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Opening a small restaurant is a difficult but exciting endeavor. To make it work, you will need money, permits, equipment and a way to get customers in the door. Your success will also depend on perseverance and resourcefulness, as well as the ability to produce great food and serve it to your customers efficiently.
In order to open a restaurant, you must get permits from your local health department and also from your local liquor board if you will be serving alcohol. Your health department permit will likely require submitting a plan review showing your proposed kitchen layout, as well as a sample of your menu. Once your construction is completed, your operation will be visited by a health inspector to verify that your equipment and setup is compliant with local regulations. In addition, you must obtain all necessary permits for construction activities such as refrigeration, ventilation and plumbing.
Your small restaurant start-up will require equipment to prepare and serve food. You will most likely require a stove and an oven, as well as a reach-in or walk-in refrigerator for storing perishable food. In addition, you will require stainless steel prep tables and sinks, including a prep sink, a triple compartment dish sink or dishwasher, a mop sink and a hand-washing sink. In addition to these pieces of equipment that you will need to install, you will also require pots, pans and utensils.
You will need to purchase inventory for your new restaurant, such as ingredients to prepare your menu items. Do not purchase perishable inventory such as produce until as soon as possible before you open so it will be optimally fresh. Be cautious about initial quantities in order to minimize waste, but make sure you have enough on hand to avoid running out of menu items. Also purchase packaging for takeout orders such as to-go cups and containers.
Your new restaurant will need a customer base, or a group of regular clientele to eat your food. If your restaurant has a theme such as Ethiopian food or fresh, local ingredients, you will draw your customers from the demographic of people who are most interested in what you have to offer. If your restaurant is located in an area with plenty of foot traffic, your customer base will most likely come primarily from local passersby. Expand your customer base by placing targeted advertising in periodicals that appeal to your target market.
Devra Gartenstein founded her first food business in 1987. In 2013 she transformed her most recent venture, a farmers market concession and catering company, into a worker-owned cooperative. She does one-on-one mentoring and consulting focused on entrepreneurship and practical business skills.