If you’re trying to get a restaurant up and running, you already know it’s a long process. Luckily for you, Cuboh has been on this side of things before, so we understand how to help. Today, we’re building (and explaining) a restaurant opening checklist that’ll have your joint operating at total capacity straight out of the gates.
Let’s start with the basics, yeah?
Now, we’re going to assume that you’ve done a good bit of legwork already. If you’re still in the early stages (before getting funding or a location, for instance), you’ll want to hold off on pursuing the following until you’ve reached the basics.
With that said, let’s get you a handy little checklist!
We’ll explain why each of these is on the list shortly - but first, we need the list. Remember that the “Initial Stages” bit is something you should’ve figured out already - everything after will need the funding and location to be helpful:
1. Initial Stages:
2. Short Term (Pre-Open):
While this is absolutely a barebones list, it covers all of the most crucial little bits and bobs. We’ll break down each subsection for you in the next bit, so don’t worry too much.
This is where the technically complicated stuff needs to be done. You need a concept (pizza, sushi, fusion, ghost kitchen, etc.) and a name, obviously - but those are the parts everyone can do. What comes next will inform how you go about finishing the second part of your checklist - the budget and business plan.
This is the bit that we mentioned above: if you don’t have funding, a business plan, and a budget (let alone a restaurant name and concept), you need to take more time. These don’t come quickly or easily and will take a good bit of financial institution finagling to get finished. Just think about it for a moment - we’re about to dive into menu design, distribution, hiring, and training - all of which cost money and take time.
Let’s talk about the more direct short-term stuff with that out of the way.
This will be broken down more bit-by-bit. A lot needs to happen in the six months leading up to your grand opening, so follow these steps to open a restaurant successfully.
Love it or hate it, a joint’s staff is what makes or breaks any restaurant. You need people you can trust to run your brick-and-mortar baby and, importantly, people you can trust without watching. While you don’t need to hire everyone six months out, having a few trustworthy “frontline” people will be a significant help.
You’ll want a chef and sous chef at the very least (or their equivalent if you don’t like the brigade model for kitchens), along with a general manager (GM) and, if applicable, a head bartender. You don’t need them on the clock 24/7, but each can help in the following bits that we need to cover. And equally crucial, if you don’t have a great deal of restaurant experience, having people who do can streamline this process much more than you’d think.
That brings us to the most essential point of hiring staff first - it allows you to get feedback and figure things out. Rather than guessing about inventory, equipment, and staffing, you can ask your chef and GM. These are people that, if you hired well, have done this before - so let them help. Realistically, your new employees likely want to see your business succeed just as much as you do.
And that brings us to equipment.
Equipment is one of the highest up-front costs for new restauranteurs. Even when buying used from restaurant supply stores, it’s pretty likely that equipment will be your largest cost beyond labor and rent. This is why we wanted you to budget first - it informs what you can afford to get in your kitchen.
For an essential checklist of things every kitchen will need, look below:
And after that, you get to think about things like commercial dough mixers, blenders, food processors, knives, and so many little extra things. This is one of those places where having experienced kitchen staff on payroll pays off - they’ll be able to inform you on what’s necessary, what would be nice, and what they just outright don’t need.
Think about it like this - assume you want to make pizza dough. That means you’ll need a commercial Hobart mixer (which can range used well above $10,000), right? Well - you may be wrong. Depending on your projected traffic and your menu, you might not need the mixer at all. If you only have two pizzas on a menu with 30+ items, you will likely not sell that many. And once again - this is where asking your kitchen staff is going to help the most. They can answer questions like this from experience rather than an educated guess.
And that brings us to the next bit - menu and inventory. These are (obviously) the most essential parts of any restaurant. After all, no menu, no restaurant - right?
Once again, this is where having staff hired comes in handy. Your GM and chef will be handling inventory in the day-to-day anyway - so why would you try to take that from them? Let management, well, manage. It frees you up to move on to the more technically necessary details like licensing and permits (which we’ll get to momentarily).
But no matter how you end up running things, having a well-planned menu that’s established online is absolutely vital. The menu informs your inventory, which will inform how you schedule labor, which (in turn) affects every other part of the business - so plan the menu carefully - and ask for help if you need it.
This ties into the above point - you need distributors for a menu and inventory. Knowing where you’re getting your product is key, whether you're a farm-to-table joint or fast-casual. This is for a few reasons:
The first two are pretty simple. Building relationships is something you’ll see us echo a few times in this article. This is because establishing a friendship or working friendliness with the people you’ll see weekly for years is vital. Rather than just ordering from Sysco or U.S. Foods (or whatever equivalent you have nearby), get to know the farmers, ranchers, and foragers in your area.
Doing so will allow you to get better food, cheaper, and importantly - just as quickly. And when (not if) an order goes wrong, it’s far easier to get the issue resolved with a friend rather than a stranger on the phone.
By building a relationship with the suppliers in your area, you can get an idea of your local market’s health - what’s rising in cost, what styles are oversaturated in your area, and who can you turn to for help when it’s needed?
The final point here is an obvious one - getting to know your distributors means you get better food, plain as that. You’ll find that they hook you up with fresher, better, tastier produce, cooler cuts of meat, and more - so don’t skimp on getting to know your distributors before opening.
This is the bit that, admittedly, I can’t guide you through step-by-step. Licensing and permits will vary drastically on where you live, what you sell, and your general business model. But nonetheless, they are super important.
Before opening, you must ensure you have all of the proper licenses and permits (especially if you sell liquor or beer/wine). And, also important, you need a health inspection! Getting this done before opening is, in most places, law - but it’s also common sense. Finding potential issues before opening allows you to fix things and avoid fees - it also helps build relationships, which is always nice.
Having a relationship with your local inspectors and permitting boards is a super handy thing to pursue. It allows things to flow more smoothly, create connections, and build a name in your area. This, coincidentally, brings us to our final point - marketing!
We purposefully had you do this last. Your signs, logo, and other outdoor accoutrements are the last things that should cross your mind. You should already have a working logo and name (there’s that business plan again), so all that’s left will be fabrication and setup. Theoretically, getting a sign, marketing materials, and further outdoor beautification shouldn’t take more than 1-2 weeks.
While it won’t hurt to plan ahead of time, don’t worry too much - focus on the important stuff. Menus, inventory, staffing, and equipment will significantly affect your restaurant’s success.
Ultimately, opening a restaurant is a long and arduous task. While that does mean that you’ll need to be careful with how you go about things, it doesn’t mean that things have to be complicated. Following the checklist above will help you get your restaurant launched with fewer hiccups, but more importantly, it’ll set you up for success in the long run.
And if you want a bit of added help, check out what Cuboh can do for your business. We can help you streamline your POS setup, establish an online ordering system, and (once you’ve launched) help get your name out there and monitor its performance. And best of all - we can get that done before you open, cutting out the headache of first-day POS hiccups.