checklist for opening a new restaurant

The Ultimate (Basic) Checklist For Opening A New Restaurant

Are you planning to open a restaurant? Congratulations! Owning a restaurant is hard work and there’s a lot to do before opening day. That’s why we put this basic checklist for opening a new restaurant together for you.

What to consider in opening a restaurant?

There are many things you need to consider when opening a restaurant. You need to decide what food to serve, how much it costs, who wants to pay to eat that food, and whether your chosen location contains those people. Next, you need to determine whether your concept is profitable by planning a menu and estimating costs. Additionally, you need to figure out staffing needs and plan branding. 

Once that’s done, the hard work begins. 

How much money do you need to start a small restaurant?

This depends greatly on how small the restaurant is and what sort of cuisine you serve. A special pastry shop operating as a ghost kitchen out of an established restaurant will have different start-up costs from a gourmet, five-star restaurant with a bar at a stand-alone location.

Can you open a restaurant without experience?

Technically you can open a restaurant without experience. However, experience in the industry increases your chances for success. A passionate entrepreneur could succeed with the right people on staff and a willingness to learn.

Basic Checklist for Opening a Restaurant

Okay, we admit. This checklist doesn’t really look very basic. There are a lot of steps listed! That’s because there is a lot to do before opening a restaurant. Since every restaurant is different, we didn’t feel comfortable naming this the ultimate checklist for opening a restaurant. But it covers so much, maybe it qualifies. 


Restaurant owners who plan thoroughly experience greater success than those who don’t. Pull out your computer or a pen and some paper and start working through the following items. Don’t focus on perfection at this point, but know that doing the work now makes it easier later.

  1. Choose a concept – Determine the food and atmosphere of your restaurant.
  2. Decide on target market – Who does your concept appeal to? Can they afford it?
  3. Choose a location – Ensure your target customer lives close enough to visit.
  4. Research the competition – How are you the same? What makes you different?
  5. Write a basic menu – No need to dig in too far here, but a few items with prices allows you to set some basic financials.
  6. Decide on branding – Your logo and visual identity ensure customers remember you.
  7. Write a business plan – A proper business plan helps you secure funding and guides your decisions as you move forward.


Once you finish with the initial planning, it’s time to start taking action. These are the things you must do in the Initiation Stage of opening your restaurant.

  1. Meet with investors – Opening a restaurant costs a lot and restaurants often don’t see a profit for 6 months or more. Most new owners seek help from investors.
  2. Secure a location – Once you know you have funding, you can pay for that location you dreamed of, or find another if it is no longer available.
  3. Register your business – Properly registering your business protects you from potential loss or damages.
  4. Write staff descriptions to start hiring – Figure out what positions you need to fill and when.
  5. Create a marketing plan including specifics for opening night – Without marketing, no one knows you exist. Make sure you identify where and when you should advertise your new restaurant to get your target customers to come.
  6. Order signage and other branded items – This includes anything you want your logo and the name of your business on.
  7. Plan full menu and determine price versus food cost – It’s important to know what you’re going to serve, and whether the menu is profitable.
  8. Create training procedures – You need to ensure that incoming staff knows what they are expected to do.
  9. Apply for licenses and permits – Ensure you have everything you need to operate legally.


Now that the Planning and Initiation Stages are complete, you’re ready to roll up your sleeves and dig into the Execution Phase. Get ready to get busy.

  1. Install signage – Getting signs up as soon as possible alerts the community to your new restaurant.
  2. Schedule health inspector – Regular health inspections are part of owning a restaurant. But you need to schedule the first one to make sure it occurs before opening day.
  3. Order a POS and determine what other tech you need – A POS is essential for a successful restaurant, but there may be other tech you need as well, especially in the post-Coronavirus marketplace. Think about how your customers and staff will interact with the business and ensure the tech is in place to serve them.
  4. Order or lease big equipment – Depending on your location, you may have some equipment already. But you want to make sure you have everything you need as soon as possible.
  5. Order small equipment and safety equipment – This includes pots and pans, utensils, plates, storage containers, wet floor signs, gloves, and knives.
  6. Review price and portion guides – When you bring back-of-house staff in, you want to make sure they have everything they need to be successful.
  7. Determine food production needs – Some menu items can be prepped or partially prepped early. What needs to get done to get menu items to customers as quickly as possible after they order them?
  8. Set up vendors and determine food delivery needs – You don’t want to run out of a necessary item on your menu if at all possible.
  9. Establish temp charts – This is an essential health code item. Make sure they are set up and visible before the health inspector comes.
  10. Set open date and hours of operation – Do you serve breakfast, lunch, dinner, or all three? Or maybe you just serve dessert? Regardless, you need to figure out the best times to be open.
  11. Start marketing opening night – Once you have the basics in place and you choose an opening date, you can start marketing it. The more time you have to stir up excitement, the better.
  12. Get cleaning and sanitizing supplies – And make sure they are all well labeled. This is another health inspection big ticket item.
  13. Set up trash removal service – Nobody wants to smell yesterday’s leftovers rotting in the dumpster.
  14. Put together recipes, station cards, portion guides, and a floor plan – Make sure everything is organized and clear for incoming staff.
  15. Set up an inventory management system and the POS – Make sure to include menu modification buttons. Determine the who, what, where, when, and how of your inventory management system.
  16. Create social media accounts – Even if you don’t intend to use social media to promote your business, you may decide to later. Make sure you have accounts for your business so the name is available if you need it.
  17. Establish and fill out Yelp and Google My Business listings – As a local restaurant, Yelp and Google My Business are major sources for customer reviews and for new customers to discover you.
  18. Reach out to the local Chamber of Commerce and neighborhood organizations – Make sure the people who live near your location know about you in every way possible.
  19. Order food and disposables, printer paper, any last items you need – At this point, you should be very close to opening. 
  20. Test equipment – Run everything to make sure it works properly.
  21. Host a soft opening for friends and family – This allows you to test and discover potential problems.
  22. Determine solutions to problems that arise – There will always be problems to fix, but the major ones will hopefully surface during your soft opening.
  23. Hold the grand opening – Fingers crossed! You’ve done all the work, and things certainly won’t be perfect. But you can finally serve all those people who have been anxiously awaiting your grand opening now.

Would you add anything to this checklist for opening a restaurant?

At Accounovation, we work with restaurant owners to increase their profit margins and improve their financial systems. If you are starting out and looking for help with determining the potential profitability of your restaurant, we can help. 

Want to know more? You can book a free discovery call here.