If you want to help create that type of magic and loyalty, then starting up a restaurant could be a great idea. Don’t be fooled, though. Running a successful restaurant can be a big challenge, and you’ll have to learn to spin multiple plates. That’s why we’ve put together this guide on your first steps for starting a restaurant business.

Whatever your idea for a restaurant, turning that vision into a place that creates amazing cuisine and delights your customers is doable with the right approach. In this guide we’ll cover:

How you can understand the world of the restaurant business

Information on taxes and finances for your restaurant business

Choosing the best legal structure for your new organization

The best legal structure for your new organization

Some rules and regulations you will need to follow

Resources for your restaurant business

Questions you should ask to see if you’re ready to start a restaurant business

... and much more

By the time you’ve read our complete restaurant business guide, you will have all the information you need to set up and manage a thriving restaurant business. Let’s get into it.

Understanding the World of the Restaurant Business

Restaurants are one of the oldest types of businesses. People have always wanted to come together to share food, and the opportunity to try different cuisines and styles is part of a good eatery’s appeal.

Restaurants and other food establishments are big business in the U.S. As disposable incomes increase, people choose to spend more money on eating out, with Americans currently spending an average of 5 to 6 percent of their income in restaurants. Here are some other great statistics budding restaurant entrepreneurs might find interesting:

10%

The entire U.S. workforce these businesses employs (around 15 million people)

$600B

Spent in restaurants every year

5%
Typical sales growth of the restaurant industry every year

There are over 1 million restaurants in the U.S.

Nearly 40,000 new restaurants open in the U.S. every year

Three quarters of these are independent restaurants, not chains

These statistics make the restaurant industry very attractive to aspiring entrepreneurs, but there are big challenges in opening, running and growing a successful restaurant. Restaurants demand a great deal of work, so expect long hours. Add to that the need for staffing, thin profit margins and intense competition... Restaurants are not a field for the faint-hearted!

For those with the discipline, focus and commitment, running a restaurant can be a hugely satisfying experience for you, your staff and your patrons.

Is Restaurant Entrepreneurship for You?

Running restaurants requires resilience. You will need to combine a taste for the interesting and unusual with great marketing and local presence. You will need to attract patrons in a very competitive local marketplace. Then, you must create amazing dishes, hire staff, acquire great chefs and create atmosphere and ambiance.

You can’t forget about the administrative side either.

Sourcing ingredients, sorting out disputes, working out profits and more are all required. In fact, running a restaurant requires one of the most well-rounded skill sets of any business you might choose to go into. Along the way, you’ll learn amazing skills, develop great people management techniques and build huge amounts of experience in creating and running a successful business.

What Are the Main Skills, Expertise and Experience Needed to Be a Successful Restaurant Entrepreneur?

As we mentioned above, running a restaurant requires a huge and diverse range of skills. Among other areas, skills include:

1

Hiring

Finding, interviewing and hiring great service industry employees both for front of house and kitchen work

2

People management

Dealing with staff, coverage, issues and other people management areas

3

Marketing

Promoting a restaurant against a fiercely competitive field. Local marketing expertise is essential.

4

Meal design

Working with chefs to create innovative meals, source ingredients and creating reasonable profit margins

5

Restaurant creation

Setting up the restaurant in the first place. Finding equipment, furniture, fixtures and fittings to create a cohesive decor with the right atmosphere

6

Operational management

Ensuring customers are being treated well, orders are dealt with promptly and food is prepared to the standards you expect

7

Business administration

Sorting out profits, payroll, financial management, accounting and all the other areas that go into running any successful business

What Are the Main Challenges for a Restaurant Entrepreneur?

There are several major challenges for any restaurant owner. These start with competition — your local area only has a certain footfall, and you’re likely competing with dozens of other local eateries. Although you will build up a good reputation over time, strong marketing is essential in attracting patrons to your business from the start.

Another major issue for restaurant owners is financial management and making a profit.

The vast majority of payment you receive from patrons will go toward food ingredient costs (30-35 percent), staff salaries and wages (30-35 percent), occupancy costs like utilities and rent (5-10 percent) and other costs. After all expenses are taken into account, overall profit margins typically clock in at between 2 and 6 percent.

Staff management also comes with its own list of challenges. From unexpected absenteeism to interpersonal conflicts, juggling staffing priorities will take up a lot of your time!

No two days are the same for a restaurant owner, but all those days will be long! From working out menus, training staff, marketing and administration in the mornings through lunch and dinner services, you can expect to start work before 8 a.m. and not finish until well after close. If you open a restaurant, you need understanding family and friends...because they will not be seeing much of you.

Unique Business Green

Choose the Right Business Structure and Register Your Restaurant Business

Now that you have all the background information for your restaurant business, it’s time to make it into a reality. That starts by choosing the right structure or “legal entity” for your business. In the U.S., there are four main business structures. They are:

Sole Proprietorship

This is the "default" business structure and is what your business will be if you decide not to create a more formal structure. We don't recommend this type of business as it doesn't give you the legal protections you need.

Limited Liability Company or LLC

The most common type of business entity. An LLC is fast, simple and inexpensive to setup and maintain. It protects your personal finances and assets and is a great way to start your restaurant business.

Series LLC

This is a special type of LLC entity that's only available in certain states. It allows you to create "mini" LLCs, each with their own limited liability and separate assets, under the umbrella of a master LLC.

S Corporation

This is a more complex type of business and isn't generally recommended for smaller organization.

C Corporation

These are the largest and most complex types of businesses and are far more than the average entrepreneur or business owner will need.

For more information on the advantages and disadvantages of different types of businesses, please see our in-depth guide. If you’ve still got questions, we’ve answered them to help you choose the right business structure for your restaurant business.

In almost every case, the right business entity for a restaurant is going to be an LLC. It provides you with liability protection, is easy to set up and run, has low administrative overhead and can be tax advantageous. We’ve got a complete guide to everything you need to do here, and we can even set up an LLC for your restaurant business. LLC formation does vary from state to state, but we’ve got you covered, wherever you are.

Set up & Maintain Your Restaurant Business

Once you've legally created your restaurant business, you’ll need to get some other things in place.

The Complete "Start Your Business" Checklist

A Clear and Comprehensive Guide to Starting Your Business the Right Way

The Complete Start Your Business Checklist

Discussion Groups and Forums for Your Restaurant Business

There are plenty of forums and online discussion groups for restaurant businesses. Start with these:

Restaurateur subreddit

An active discussion forum on the ever-popular reddit.

Restaurant Management Forum

Another discussion group for eatery owners.

Restaurant Owners

Restaurant Owners is a useful paid online resource ($29 a month) for owning, starting and running a restaurant. With over 40,000 members, they have a very active discussion forum.

Useful Online Tools for Your Restaurant Business

Here are some really great online tools for managing your restaurant business. They will reduce the time you spend on administration, help you to collaborate with others and free up your time to grow and manage your new venture.

Conclusion

If you want to start a business that’s going to be a challenge, but also comes with a huge reward potential, then running a restaurant could be right for you. Through the food and drinks you create, you will bring joy into people’s lives and give them a reason to choose your business. Over time, you will create a reputation as a truly unique eatery and be a place that people seek out to make new memories.

What could be better than that?