Portland has a large population and a reputation for being a fun city to be out and about in. The weather is such that people can travel about easily in all four seasons, which bodes well for a restaurant business that relies on walk-in traffic. Still, it is best to be well prepared before attempting to open a new restaurant.
Join the Oregon Restaurant Association (see Resources). ORA is a nonprofit that offers services and tries to save money for its members. ORA is a good source of information regarding laws and legal updates that affect everyone in the food service industry in Oregon.
Contact the city of Portland and the state of Oregon to get current information about rules, regulations and necessary licenses governing restaurants. The link below to the Oregon Business Guide will provide you with the appropriate telephone numbers, email addresses and street addresses for Portland and Oregon officials. There are numerous regulations you must comply with when you design your restaurant, including everything from kitchen exhaust fans to fire escapes.
Find an appropriate piece of commercial real estate. It may already be a restaurant, or it may be another commercial building that you would like to convert. This is no easy feat. You must plan where the dining room will be, how many tables your dining room can accommodate, where the kitchen will be, where you will place food storage areas such as a walk-in refrigerator. Consider hiring a restaurant architect to help you with this planning. Contact the Bureau of Development Services in Portland, Oregon, link below.
Know the city. Know what kinds of restaurants are already there. Choose a type of food and restaurant that will make you different. Know your menu, and develop your recipes before you open a restaurant. Also, decide whether you want to serve alcohol. If yes, obtain a liquor license from the state.
With all of the information detailed in the above steps, write a business plan. Be clear about where, when and how. Provide details including specific recipes, number of people you can accommodate and hours of operation. Include how many employees you expect to need in the beginning. If you are unable to write down all your plans, you are not ready to open your restaurant yet.
With your completed business plan in hand, contact the Small Business Administration, or SBA, in Portland, Oregon. It is located at 601 SW Second Ave., Ste. 950, 97204-3192 (phone: 503-326-2682; fax: 503-326-2808). It will help you figure out and arrange financing for your restaurant, and is also a great source of information and support.
Fully educate yourself before jumping into the restaurant business. Read books about running restaurants and take classes at your local community college on how to run a business and financial accounting.
Profit margins in the restaurant industry are low, and ill-funded and poorly planned restaurants often fail. Secure your funding before you commit.