How to Start a Restaurant in Philadelphia

philadelphia's cathedral image by Ritu Jethani from

The "city of brotherly love" has lots of restaurants but not a lot of variety, leaving plenty of room for new restaurants. One of the first steps for starting a restaurant is finding an unserved niche and filling it in a specific location. If you can explain how you will do this in a solid business plan, the rest will follow. According to Dana Cowin, the editor in chief of Food and Wine Magazine, Philadelphia "has a few stellar places, but it’s dominated by two restaurant styles—the enormously popular but essentially one-dimensional restaurants of Stephen Starr and the small, not-so-sophisticated mom-and-pop BYOBs."

Find a location for your restaurant within Philadelphia. Consider what kind of clientele you want to attract. If you want more foot traffic, try a more touristy area like around the Liberty Bell.

Hone in on your idea and describe it in a business plan. What sort of food do you want to serve? Philly steak gone upscale? More general food items to families? Or perhaps you want to open a Japanese restaurant in a neighborhood that has other successful ethnic restaurants.

Calculate how much startup capital you will need. Present your business plan to possible investors. If you cannot raise all the capital you need, take out a loan from a bank.

Register your business with the state of Pennsylvania. The fastest way to do this is to visit the “Pennsylvania Open for Business” website at This website will guide you through the paperwork for taxes and workers compensation insurance.

Obtain a Federal Employer Identification Number from the IRS if you plan to hire employees. These are available for free at

Obtain all additional licenses. These include a Food Preparation License for which a Department of Public Health employee will inspect your kitchen--call the Food Protection Office at 215 685 7495 to arrange the visit. Also arrange with them your Dumpster License, Retail Food License, and Sales Tax License.

Decide whether you wish to serve alcohol in your new restaurant. If you do, contact the Liquor Control Board to get your Liquor License. Call them at 717 783 8250.


  • Start applying for licenses at least a few months before you wish to open the doors of your restaurant as there may be delays.


About the Author

Rebecca Jenkins has contributed to newspapers and blogs since 2004. She has written for numerous publications, including her college newspaper and the "San Francisco Chronicle." Her work has also appeared on various websites. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in history from the University of Dublin and has done master's work in political science.

Photo Credits

  • philadelphia's cathedral image by Ritu Jethani from