• Calla Norman

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

Updated: Jul 16, 2021


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.