A comprehensive business plan is the foundation of every successful restaurant. You need a business plan before you can begin to execute on anything having to do with opening your establishment. A proper business plan is a guide that will help take your idea from concept to reality.
When you begin to seek professional and financial support for your new business, your business plan will be the primary document of reference to describe your concept, market, and potential for profitability. You need a business plan for investors, lenders, consultants, partners, and other team members who will help make your dream of opening a restaurant come true.
In this article, we’ll walk you through every part of how to write a restaurant business plan, explain the function of each section, and provide an example you can use as a starting point.
Before Writing Your Business Plan: Questions to Answer
Before you start writing your business plan, you’ll want to consider a few key things. Knowing the answers to these questions will make writing your business plan and communicating your vision a hundred times easier. Keep the answers to these questions top of mind as you’re writing your business plan.
Who is your business plan for?
Are you approaching investors and lenders, or is your plan specifically for you and your staff? You’ll need to adapt your writing for different audience types, and perhaps place emphasis on certain sections over others depending on your primary audience.
Where will your restaurant be located?
If you don’t yet have a location for your restaurant, you should at least know which neighborhood your restaurant will be located in. Your restaurant’s location will determine important elements of your business plan, like your competitive analysis, ingredient availability, venue type, etc. If you’re in the early stages of planning, you likely don’t know your exact address, but nailing it as close as you can will guide you in your writing.
What is your venue type?
You should have a clear idea of what kind of restaurant you’re opening, whether it’s an intimate cafe, craft microbrewery, or gourmet food truck. If you aren’t quite sure, you’ll need to decide before you write your business plan. You should know exactly what your venue is going to be as you work through the details of a business plan.
What are your goals?
Do you want to start a food truck and then grow to open a sister restaurant, or do you want to open a full service restaurant and grow to operate a fleet of food trucks? Are you looking to open a burger place with a constant flow of customers? Or maybe you want to be the go-to place for special occasions. Be as specific as you can in your vision, and be clear on exactly what you want to achieve.
What are your credentials?
Have you worked in the restaurant industry before? How well do you know the market? Do you need any additional skills before you start your restaurant? If you’re confident you have the skills, feel free to start. But if you’ve never spent any time in a kitchen or in the foodservice industry, you may want to get some hands-on experience so you know what you’re getting into.
5 Tips on How to Write a Restaurant Business Plan
Before you start writing your business plan, here are some tips to make the process easier.
- Collect materials that are relevant, like links, articles, quotes and information that may benefit you as you are writing, and use them for inspiration or include them within the appropriate sections of your business plan.
- Taking something from concept to creation can be challenging, but try to put everything you see in your imagination down in the most accurate words possible. Go through the business plan template the first time and make tons of notes for each section, then come back to it later and flesh out your ideas further.
- If a section stumps you, make a note and move on, then revisit it later when you have more information or more clarity. Refine and rework. Be sure to add all new developments that are happening, and when you’re confident you’ve said all you can about a section, go back in and edit and re-word until you’re satisfied.
- Use graphics and images to clarify your message when you feel it’s necessary. Consider creating Pinterest boards to keep you inspired and help you get visual. Then, when you are writing your business plan, go back to your boards to pull in graphics that get your idea across better than words.
- Just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, know that your business plan will take time. It can take anywhere from weeks to months to years to get a solid grasp on what it is you’re creating. As time passes and you continue to work on it, you’ll fine-tune your message and have a crystal clear plan on your hands.
Are you confident in your vision, clear on your goals, and comfortable with your skills? Ready to jump in?
Restaurant Business Plan Template
Table of Contents
Your restaurant business plan is going to be a long document. Depending on the nature of your restaurant, your business plan could be anywhere from 10 to 50 pages – so your readers will need to find sections easily. This is where a table of contents comes in. It’ll look something like this:
- Executive Summary – p. 3
- Business Overview – p. 5
- Business Description – p. 7
- The Marketplace – p. 12
- Marketing – p. 20
- Business Operations – p. 25
- Financials – p. 30
- Business Plan Summary p. 37
After you’re finished writing your restaurant business plan, make sure to review your table of contents so that your page numbers are accurate.
While the Executive Summary may live at the beginning of your business plan, it’s the last thing you’ll write. The Executive Summary is a one-page summary of every section in your business plan, so that readers can get a general sense of your entire plan in one page. Remember to keep this section brief yet impactful.
