Whether you’re finally fulfilling your lifelong dream or hanging drywall at your fifth location, nothing beats the Boy Scout motto: be prepared. Opening a restaurant is no easy feat and requires a massive amount of coordination and planning to go off without a hitch. It’s not enough to have a vision; you need to have the structure and organization to make that dream a place guests will flock and fill your seats (and registers) night after night.
So, if you’re a chef (or partnered with one) who’s developed a business and marketing plan, finished your market research, and have your financing secured — what’s next? Some of the details may vary depending on your scope and area, but following is a starting point on what to do (and when) to get your restaurant ready for its opening night.
6 months out
Secure a lease or buy an existing restaurant or building.
Once you have an address:
Apply for a business license with your city or county.
Apply for a liquor license from your state’s Alcohol Beverage Control agency.
Acquire signage permits with your local municipality.
5 months out
Install outdoor signage and window lettering on location.
3-4 months out
File for health permits and arrange an appointment with the state health inspector.
Post employment opportunities and determine job descriptions for every position in your restaurant.
FF&E: Purchase fixtures and furniture, and either buy or lease kitchen equipment.
Order smallwares and all additional equipment, including pots, pans, ladles, bussing carts or tubs, plates, silverware, stemware, salt and pepper shakers, and all front and back of house needs.
Order a POS (point of sale) system.
2 months out
Review staffing needs, charting out the entire day and week to determine the volume of staff necessary for each shift.
Plan training procedures for employees on cleaning, safety, cash handling, and hospitality.
Set-up ordering process with a food vendor (if you don’t know who to call, watch for what trucks deliver to other businesses in your area).
6-8 weeks out
Determine food production needs, including (but not limited to) deciding what you can do in batches, what can be prepared the night before, and what needs to be prepared fresh upon order.
Review price and portion guides for entire menu.
Establish safety program and emergency medical procedures for your staff.
Order thermometers and establish temperature charts for all refrigerators, freezers, and in-production food items.
Communicate special orders to your food supplier.
Set open date and hours of operation and notify your food supplier.
Establish delivery standards with all vendors.
Plan marketing tactics for communicating your opening night.
4-6 weeks out
Finish hiring employees, set schedules, and order uniforms for front and back of house staff.
Set-up employment law posting area and procure signage from the U.S. Department of Labor.
Order safety equipment, such as wet floor signs, cut gloves, and floor padding.
Get sanitation certification (Servsafe®) for required staff
Order cleaning and sanitizing equipment, including hand sanitizer.
Establish trash removal and recycling procedures.
3 weeks out
Formulate all recipes and print out station cards.
Set-up inventory spaces, both cold and dry.
Program your POS and train cashiers.
Create a Facebook page and open other social media accounts (if desired).
Establish a Yelp account and populate the page with as much information as possible.
Reach out to your local chamber of commerce and neighborhood associations.
Organize the dish room, slop sink, and pot sink area.
2 weeks out
Order all food and disposables.
Assemble back of house station books, including diagrams, recipes, photographs, toppings list, and portioning guides.
Assemble front of house directions with station diagrams, reservation system instructions, and bussing station books.
Purchase a tool box and first aid kit.
Order printer paper for your POS and test the ticketing system.
1 week out
Receive all products and inspect.
Test station equipment.
Confirm all your smallwares are in place.
Set-up a brand station that includes menus, packaging, and other to-go items.
Finalize the menu and print.
5 days out
Do a test run with free meals for family, friends, marketplace influencers, and the local Chamber of Commerce. A single shift or three-hour setting can illuminate a lot of potential issues with time to sort them out before opening to the public.
Want to download an easy pdf checklist for free?