Opening a restaurant: What you need to know to get started

Thinking of opening a restaurant? Our comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know to get started. From concept development to hiring staff, we provide valuable insights to help you launch a successful restaurant business. Read more now and turn your dream into a reality.
Gemma Thomas
Dec 2023
4 min read

Thinking of opening a restaurant? Congratulations! The hospitality industry is an exciting, fast-paced place to work and build a business.

But we know how daunting it can be to start a business, especially in a competitive environment. So, to help you get started, we’ve created this opening a restaurant checklist. It covers everything from brainstorming the initial concept to hiring the best people. Let’s dive in:

Opening a restaurant checklist

1. Brainstorm the concept

There are over 100,000 restaurants in the UK—it’s a fiercely competitive industry—so choosing a unique concept is important. Do you want the restaurant to be known for using sustainable ingredients or for crafting a one-of-a-kind customer experience? Carry out market research, brainstorm ideas and test which ideas land.

2. Choose the location

Choosing the right location for your restaurant is crucial. You’ll need to research the demographics, market, and competition in different locations. Then select the best area to reach your target audience. Alternatively, you might decide to set up a cloud kitchen instead.

If you’re interested in this option, check our ultimate guide to cloud kitchens, then head straight back to this opening a restaurant checklist—the following steps apply to both businesses.

3. Write a business plan

Now it’s time to write your business plan. If you’re going down the investment route, you’ll need a robust business plan to get funding, so this is a crucial step. Aim to include the following:

  • Business model
  • Industry analysis
  • Marketing plan
  • Operations plan
  • Financial analysis

4. Apply for restaurant licenses and permits

Queuing one of the most time-consuming steps in this checklist. Acquiring all the necessary licenses and permits to open a restaurant involves a whole lot of paperwork and patience. So we recommend starting the process as soon as possible.

5. Write your menu

Time to let your creativity flow and write your menu.  From meal selection to pricing to design, there’s a lot to consider when it comes to crafting a memorable menu, so don’t rush this step!

6. Invest in equipment and restaurant software  

Once you’ve written your menu, you’ll know what type of commercial equipment you need to purchase. Now is also a good time to research restaurant software. Consider investing in the following technology to help streamline your operations, improve your customer experience and bottom line:

  • A cloud based restaurant point of sale system
  • An online ordering system
  • Restaurant inventory management software
  • Restaurant accounting software
  • Staff scheduling tool
  • Checklist app

Take a look at our software guide for the modern restaurant for recommendations.

7. Create an operational blueprint

What does your ideal restaurant look like? How does it run? Create a blueprint for your perfect restaurant and think about the habits your team needs to adopt to achieve it.

8. Make sure you’re compliant

Anywhere that serves food needs to comply with food safety law. An Environmental Health Officer (EHO) will determine whether you're compliant and award you accordingly with a hygiene score.

So, get to know what food hygiene checks you need to carry out and what evidence you’ll need to provide in an inspection. This guide is a good place to start.

9. Hire and train good people

Hiring good people is the key to your new restaurants success. So, this step is key. But it doesn’t end there. You need to arrange regular training sessions and provide them with the tools they need to succeed in their roles.

With a checklist tool, like Trail, training is built into daily tasks so teams know exactly what they need to do and how to do it. This helps new team members adopt good habits from day one.

10. Time to (have an opening) party 🎉

It’s time to welcome your customers into your restaurant. Once you’re ready to start serving, you can have a quiet opening (also known as a soft opening) followed by a bigger grand opening. It will give you time to work out the inevitable bugs all new restaurants have.

How Trail can help

Maintain brand standards from day one: Trail helps standardise checks across sites so they all run exactly how you want them to.

Protect your business: Safety checklists are woven into your team’s working day alongside daily tasks. Teams know what to do, you know critical tasks are done.

Train, engage and retain teams: Training videos and materials are attached to tasks, so new starters can get up to speed quickly, and everyone knows exactly what to do.

What customers are saying

"I f****** love Trail, it's taking my businesses to the next level."
Josh Paterson
"We rarely provide training to our guys, they just bought into the idea straight away. I love that I have a full visual of everyone's activity in front of me."
Katrin Toots
Compliance Manager
“It’s not a paper diary that’s covered in barbecue sauce. We have clarity over what’s done in our sites and are confident going into our audits.”
Jay Brown
“The EHO visited almost every site last year and every store was given a five star rating."
Jay Brown
Operations Chef
"We turned our Costa Checks and various compliance forms into regular tasks on Trail, which has contributed to some of the best scores we have had."
Delroy Daniels
Operations Director
"Our teams love it, it gives our managers of all levels absolute clarity on what they need to achieve every day."
James Brown
Operations Director

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