Starting a restaurant is one of the biggest adventures you’ll ever undertake, meaning there will be good times and bad times and times when you feel like life is unpredictable and you have to problem-solve faster than you ever have before. Every restaurant is different, meaning your restaurant startup costs are not going to be the same as the one down the street.
When you start a restaurant, the costs can quickly add up. You can expect hidden fees and expenses you never thought to account for – which is where we come in. How much does it cost to open a restaurant? How much does it cost to open a small restaurant versus a large one? This section will help you consider all possible costs needed to get your restaurant off the ground.
What’s the cost to open a restaurant? To start, here are some general start up cost ratios to follow:
- Major expenses (real estate, labour, and food/beverage) = 75% of your projected sales
- Smaller expenses (permits, equipment, decor, etc.) = 15% of your projected sales
- Profit margin = 4%–10% of your projected sales
Learn more about forecasting your restaurant sales.
To break it down, here’s an overview of estimated restaurant startup costs and ratios:
- Rent and utilities: 5% – 10% of sales
- Food expenses: 25% – 40% of sales
- Staff and salaries: 30% of sales – with management salaries taking up 10% of this ratio
- Business registration: £100–£1,200
- Restaurant experts team: Varies by region/expertise
- Construction and renovations: £279,807 average / £300–500 per square foot for kitchen,
- £150–300 per square foot for dining room
- Equipment, smallwares, and furniture: £100,000 to £300,000
- Insurance: Varies by provider and insurance type
- Licences and permits: Varies by local authority
- Music: £200 – £2,000 per year
- Technology: £1,100 – £7,000 + EPOS subscription of £70 to £400 per month
- Marketing and advertising: Varies by venue
Rent and Utilities
Average Restaurant Rent Cost
in general, how much does it cost to start a restaurant? An average restaurant rent cost, or lease, should be five to ten percent of its total revenue. If your restaurant is located in a small town or suburban area, you can expect to fall on the lower end of the spectrum, between five to eight percent. So if you own a neighbourhood restaurant that makes £800,000 per year in sales, you should expect to pay £40,000 to £64,000 per year for your lease.
But if your restaurant is located in downtown London – the most expensive market in the United Kingdom – your rent may push upwards of 13% of your revenue.
You’re in a bad place if your lease is 15% of your revenue – the extra five percent will cut into your profit margin and prevent you from budgeting for extraneous costs. Make sure to negotiate or find another space if you’re staring down this ratio.
pro tip: ask your prospective landlord(s) if they would be willing to offer you a percentage deal. a percentage deal uses an agreed-upon level of sales to determine a baseline rent, which is ideally lower than what you would pay without a percentage deal.
Upside: You pay only your baseline rent if your sales that month fall at or below your projected sales level.
Downside: If your restaurant makes more than the agreed sales amount, your landlord collects an additional percentage of rent. Be careful: if you have a great month your rent can actually double!
Average Restaurant Utilities Cost
Your water, heating, and electricity bills will depend largely on where you’re located in the country. If you’re located in a hot or cold climate, you’ll spend more on cooling or heating costs compared to a restaurant located in a more temperate climate.
money-saving tip: install occupancy sensors in walk-in coolers and storage areas that turn off or turn down equipment automatically. you’ll pay more for the sensors up front, but note that every 1,000 kwt you save is about £100 off your utility bill – so if you have the cash, consider the investment one that will pay for itself over time.
Average Restaurant Food Costs
A healthy food cost ratio is between 25%–40% of your projected revenue. For example, if your restaurant makes £20,000 per week in revenue and your food cost ratio is 35%, you’ll be paying approximately £7,000 for food that week.
Your concept determines your food cost ratio because the quality of your ingredients drives cost. A steakhouse or high-end seafood restaurant can have food costs of 40% and higher. A ‘from scratch’ Italian restaurant specialising in pasta and pizza could have a food cost as low as 20%.
The key difference is the average bill size and the amount of labour needed to serve your menu items. Rolling dough, cutting noodles, and prepping sauces and toppings are a lot more labour intensive than a restaurant that doesn’t transform the raw product as much. Grilled steaks and steamed seafood, for example, don’t require much beyond proper seasoning, cooking, and storage/handling.
A restaurant can be profitable with a 40% food cost, as much as a restaurant with 20% food cost can be losing money.
Your average restaurant food costs are influenced by many other variables, like your food suppliers and your menu. You can create forecasts based on your concept and vision, but expect your first month to have a ton of trial-and-error. You’ll likely overestimate how much you need and produce more waste than you would like, or you’ll find people love your food so much that you’ll run out a lot more quickly than you anticipated.
