• Calla Norman

How Much Does It Cost to Open a Restaurant - and How Can I Pay For It?

Updated: Jul 16


a look inside the window at Go Buddha restaurant in Cleveland

If you’re opening a restaurant, one of the first questions you might ask yourself is, “What kind of food am I going to serve?” Right after that, your next question might be, “How much is all of this going to cost?” Then, you might wonder, “Oh God, how am I going to be able to pay for that?”


Opening up a restaurant can be both risky and rewarding, and it’s best to know as much as you can before diving in. Here we break down common costs to opening a restaurant, and introduce some options to finance a restaurant project!


Here's a Cliffnotes version of this article:

Learn more about growing your restaurant concept with Honeycomb Credit's The Ultimate Guide to Growing Your Restaurant in 2021!


What’s the average cost to start up a restaurant?


Different sources offer slightly different ranges of expected costs to open a restaurant, but it usually falls between $95,000 to $425,000.


Of course, this number depends on a variety of variables. Are you renting your space or are you buying it? Where is it located? What kind of furniture and interior design are you envisioning? Are you running the buildout yourself or hiring architects?


Trying to figure out how much it might cost you to open up a restaurant doesn’t have to be guesswork. You can go through and figure out exactly what you need to open and do all the number-crunching yourself, or you can use a calculator like this one made by Toast.


Overall, a good rule of thumb is that the median cost is about $450 per square foot for your space.


What’s included in that cost?


Opening a restaurant will incur both one-time and recurring costs. The one-time costs will probably be the easiest to predict and also will be where you can likely find good deals or reliable financing to purchase. The recurring costs will be the most important to the upkeep and operations of your restaurant, as it includes inventory, staffing, and all the other bits that keep a restaurant running smoothly.


One-Time Costs


Down payment or security deposit on your space


This is a one-time cost that is variable on a lot of different factors, from your location, your relationship with the landlord/seller, the terms of your loan, and so much more. Expect to pay from $2,000 to $12,000 on a down payment.


Furniture, decor, tableware


While the price of this might vary depending on your restaurant’s style and your design preferences, this will most likely be a one-time, upfront payment. This could potentially cost around $80,000, but also keep in mind, the furniture and tableware especially will be used a lot by your customers and therefore will be subject to wear and tear.



Remodeling


This is especially important if you’re entering an older space. Not only is it an opportunity to breathe new life into space, but you can also make it safer and more accessible. Accessibility is one of the most important aspects of a restaurant’s layout, because not only does it keep you in compliance with the ADA, but it also opens your restaurant to a whole class of people who otherwise would struggle to access your restaurant.

The outside of your restaurant is also important to remodel or spruce up as the interior - it’s where you can incorporate signage and advertising - which can cost about $20,000-$30,000.



a sign of remodeling at The Speckled Egg Restaurant in Downtown Pittsburgh


Kitchen equipment


Can’t operate a restaurant without a range, can you? Well, I guess you could if you were a raw-only restaurant, but in that case there are other kinds of equipment you need as well, like refrigerators, blenders, etc. At any rate, you’ll need to equip your kitchen, which can get pretty pricey - from $50,000 to $150,000! You can buy or lease your equipment, and there is also special financing for restaurant equipment you can take advantage of! This is actually one of the areas that startup restaurants overspend on - you can find secondhand options very easily and only buy what you need right now.


Licenses, permits, and legal fees


Of the one-time expenses, this might be one of the least expensive yet most important things! The bare minimum of permits and licenses that you’ll need to get your restaurant going will cost $100-$500 each. Of course, some licenses cost more than others. Casa Brasil, a Honeycomb alum, paid for their $75,000 Pennsylvania liquor license with the loan they crowdfunded! You’ll also need to consider paying for a lawyer to help you through the process of getting, well, legal. That could cost from $500-$2,000


Point-Of-Sale (POS) System


In the past year, a POS system has become increasingly important as restaurants shifted (and retained) online ordering programs. A POS is important for all kinds of service, however, as it can help you turn tables faster and even incorporate loyalty programs and customer marketing. Depending on the POS system, as well as the different service levels you want to add to it, the price will vary, but they can cost up to $20,000!


