A List of Expenses for Starting a Restaurant from Scratch

Planning well can lead to a long and successful future for your restaurant.
Planning well can lead to a long and successful future for your restaurant. (Image: Andrew Bret Wallis/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Starting a restaurant involves a large investment of your time as well as money. Starting out with a thorough plan will make the process go more smoothly. You need to review basic expenses that most restaurants encounter as well as any expenses specific to the type of restaurant you want to open.


Buying the property for your restaurant will probably prove your biggest initial expense. Some restaurant owners start out by purchasing an existing facility. Others purchase land and build their own structure on it. This may be less expensive than buying an existing facility, but could prove challenging if you want a restaurant in a prime location.


Even if you purchase an existing structure, it will undoubtedly need some remodeling to fit your needs and tastes. You may need to install a kitchen, choosing newer and more energy-efficient appliances. Furthermore, you may want to create a new floor plan, knocking down existing walls to create more space, or building new ones. The restaurant may also need new paint and flooring, pavement, lighting options, heating and cooling systems, and bathrooms.


You’ll need tables and chairs in your chosen style of decor, artwork to decorate with, and possibly bar stools, potted plants, mirrors and carpets. If you have a waiting area, you might include a comfortable couch and chairs, if space allows.


You’ll need equipment such as freezers, blenders, coffee machines, pots, toaster ovens, pans, utensils and any other machinery relevant to your restaurant. As Maureen Farrell points out in “How to Run a Restaurant: Start-up Costs” on Forbes, you’ll probably also want to purchase and set up machines that accept credit and debit cards.


You’ll also want to plant flowers, trees and shrubs outside, if the restaurant has a lawn, to make it look attractive and welcoming. Even if it has no lawn, a few big flower pots can make it look more appealing.


Before you open your restaurant, you’ll need to hire staff and start training employees—and paying them. Investing in skilled chefs or cooks and experienced wait staff will get the restaurant off to a great start.


You’ll need to spend money on advertising, as John R. Walker says in his book “The Restaurant: From Concept to Operation.” Budget ways to advertise, include stringing a colorful banner across the front of your restaurant, posting flyers around town and putting ads in local papers.


You’ll need to ensure that you have a steady supply of the ingredients for the dishes on your menu, so plan well ahead of time with suppliers. Keep a well-stocked freezer so you’re prepared.


Additionally, you’ll need to pay for utilities before you actually open. You’ll need to have lighting, water and possibly heat or air conditioning while remodeling, decorating, and training.


You’ll also need dishes, cutlery, napkins and possibly table cloths and placemats. Also consider using centerpieces like vases with flowers. Remember to plan and produce your menus well ahead of the grand opening.

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