- Ask vendors to send weekly prices so you can have an opportunity to negotiate
- Build relationships with local suppliers so they’ll be more likely to provide discounts
- Build seasonal menus – with in-season ingredients
- Use your EPOS to keep track of inventory and reduce waste
Staff and Salaries
A restaurant’s labour ratio should fall between 25%–35% of gross sales.
Again, your labour ratio will depend on your concept. A full service restaurant will have a higher labour ratio of 30%–35%, while a quick service restaurant would spend between 25%–30% of gross sales on payroll. And 10% of this labour ratio should be reserved for management positions.
The key to keeping great staff is to treat them well and pay them a good wage. The restaurant industry is small, and it’s common for people to talk about how much they’re making in tips and getting paid at their restaurant.
Once you have a solid business plan, you can start taking the necessary steps to register your business. All new restaurants must be registered with the government, and the guidelines vary depending on the type of business you’re opening: a sole proprietorship, partnership, Limited liability partnership, etc.
To register your business, you’ll pay a registration fee. When you’re registering your business, investigate two costs: up-front registration fees and annual renewal fees. Find out more about licences and permits.
Restaurant Team Members
The #1 piece of advice restaurateurs give to each other is this: “You can’t do it all. Accept help and develop a support team.”
Restaurateurs are often expected to be jacks-of-all-trades, but the reality is that while new business owners may be exceptional at one or two areas – like crafting the perfect menu or articulating a vision – they need tons of help navigating most other aspects of business ownership through restaurant team members.
Know your strengths and weaknesses, and hire professional services for highly specialised areas of work, such as accounting, legal work, and finding a property.
What about my family and friends?
Many restaurateurs try to work with friends or family who are also qualified professionals – which comes with a set of advantages and disadvantages. You may be getting a deal on services, but if something goes wrong you may feel awkward about addressing difficulties due to the personal nature of your relationship.
Here’s what to hire for to assemble your Restaurant Experts Team.
Accountant or Bookkeeper
- Bookkeeper: £60–£120/hour
- Accountant: £150–£250/hour
- analysing financial statements
- doing taxes, performing payroll duties
- weekly food and labour cost reporting
- advising on the business plan
- prioritising budget
- certifying financial statements for loans
- communicating changes to tax laws
- Per project: £500–£10,000
- Hourly rate: £99–£350
- helping to develop an original concept
- training and support to improve all aspects of the restaurant
- suggesting changes to the menu and concept
- noting spending patterns
- advising on improvements to treatment of customers
- Dependent on construction cost: 10%–17% of total building budget
- floor plan design
- liaising with structural engineers
- construction project manager
- consult on contractor hiring
- completion of constructing documents
- £150–£800 an hour, dependant on seniority
- help to raise public and private capital
- conducting mergers and acquisitions
- handling legalities of sale/leaseback transactions and offering legal guidance on real estate
- contract, regulatory, intellectual property, and labour issues
- 4%–6% commission
- assessing property
- providing market insight
- completing building transaction
- negotiating your lease
- preparing financial documents for the bank
- determining budget against projected sales
Restaurant Construction Costs
Kitchen: £300-500 per square foot
Dining room: £150-300 per square foot
Converting a blank space into a kitchen and restaurant will require significantly more investment than working with a space already designed for a restaurant. So restaurant construction costs will differ greatly depending on the kind of space you go for.
Don’t forget about the cost of decor: chairs, tables, dressings, light fixtures, linens, and art deco. When you’re budgeting for decor, don’t forget your average meal price and spend accordingly.
money-saving tip: do some initial research on Pinterest: it can provide cost-conscious inspiration and ideas on a budget.
Equipment, Smallwares, and Furniture
Furniture, smallwares, and equipment typically cost between £100,000–£300,000.
First, the big stuff: ovens, range refrigerators, fryers, freezers, and bar glass cleaners can cost about £100,000.
if you’re a new restaurateur, consider leasing your equipment instead of buying it. if you’re going to buy (as opposed to leasing), shop around for lightly used equipment that’s in good condition with at least some remaining warranty left on it. a used oven that’s five to ten years old still has about two to five years on it if it’s been cared for. you can always upgrade when you have the cash flow.
then there are hundreds of little items you won’t initially think of that also need to be worked into the budget: pots, pans, storage containers, dishes, cutlery, glassware, thermometers, and more.
Tableware, utensils, glassware, takeout containers, and bar equipment can cost about £80,000.
You’ll likely replace glasses, cutlery, takeout containers, etc. three times in the first three months of ownership. (After this time period, you’ll know enough to make sure you never run out.) Make sure to budget enough to cover these unexpected costs. For example, let’s say you have 100 seats in your restaurant. So you start with 200 forks, enough for the whole dining room, plus full turnover. Say you lose five forks per day – customers steal them or your staff accidentally throw them away. Within only one month, you’ll have 50 forks left, enough for only half the dining room and none for turnover. All of a sudden you can’t operate because you forgot to constantly be ordering forks!
