• Calla Norman

How to Start Your Restaurant in 8 Steps

Updated: Jul 14, 2021

Trendy restaurant interior with chairs, tables, and wooden shelves with plants

So you’ve decided to start your own restaurant - how exciting! At this point, you probably know you’ve got a lot of work ahead of you, so where to begin?

We’ve got 8 steps you can take towards ideating your restaurant and making it into a reality, from planning stages to opening day, with some advice on how you can find funding, start marketing, and begin prepping for the doors (or walk-up window) to open on your restaurant soon!

More detail below, but here's a breakdown of the 8 steps:

  1. Pick a niche for your restaurant

  2. Location matters for your restaurant

  3. Get your restaurant official

  4. Find funding for your restaurant

  5. Start your buildout and get ready!

  6. Get hiring for your restaurant

  7. Tell the world about your restaurant

  8. Open up!

Get the Honeycomb Ultimate Guide to Growing Your Restaurant in 2021 for insider tips and stories from Honeycomb alumni restaurant owners!

1. Pick a niche

The first step to starting a restaurant is deciding on the restaurant niche you want to fill! Is it going to be a smoothie bar or a wine bar? A steakhouse or a hamburger joint? This decision is dependent on your own passion and expertise, the availability and accessibility of ingredients, and a bit of market analysis to round it all out.

Who is your target market going to be? Students, families, young professionals, or seniors, all different age and demographic groups have their own needs and interests in different kinds of restaurants. This kind of analysis matters because the generation, income level, location, and lifestyle factors will all account for many other decisions you make about your restaurant.

You see, a good old-fashioned breakfast diner might have something for everyone, whereas a fine-dining restaurant where the bill is several hundred dollars and everything comes served in a ring mold might be serving a very particular customer market.

For that matter, what kind of food are you planning to serve? This will determine the kind of service, decor, location, and more for your restaurant. Is it healthy or indulgent? Organic or conventional? Local or exotic? Trendy at the moment or an eternal favorite like a coffee shop?

The next decision you need to make is how you’re going to serve your food. Is it going to be fast food, midscale, or upscale? Will you be operating full-service (meaning with waiters and sitting at tables), takeout only, self-service, or will you be forgoing service altogether and operating a ghost kitchen?

Another way you can think about finding your restaurant niche is by diversifying from the standard restaurant model. Red Feather, a restaurant in Cincinnati, opened up a retail wine shop, larder/grocer, ghost kitchen, delicatessen, and wine bar that was funded with their $56,555 Honeycomb crowdfunding campaign.

2. Location matters

The location certainly does matter because it’s impacted by pretty much everything we’ve already talked about - customer demographics, food niche, service style, pricing, cost, etc.

The first question to answer is: can you afford to open up in a certain location? Sure, opening up downtown makes the most sense since it’s busy, however, rent can be expensive, and the market is supersaturated with other restaurants that may be similar to yours.

Also, take a look at the demographics of the area - for an obvious example, maybe it’s not the best idea to open a bar/nightclub in a quiet residential area. On the other hand, maybe if you’re opening up in an area with a lot of busy and health-conscious young professionals, your fast-casual salad and poke shop might be the move.

Finally, the size and shape of the restaurant matter. Maybe you want a cozy little spot, or maybe you want it to be an open concept, it totally depends on your vision as well as the restaurant niche you’re planning to fit into.

Iron Born Pizza in Pittsburgh knew that when they wanted to open up a second location, they wanted it to be a bit different from their first spot, a walk-up pizza shop in Millvale. So, they found a place in the Strip District, an area of Pittsburgh well-known for their restaurants, where they could build out a full-service restaurant. This second location was also funded by a Honeycomb campaign that raised $107,000 from 49 investors.

Pete Tolman, owner of Iron Born Pizza, poses smiling with two plates of pizza and a plate of wings

The foot traffic you anticipate will also play a large role in choosing the space you want your restaurant to be. Another thing to consider, which has become increasingly important in this era of pandemic restrictions, is whether your restaurant has the capability for outdoor seating or a walk-up window.

3. Get Official

Starting any new business comes with a bit of paperwork, red tape, and “t’s” and “i’s” to be crossed and dotted. The first step is to make sure you’re registered with the state as a business. Then, you need to make sure you get all the restaurant-specific licenses and such to make sure your restaurant is running safely and legally. This includes food safety certifications, liquor licenses, ADA accessibility, and so on.

A great resource to learn about all these regulations is the National Restaurant Association’s Educational Foundation, which has information, programs, and workshops that are all about getting into the restaurant industry.

4. Find funding

We already have an entire blog post that goes more in-depth about how to find funding for your restaurant, but here are the basics:

  • Have a business plan ready

  • You can find investors through many outlets: family and friends, industry connections, online groups, banks and small business administrations, and crowdfunding (that’s us!)

  • Different investors have different priorities - so make sure the people funding you also align with your mission and vision for the restaurant’s future.

5. Start building out and get ready!

Now that you’ve found funding and all your ducks are in a row (or maybe are in the oven roasting), here comes the fun part: building your dream restaurant.

If you’re starting from scratch in a new brick-and-mortar space, you might have an idea of how you want the space to look, but no idea how to go about making it a reality. We highly recommend hiring an architect to design your space because they can take your creative vision and use their technical knowledge to bring it to life. They’ll also be useful in helping you