Restaurant Essentials for Beginners

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Restaurant Essentials for Beginners

Starting a new restaurant can be thrilling but also overwhelming for new owners. There are many things to consider, like writing a menu, hiring the right waitstaff, and buying the appropriate equipment. If you’re not sure where to begin, fear not! This article provides a quick rundown of what you need to consider when opening a restaurant.

Choosing Your Restaurant’s Concept

Current trends in food service often drive new restaurant concepts. Some of the current fads are built around things like ‘Largest Seafood Selection’ or something as simple as hot pots. But will these themed restaurants last? A place with a diverse menu will likely be around for decades. Take Casamento’s Restaurant as an example, it’s a well-designed and well-conceptualized dining place in NOLA. Age-wise, they’ve been up and running since 1919. But even with the presence of more modern diners, Casamento’s remains as one of the best restaurants in New Orleans. They specialize in seafood, with some popular dishes including chargrilled oysters, fried catfish loaf. and softshell crab dinner. Still, even with classic dishes front and center, Casamento’s keeps the menu diverse by including desserts, sandwiches, fries, and spaghetti.

Finding the Best Location

Visibility and access are two major things to consider when choosing a spot for your business. If people can’t see or can’t easily access your location, they aren’t going to dine there.

Another consideration is the competition. It wouldn’t be wise to open a new restaurant next to one with a similar look or menu because you’ll immediately be in direct competition. Stake out the perfect location that lets your venue shine, offers easy access and can be easily found.

Evaluate Your Competition

Underestimating the competition can be a major blind spot for your business. You may think you have the better menu or customer service, but your competition probably has established loyal patronage and loves its offerings. Consider the mom-and-pop restaurants that are community staples where you’ll be operating. They know their community, and analyzing their business model may help you get ahead sooner.

Write That Business Plan

Now it’s time to create your roadmap to your grand opening- a business plan! These documents usually have three main parts. First, it should include an executive summary, then a company description, and ends with a market analysis. Next, your plan should include an overview of your restaurant’s details. Provide information about its concept, the location, and estimated earnings you expect to make each year. Writing this plan can be time-consuming but will ensure you a clear idea of what running a business can cover.

Obtain Needed Licensing and Permits

Starting a new venture means needing federal, state, and local licenses and permits. Getting the help of an attorney when filing for all of these permits is advisable, so you don’t miss anything important. Listed are some common licensing requirements:

Insure Your Establishment from the Start

It’s going to happen. Something will make you say, “I am so glad I have insurance to protect against this!”. Opening a restaurant is an exciting time, but accidents, equipment breakdowns, and dissatisfied customers are real threats to your success. You need to ensure when things hit a bump, your restaurant doesn’t experience an interruption in service that could cost you and your customers.

While the best policies for restaurants can vary based on the type of establishment it is and its location, many owners end up buying several of the following coverages:

  • Commercial Property
  • Liquor Liability
  • General Liability
  • Food Contamination/Spoilage
  • Commercial Auto
  • Business Interruption
  • Workers’ Compensation

Insurance costs will vary from one restaurant to the next. An excellent idea is to speak with a broker in your area and get a quote. These professionals regularly help restaurateurs like yourself build customized policies to protect their businesses, so they’re familiar with the risks you’ll face in the food service industry.

Meet With Investors

Using the guidelines in your business plan, compare the total cost to your ready capital to determine the amount of funding necessary. Don’t forget to include equipment, license, staff salaries, and building repair costs.

Always go to investors with nothing but the best restaurant plan. It doesn’t matter if it is a small business bureau, a bank, or private investors. Make sure your paperwork is in folders and neatly organized so investors can hold on to it for further review when considering your funding request.

Hire Awesome Staff

You’ll want that special mix of experience and personality when you hire your staff. However, the dining experience you offer will guide the type of employee you hire. Will you be self-service, fine dining, or seated, casual dining? Depending on your restaurant type, you may need to hire some of the following employees:

  • Waitstaff
  • Bussers
  • Bartender
  • Chef
  • Line Cooks
  • General Managers
  • Cashiers
  • Drive-thru Attendants
  • Delivery Drivers

Create a Mouth-Watering Menu

What led you to open your business? Was it a secret recipe or unique way of cooking you wanted to share with your community? That thought should be the groundwork for your new menu. Once you have decided on the type of food on your menu, you’ll need to determine to price, portion sizes, and how it’ll be made.

Having too many choices can complicate your patrons’ dining experience, making it hard to choose what they want to eat. In addition, having too many dishes to prepare will slow the kitchen. Your goal should be to have a simple menu highlighting the delicious food you have to offer. A plus to a concise menu is that your chefs will get quicker and better, so your patrons get their food quickly.

Invest in Equipment and a Food Supplier

Before the doors open, you need to get the right equipment to fit your needs. Every restaurant will need cooking and refrigeration units. Depending on your serving, you may need special equipment like pasta cookers or brick ovens for pizzas. Don’t forget to consider whether to purchase this equipment new or get it at a discounted price, used.

The next consideration will be finding a supplier for disposables, food, and all the items you’ll need to run your business monthly. Try and find a supplier that offers discounts on certain items or order totals. Free shipping can also save quite a bit when you order in bulk, so consider the perks a vendor offers before signing any contracts.

Have a Grand Opening

Once all the pieces are in place, you’re ready to start service. Before opening to the public, have a soft opening. This can be a trial run for your staff and give you a chance to work out any issues that pop up. After that, you can set up a larger grand opening.

A few popular soft opening ideas are:

  • Give participants a preview of select menu items and drinks
  • Only operate during limited hours your first week
  • Provide a limited sampling of your menu
  • Personally invite local public figures such as sportscasters, newspaper editors, city council and/or school board members, and close friends and family


To be successful at running a restaurant, dedication and savvy business skills are a must. However, with hard work, you’ll reap the reward of a lasting connection with the community and patrons you serve. Don’t forget that protecting your investment is as essential as remaining popular with the locals.

The process of getting insurance for your restaurant may seem dreary and mind-boggling, but it’s the most critical part of your risk management strategy. Lawsuits, human error, and natural disasters are just a reality businesses in any industry have to deal with regularly. The right insurance will ensure your new venture is fully protected, and can jump right back into business as usual should the worst happen.

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