To open a restaurant, you must fulfill the requirements of a variety of agencies that regulate compliance with health codes, general business license requirements and building codes that apply to owning and operating a restaurant. Although details vary by state, the general guidelines are fairly consistent.
Health Department Requirements
To open a restaurant, you must comply with a list of health department requirements. Install a three-compartment stainless steel sink or dishwasher, as well as a separate sink for vegetable prep, another for washing hands and another for cleaning your mops. Design your shelving so that all food product and packaging is at least 6 inches off the floor. Adjust your refrigeration so that it runs at 41 degrees Fahrenheit or colder. Keep thermometers in all refrigeration units. Choose easily cleanable materials such as stainless steel for all work surfaces. Schedule a health department inspection of your facility before you open.
Obtain city and state business licenses. Register with your state's industrial insurance and unemployment insurance agencies. Contact the IRS and obtain an employer identification number. These are requirements for opening any business, and you cannot open your restaurant without them.
You are required to design your restaurant so that it complies with local building codes. Install a ventilation system with a fire-suppression system if you will be doing any kind of cooking in oil, including sauteeing. Vent gas ovens or stoves that you will only use for boiling water through a ducting system as well. A fire-suppression system is not necessary for these types of cooking, although you are required to have an exhaust hood and a fan. Provide a source of makeup air for your ventilation system, such as a grate with louvers to access outside air. Connect the louvers mechanically to the exhaust fan so they open whenever the fan is in operation. Have your sinks and gas lines inspected and approved by a plumbing inspector. Schedule an electrical inspector to oversee any electrical appliances you install, such as walk-in coolers or the wiring for your ventilation system.
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.