Recurring Costs


Hiring and paying staff


Arguably one of the most important elements of a restaurant is the people who keep it running. Hiring and paying employees well will be a recurring cost to include in your startup costs, and we recommend paying a living wage, which has shown to create a thriving industry as well as happy, engaged employees.


Square Cafe, a Honeycomb alum, is one example of a restaurant that has been able to garner great success from treating its employees well and offering a livable wage and benefits.


Square Cafe in Pittsburgh


The number you pay will vary based on how many people you employ, but expect to pay a manager a salary from $28,000 to $50,000, and chefs and cooks from $575-$1800 weekly.


Also, don’t forget to pay yourself, if you can!


Utilities


Water, electricity, gas - all sound pretty important to running your restaurant, right? Other things like trash removal, phone, and internet can also be included here. There are also electives to consider, such as linen service, if applicable to your restaurant. Expect to pay about $2,500 a month for utilities.


Food Costs


This, of course, is going to highly depend on what kind of restaurant you are opening. If you’re a burger joint, you’ll probably be spending less than a classy steakhouse. Here, it’s worthwhile to suss out the cost of what you think a couple months of service is going to look like on your food budget, and add that to your startup costs.


Speckled Egg, a brunch spot in Downtown Pittsburgh and Honeycomb alum, used their crowdfunded loan to fund the startup costs of their restaurants opening - they calculated that about $9,200 of the $49,500 they raised would go toward food costs.


Marketing


Marketing can be either really expensive or relatively cheap, depending on how you go about it. You can certainly bootstrap your marketing and rely on social media - here are some great tips for new businesses and restaurants alike!


Still, it will cost something, especially if you pay for online advertising. If you choose to start small and do it yourself, budget about $1,000 minimum, and if you choose to outsource it to a professional company, expect to pay upwards of $30,000



Keyla, owner of Casa Brasil, takes a picture for the restaurant social media


How can I pay for that?


Whew, that’s a lot, right? Well, you’re not on your own when it comes to paying for your new restaurant. There are many options available, from your own private savings to investors to all kinds of loans. Here’s a quick rundown of some funding options to finance your restaurant.


Crowdfunding


Crowdfunding is one option that you can take for financing your restaurant. We’ve seen restaurateurs fund portions of their new restaurant or in some cases even huge portions of their restaurant projects.


One of the benefits of crowdfunding, especially debt crowdfunding, is that it allows you to multitask. Not only can you raise the funds you need to open your restaurant, but you can start forging community bonds that will lead to more customers in the future!


We’ve seen that restaurants that crowdfund on average experience a 33% increase in revenue, which can definitely be attributed to strong customer relationships and loyalty.


Private Savings


Many restaurateurs finance at least some of their funding from their own personal savings. Whether it’s revenue from another venture or just pennies scrimped and saved throughout your career, sometimes it can go a long way. However, unless you have a spare odd $400,000 lying around, your own personal savings will probably be just a drop in the bucket.


Investors


There are several kinds of investors, from equity to debt investors, who would be interested in your restaurant. These different investors might have certain expectations about their stake in the restaurant and their responsibilities. You can learn more about finding investors for your restaurant here!


Small Business Loans


Small business loans are another common way in which restaurateurs have found success in financing their restaurants. However, this is typically a better option for restaurateurs with more experience, as most banks and small businesses won’t offer loans to businesses that are younger than 2 years.


Ready to fund your buzz-worthy restaurant idea?


Now that you know about the cost to open a restaurant, how are you planning to fund it? Consider crowdfunding to finance your new restaurant, and get the funding you need while also building a network of customers already excited to come in on the opening night!


Learn more at www.honeycombcredit.com/restaurant and sign up below for more information!