How to write a restaurant business plan

Your plan should include a clear path to your goals and enough information to interest investors.

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While working in a restaurant kitchen, a chef is thinking about getting an LLC to start his own restaurant.

by Brette Sember, J.D.
updated May 11, 2023 ·  5min read

You're excited about your new restaurant, its menu, and potential customers. The first step to achieving the success you envision is creating a restaurant business plan.

A business plan forces you to think through all aspects of your business and solve potential problems. It allows you to define your operation and remain intentional in your actions. And it provides a convincing argument to potential investors that your restaurant is a viable, profitable concept. 

If you’re wondering how much it costs to open a restaurant, it’s typically at least $100,000—and can even go into the millions. That’s why creating a stellar business plan is critical to help you estimate and acquire the funds you need to get cooking.

restaurant worker going thru paperwork

How to get started with a business plan

It can be helpful to look at sample restaurant business plans or restaurant business plan templates online. Be sure to compare your concept to others in your area. Take notes and jot down ideas for things you want to include at your restaurant. As you create the plan, you will be able to work out the details for every aspect of the business.

A restaurant plan does not need to be a certain length, but it should include as much detail as needed to explain your concept and plans fully. In general, the more detail you can include, the better, both because more details make you better prepared to hit the ground running and because it gives potential investors a lot of information to consider.

What to include in your restaurant business plan

Your business plan should include the following sections, arranged in the order that best highlights the key aspects of your restaurant.

  • Cover: The cover should look professional. Include the restaurant's name, logo, date, and your name and contact information.
  • Concept: This section presents the general concept of your restaurant. It should convey excitement about its innovative or interesting features. Describe the type of food that will be on the menu, service approach, basic décor style, and inspiration. This is the first thing an investor will read about your restaurant, so be sure it grabs their interest. Describing the concept here also helps you solidify your vision.
  • Business type: Explain the legal framework behind the restaurant. Will you be incorporating? Forming an LLC? Acting as a partnership or sole proprietor? Explain your choice and detail who the owners are.
  • Management: Describe the team you've put together and each person's experience and qualifications. Go into detail about the number of servers, cooks, and managers you will hire and how management is structured. If you plan to hire specialists such as sommeliers or pastry chefs, specify that. Discuss technology you will use, such as inventory management software, scheduling software, and point-of-sale technology. Discuss how you will retain and manage staff.
  • Service style: Choosing the right service model is critical. It defines your hospitality style, which is a key factor in your restaurant's personality. Common options are table service, counter service, takeout, and bar service—though more and more restaurants are offering a blended approach such as with Toast’s New Steps of Service. Be sure to explain what the guest experience will be like. Include critical details on takeout and delivery workflows
  • Sample menu: This is just a potential menu. You aren't committing to it in detail, though it should be a fair representation of your cuisine. Conduct initial menu engineering to help complete the menu. Call out any signature dishes. And be strategic in your menu prices—set them based on estimated costs and target profit margins plus local comps.
  • Design: The restaurant's interior and exterior are key to customer experience and important to investors. Fully describe the setting and include photographs or sample drawings to convey the style. Include a diagram of a proposed floor plan as well. Discuss furniture, lighting, and art, as well as the kitchen design and types of equipment you will use.
  • Location: Where your restaurant is located is incredibly important. Describe the type of neighborhood or area you are looking for. Explain what each is like so that investors can get a clear picture. The key here is to locate your restaurant in a convenient place for the types of diners you hope to attract. Also, discuss details of the property itself, such as square footage, parking, foot traffic, accessibility, bathrooms, bar, and kitchen spaces.
  • Market: Determine your target diner—offer details about age, income, where they live, and the type of jobs they have. Describe why the restaurant you are creating is something they will be interested in. Then discuss the market for restaurants in your area. Are they thriving or struggling? Explain why and show how yours will succeed in this environment. List specific restaurants you will be competing with and how you will stand out in comparison. Address your strengths and weaknesses in the market so you can provide a realistic picture.
  • Publicity: A fantastic restaurant won't succeed unless people know about it. Explain how you will market your restaurant so that people will learn about it. You might choose to hire a marketing firm or do the publicity yourself. Whatever your plans are, detail them and be sure to include social media, traditional media, advertising, your website, and other methods.
  • Consultants: List any outside specialists you will hire, such as an attorney, accountant, designer, general contractor, and publicity firm. Name each company or person and briefly explain their past successes and what type of work they will be doing for your restaurant.
  • Technology: Consider what the best restaurant POS is for your new restaurant. Make sure it’s one that can grow with you. You’ll also want to list additional software and whether or not they integrate with your POS, such as payroll, scheduling and team management, inventory management, invoice automation, reservations, website builders, email marketing, loyalty, and more — learn more about our partnership with Toast, the POS built for your restaurant, and see how their seamless platform offers everything you need to start and grow your operation.

Create a restaurant business plan with the sizzle and the steak

Defining your restaurant plan should ultimately be an exciting process. You have the opportunity to combine your concept, location, service style, and food and drink into a profitable, sustainable business.

If you’re looking for help getting started, LegalZoom and Toast are ready. Check out the combined power of LegalZoom and Toast Point of Sale—a partnership built for the unique needs of your restaurant.

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Brette Sember, J.D.

About the Author

Brette Sember, J.D.

Brette Sember, J.D., practiced law in New York, including divorce, mediation, family law, adoption, probate and estates,… Read more

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of the author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.