How to Start a Seafood Restaurant

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People have many reasons for wanting to start their own seafood restaurant. Maybe they love seafood and can't find quality restaurants in their area, or perhaps they love to cook and feel they could be successful with their own establishment. To open a seafood restaurant you'll not only need to create a menu and look after the operation of the restaurant, but you'll also have to handle the financial aspects of running your own business. If you're ready to handle all of these responsibilities, you may be ready to have your own successful seafood restaurant.

Decide where you'll purchase your seafood. If you live inland, you will want to go with a wholesale supplier(see Resources section). This is the most convenient method, but typically the most expensive as well. If you live near the water, you can buy your ingredients direct from fishermen. Check with your area harbor association or head to your local marina to begin networking.

Choose a location for your seafood restaurant. Obviously, establishments like this will be popular on the waterfront or in beach towns, but they can also be successful in other areas. For instance, consider setting your restaurant in a major metropolitan area with plenty of foot traffic. Another idea is to look for a region with no local seafood restaurants, or no good ones, and open up there.

Develop a menu. Your first consideration should be determining what kind of seafood is available. What fish are commonly caught in your area? Are there are any other specialties, like crabs or clams that people will expect? Decide how you can creatively prepare these dishes and make them your own. Add your signature touch to them, and guests will return again and again.

Build your restaurant. You can start from the ground up or simply modify an existing structure. The first option is most expensive and time-consuming, but will give you maximum flexibility. Consult your town's health inspector early on in the project and request a preliminary inspection. He or she can tell you what kind of things they will be concentrating on during their final inspection, and can point out any items they see that will need more work.

Hire a staff. You will need people to fill all the roles that you are unable or unwilling to perform, including cooking, bartending, waitstaffing, cleanup, and hosting. In addition, you will need to learn how to keep your own books and file taxes, or hire someone to do this work for you.

Form your business. You may want to incorporate, or form an LLC, or other legal business entity. This helps protect your assets in case of a lawsuit or bankruptcy. You can take care of this process at your local department of state or county courthouse.

Market your restaurant. Consider both traditional advertising, like radio and newspapers, as well as alternate methods such as parties, events, and specials. Have friends and family help spread the word about your new seafood restaurant.


About the Author

Emily Beach works in the commercial construction industry in Maryland. She received her LEED accreditation from the U.S. Green Building Council in 2008 and is in the process of working towards an Architectural Hardware Consultant certification from the Door and Hardware Institute. She received a bachelor's degree in economics and management from Goucher College in Towson, Maryland.

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