A typical furniture budget for a restaurant can range between £5,000–£40,000, but your final cost is dependent on the size of your restaurant, your concept, and how many seats are in your restaurant.
There’s no one-size-fits-all number for insurance costs, as every city has their own smorgasbord of requirements. The final number is affected by the location, square footage, and number of employees.
Restaurants will often have to put down deposits for each type of insurance, which can add up quickly due to the varied types of insurance needed. Be sure to check with your solicitor and local authority requirements to make sure you obtain all of the insurance required.
Covers kitchen equipment, furniture, buildings, and other property you own as a restaurateur.
make sure you understand exactly what your property is covered against. are you covered against fire and flooding? insurance coverage varies by provider, so make sure you understand exactly how your property is protected.
Protects your business in the event that someone is injured on your property.
Protects your business in the event that an intoxicated customer commits a crime, injures someone, or damages property.
Employers’ Liability Insurance
Protects your employees from the expense of work accidents and illnesses. Restaurants are required by law to purchase this insurance.
Your life insurance costs are influenced by age, health, gender, occupation, and where you live. Every business owner needs life insurance to shelter their loved ones from possible expenses related to your business in the event of death.
Business interruption insurance
Protects your business against closure for reasons of fire, hail, windstorm, vandalism, equipment damage, etc.
Food contamination insurance
Food contamination insurance is coverage specifically designed to help a business owner recoup the costs associated with spoiled or contaminated food.
money-saving tip: some insurance providers also offer business owners’ policies, which combine many of the above. make sure to work with an insurance provider in your state who covers other restaurants, as they may have better packages than some standard providers.
Licences and Permits
One of the most important aspects of opening a restaurant is having the appropriate permits in place well in advance. Restaurateurs are subject to a number of permits and licences, many of which come with their own nominal fees. If you are planning to renovate, serve alcohol, or have outdoor seating, you should begin the application process for each permit as soon as possible, as some can take a long time to be approved.
Note: Do yourself a favour and read the section required permits & licences for restaurants sooner rather than later. So many restaurants have had to delay opening because they are waiting for licences and permits. Don’t be one of them!
Music licences cost restaurants anywhere from £200–£2,000 per year. When obtaining music licences, make sure to provide specific information like the square footage of your venue and how often you play music, as these factors will impact the amount you are required to pay.
You have two options to cover any music played in your venue: pay performance rights organisations (PROs) directly, or pay for a pre-licenced solution.
Music Streaming Services
Another option is to pay for a licenced music streaming solution, which does the dirty work of vetting approved artists and playing only that music. Music streaming services tend to be cheaper, but the number of artists available to play can be more limited – and the option to customise your playlist or throw on your iTunes account is off the table. Check out each platform to determine the kind of music available on each, as you’ll likely want to invest in only one of these.
£26.95/mo. + £99 for mood media player, which connects your computer and the Pandora for Business service with your sound system
Includes: Music licencing, the ability to create stations and standardize music across franchises
SoundTrack for Business (Spotify for Business)
Includes: Music licencing, offline mode, music scheduling
Includes: Music licencing, 25 million songs for mobile, tablet, Mac, and PC, and music scheduling
Your EPOS might be the most important restaurant technology decision you make. As the main means of sales tracking and communication between the customer to the server to the bar and kitchen, choosing a restaurant EPOS that’s cost effective, scalable, and contains all the capabilities you need is essential to the success of your operations from all angles.
- Software subscription: £95/month
- Hardware: £3,000
- Installation: £150
- Maintenance: £150
- Training: £360
- Support: £480/half day
- Mostly offered on tablet or iPad-based EPOS and offers lower monthly fees.
- Software subscription: £70-400/month (dependent on number of terminals)
- Hardware (iPads, cash drawers, stands, etc.): £1,100–£7,000 (dependent on number of terminals)
- Training: £600
- Support: Free
- Updates: Free
Marketing and Advertising
Your essential marketing costs will be menu design, your website, and outdoor signage. These are three must-have elements of any restaurant marketing plan, so start here when you budget for marketing costs.
- Labour: £200–£2,000
- Options: Work with a freelance web designer, or work with an agency.
- Printing: £40–£75 per 50 menus
- Labour: £200–£5,000
- Options: Design the website yourself with a service like Wix or Squarespace, work with a freelance web designer, or work with an agency.
A note on domain name costs: Domain name costs vary greatly depending on what you want your URL to be. If your restaurant name is common, your preferred domain name may cost thousands of pounds. If your desired domain name is not common, you could end up paying just £10/year.
Outdoor signage: stands, banners, window decals, etc.
- £150–£400 per square foot