How to Open a Restaurant With a LLC or Sole Proprietorship

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Owning a restaurant can be rewarding.
Owning a restaurant can be rewarding. (Image: Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

Owning a restaurant is a good business opportunity and can provide a family-oriented environment. It is hard work once you get your restaurant up and running, but it is a rewarding business. By setting up your restaurant in the right location and having good food, you have a good chance of success. There are two ways to open a restaurant: an LLC or a sole proprietorship. To obtain an LLC or sole proprietorship, a restaurant owner must apply with her own state’s license department.

Things You'll Need

  • Business address
  • Photo ID
  • Food service license

Sole Proprietorship

Acquire a food service license through your state. Your restaurant must have a food service license to do business in your state, whether it is a fixed or mobile restaurant, coffee shop, cafeteria or short order café. A restaurant must also have a sales tax license, which you can get through your state’s taxation office.

Apply for a sole proprietorship. If your restaurant is going to have a name other than your own, you will need a “doing business as” (DBA). In some states you register a DBA with the state government or the county clerk’s office. You will need your driver’s license or state ID card with your application. Legal title to the assets of the restaurant is yours; the liabilities and the equity of the restaurant are part of your net worth. You will have full risk as a sole proprietorship. If a customer suffers a hot coffee spill in your restaurant, they can come after your personal liability.

Apply for an employee identification number (EIN) with the federal government. Fill-out the necessary forms and send them to the federal government. The EIN is necessary for hiring employees.

Limited Liability Company

Set up a limited liability company (LLC) for your restaurant by applying with your own state. The SBA.gov website will navigate you to the proper state where you can apply for the LLC. (See Resources.) In an LLC, you have limited personal liability for the debts and actions of the restaurant.

Mail your application. If you mail the application instead of handing it in person, you will need to include a photocopy of each driver’s license or state ID card with the application.

Apply for an EIN number with the federal government. The EIN is necessary for hiring employees.

Apply for a food service license. An LLC must a have a food service license to handle food. Depending on your particular state, the license is handled by your state or health department.

Apply for a seller's permit. An LLC must have a sales tax license. You may call your state's taxation office.

Tips & Warnings

  • In some states you may apply online or download an application to mail it back.
  • LLC limits your personal liability and they are simpler to form than corporations.

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