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How to Open an American Diner

Updated February 21, 2017

American diners are a tradition in the United States, and many people find them nostalgic, whimsical and welcoming. This type of restaurant typically serves comfort foods and dishes that are American favourites, but some diners also offer their own unique menu creations. Launching an American diner can be profitable and enjoyable, but you will need to do quite a bit of planning and research before opening your doors.

Write a business plan, including your start-up capital needs, detailed operating expenses for the first three years, analysis of competitors, bios and resumes for all owners and partners of the diner.

Obtain the licenses needed in your city to open a diner. Needed licenses may include one or more of the following: food enterprise license, food manager certification, food handler permits, employer identification number (EIN), assumed name certificate ("doing business as" or DBA), and sales and use tax permit. Contact your local public health department or Small Business Administration (SBA) office for help finding out what is required.

Lease or buy a space your for diner. Options include a stand-alone building or inside a mall or a shopping complex. Diners tend to do well located near downtown areas, college and university campuses, and busy shopping centres.

Source suppliers for your food ingredients. To save money, contact local farmers' markets and ask for a list of their produce, meat and dairy vendors. Buying local food will save you money because you won't have to pay as much for shipping, and it will give you a connection to your community, which you can use to promote your diner.

Decorate your American diner by choosing a decor style. You can choose classic or retro, modern or eclectic decorations and furnishings. Try featuring artwork from local artists to give your diner a more cosy, community feeling.

Buy the fixtures and furnishings needed for your diner. Classic diner furniture includes stools and chairs upholstered with plush vinyl, cake displays and eating counters.

Develop a menu for your American diner. Including classics, such as apple and cherry pie, hamburgers and fries is essential, but you can also offer regional specialities, such as chilli pies, clam chowder, burritos and gumbo.

Hire the staff needed for your diner, including cooks, waiters and waitresses, and a manager. The number of staff you need depends on whether you will work in the diner, how large your establishment is and the hours you will be open.

Promote your diner. Consider sending press releases to local news outlets and community publications, holding a promotional night, offering weekly dinner specials, sponsoring a local event or fair, and launching a promotional website or blog.

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About the Author

Melinda Gaines has been a freelance writer since 2006, with work appearing online for YellowPages and other websites. Her areas of expertise include business, beauty, fashion and sports. Gaines attended the University of Houston where she earned a Bachelor of Science in sport administration.