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How to Open a Restaurant

How to Open a Restaurant

Restaurant Road

I spend my days writing about chefs and restaurants. You’ll often find me contorting myself to fit within tiny corners of kitchens, watching with bated breath as service swings from calm to chaos and back. I observe, hungrily, muttering phrases to myself that I will later use to recount the experience. I live for this. I live for restaurants.  

When I first launched Un-Plated, I promised my readers that it would be the ultimate resource for behind the scenes information on the restaurant industry. What’s more is that it would feature voices that aren’t normally heard. The more I delve into the depths of the dining domain, the more I want to know. It turns out, I’m not the only one craving knowledge. I come across people who work in the industry that have dreams to open their own restaurant but little concrete know-how of where to begin. This is for them and for all those who have an inkling of what it takes to survive this messy-beautiful world but who would like to further unravel the true enigma of opening a restaurant.

 Un-Plated Presents: Restaurant Road

Restaurant Road is a series about how to open a restaurant featuring women who have done the heavy lifting, seen failure, and found success in this endeavor. Why women? Simple—the experiences of male restaurateurs get enough coverage.

The series will include dozens of first-hand accounts from chefs, restaurateurs, architects, designers, financial experts, lawyers, and more on the crucial phases of opening a restaurant.

Illustration by Justine Swindell

The Big Shift.

Whether the idea of opening a restaurant has been a childhood dream or a more recent fantasy, the time comes to make the leap from dream to pursuit. A restaurant cannot move forward without having a firm understanding of the direction it wants to go in.


The biggest barrier to starting a restaurant—once a firm concept is in place—is capital. The choices alone can be nerve-wracking: small business loans vs. investors? Friends and family vs. partners? How much money is actually needed?

The above proves that this step is not just about raising money. It’s about finding the right people and process to start your venture.


Some find the perfect home for their restaurant before they even know what the concept is. For others, the search begins once the money is guaranteed. Either way, dealing with the real estate aspects of building a restaurant isn’t as simple as walking in and falling in love.


How will the restaurant’s vision be represented to the rest of the world?

From architecture to finishes to the restaurant’s logo, website, and menu branding, the essence of the restaurant’s concept will start to take shape (on paper) here.


Health permits.

Blueprint stamps.

Liquor license.

Occupancy details.

Fire permits.

On and on it goes.


The process of construction takes anywhere from 12-16 weeks for some restaurants to over a year for others. During this time, everything planned in the design stage will take form.


Where is the wine going to go? What POS will be used? Who will pick up the trash and clean out the grease traps? Who will provide keg service? Every bit of minutiae that no diner ever considers is what must be determined in the operations phase.


It’s coming together. An opening date might even be floating around. It’s time to build the team that will help carry forward everything worked for up to this point.


There are two phases to consider here—launch and ongoing.

Move In.

Welcome home. Operations can now enter the building and the team can finally call it their own. Now, training and kitchen prep can officially begin.

Doors Open.

It’s the ultimate celebration and the ultimate fear. A dream is now a reality and, for all restaurants, it’s now a question of survival.

If you are a woman that has been involved in opening a restaurant, we want to hear from you. Email to participate in Restaurant Road.

A special thanks to Jenn Walker (author of “Always a Bitch, Never a Boss”) for helping to build the Restaurant Road roadmap and to Justine Swindell for her glorious illustration of the same.

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