or Cafe

Updated February 21, 2017

The restaurant and cafe industry is tough and many businesses fail in their first year. Careful planning and decision making are required to start a venture in the restaurant business. Factors such as location, menu, atmosphere, wait staff and quality of food must be considered. Word of mouth can make or break a restaurant or cafe. If you are not a chef or do not have intimate knowledge of the food industry, you should consider working with a seasoned industry professional as either an adviser or a partner. Knowledge of the industry will be critical to your success.

Develop a well-researched and carefully planned business plan. Use the business plan as your number-one resource in launching your restaurant or cafe. It will be essential to endeavours like securing funds for your venture.

Find an attorney to assist you with setting up your business. File the necessary forms with your local, state and federal authorities. The restaurant business has many regulations. Consult your lawyer for all aspects of your business.

Hire an accountant. Work with your accountant to fill out and file all of the financial forms for your restaurant or cafe. Set up an accounting system and meet with your accountant regularly.

Determine what type of restaurant or cafe you would like to start. Research the market and assess your skills and inspiration to make an informed decision.

Find a location for your restaurant. The type of restaurant will determine the ideal location of your restaurant. Find areas where there is a need for your type of restaurant. Ensure that the area is heavily travelled. Locations close to workplaces are a good choice. People seek out places to eat on their lunch breaks and to relax after business hours.

Lease or buy a building to serve as a production area/dining area. Find a building that is already set up to function as a restaurant or cafe. This will cut down on start-up costs.

Hire a chef and a team of cooks for your restaurant or cafe. Choose a chef who can provide the kind of food that you want to offer. Consult the chef on layout of the kitchen and the equipment. Purchase your kitchen equipment. Design and lay out the kitchen/production area.

Work with the chef to develop a menu. Take input from the chef, but stay in line with your vision for the restaurant or cafe.

Locate and set up a line of supply for your food. A recent trend for restaurants and cafes is to offer locally sourced food. Consider offering local food and working with local farmers and speciality food producers.

Design the dining area. Acquire furniture, decorations, serving dishes, and utensils. Find local art for the walls. Include a sound system in the overall design to provide ambient music. Consider the design of the dining area carefully. It is your brand. Create a dining experience.

Hire waitstaff, kitchen staff and any other support staff such as managers. Carefully interview and hire employees. They are the face of your business. Train employees from the start to ensure they are doing things to your standards.

Hire a web designer to create a basic website for your restaurant. Provide your contact information and menu.


Create a social networking page using any number of the social network websites. This will generate buzz, allow for communication between you and your customers, and give customers a way to provide feedback.


Ensure that you are prepared for anything when you open your doors. Impressions of restaurants or cafes are lasting.

Things You'll Need

  • Business plan
  • Lawyer
  • Accountant
  • Restaurant
  • Chef, cooks
  • Kitchen equipment
  • Menu
  • Food supplier
  • Dining area furniture, decoration
  • Serving dishes, utensils, linens
  • Waitstaff
  • Kitchen staff
  • Website
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About the Author

Jonah Morrissey has been writing for print and online publications since 2000. He began his career as a staff reporter/photographer for a weekly newspaper in upstate New York. Morrissey specializes in topics related to home-and-garden projects, green living and small business. He graduated from Saint Michael's College, earning a B.A. in political science with a minor in journalism and mass communications.