Your Business Overview is simple: it’s a list of basic information about your business, such as your legal name, type of business, business number, etc. You may have some empty fields until you’re closer to actually opening. This list is for quick reference and especially important if you’ll be seeking bank loans or approaching investors:
- Legal name of business
- Trade name of business (doing business as)
- Business address or potential business address
- Current mailing address
- Phone number
- Social media handles
- Structure of business
- Date business was established
- Nature of business
- Banking details (branch and banker’s name)
Quick tip: many of the details in your business overview will be filled out as your business takes shape. fill in what you can as you go. if some of this information is unknown, don’t let it hold you up.
Your Business Description is where your restaurant comes to life. Here is where you’ll describe, in detail, what your business is going to look like, where it will be, and the kind of vibe it will have. Your Business Description answers all of the questions that relate to your vision and goals. Be as expansive as you want here – go into as much detail as possible, and don’t be afraid to use visuals!
Here’s what to include in your Business Description.
Will your business be a sole proprietorship, a partnership, or a corporation? Who is involved and what is their role? This can be a short paragraph.
Your restaurant concept is your idea. Take the time to describe why your business is special, and talk about what you’ll do differently as compared to other restaurants. Why should people choose your restaurant over another? What kind of experience will you be providing customers?
Your mission statement is one sentence that describes what your restaurant will achieve. Think of your end goal, the ultimate driving force behind your business. Your mission statement should be something that can be displayed on marketing materials, and it should express to people what your business is all about.
Short-term and long-term goals
Here you’ll want to mention any relevant personal goals, then list your short-term and long-term objectives. Think about where you’re going and what you hope to be doing in a couple of years.
Your short-term goals describe your first year as a restaurant owner. Long-term goals are larger, like how you plan to scale your business and how you hope to grow. Be descriptive in this section, but also remember to remain realistic and within the scope of your projections in the financial section.
Menu and services
Include a sample menu, or menus, and discuss the details of each, such as times of day offered and the inspiration or rationale for each. If you’re going to offer catering, delivery, or any other services, mention those here. Describe anything else you’ll be selling, such as pre-packaged foods, canned or bottled drinks, or retail items such as t-shirts and hats.
You likely won’t have secured a location or negotiated a lease at this point, so instead mention the neighborhoods you’re considering for your venue. Answer the following questions here:
Which features of the neighborhood will affect your business?
What other businesses are located in the area?
What kinds of people live, work, or visit the neighborhood?
Consider and document all effects that the location will have on your business, like access to parking, public transportation, walk score, etc.
Take the time to describe your concept with as much visual detail as you can. Express why these details are important (hint: they should relate back to your branding). If you’re working with a design agency or interior design specialist, mention them and show their proposals or mockups.
Business description summary
inally, briefly sum up everything in this section. Your Business Description tends to be a long section, so you’ll need a summary that provides an overview of what you’re going to achieve with your business.
This section is where you’ll describe the current status of the marketplace for your business. The most important thing to remember about this section is that you’ll need to remain honest and authentic. You won’t do yourself or anyone else any favors by painting an unrealistic picture of the marketplace and how your business fits within it. This section requires a lot of research and critical thinking skills.
Visit your direct competition and gain some intel on their customer experience and menu. Ask people in your prospective neighborhood about how businesses perform in the area. By gathering as much information as you can, your marketplace assessment will be clear and rooted in reality.
This section should provide a quick overview of the size of your customer base. What are the demographics, psychographics, and segments of your target market?
You need to know your target customers. Who will frequent your restaurant and what characteristics do they share? List statistics you’ve gathered about your market and any other relevant information about your potential customers. Make a note of any customer segments within your target demographic that have certain needs over others.
You’ll want quantitative and qualitative research to round out this section. Make sure to talk to people within your target market to gain a clear understanding of their needs and how you can serve them. You’ll also discover other valuable insights through these discussions.
Here you’ll want to list relevant statistics about past and current trends within your marketplace. Include anything that relates to the demand for your business, social or economic factors, and trends that have affected similar businesses. If you’ve done research or hired a firm to conduct some for you, mention all the outcomes from that research here.
So you know other restaurants are your competition, but you’ll need to be specific. Analyze your prospective neighborhood, and make a list of all your competitors from small to large. Use a critical eye to determine how they differ from your establishment.
Categorize your competitors into “direct” and “indirect”. Your direct competitors are those restaurants that are offering similar customer experiences and type of cuisine, while indirect competitors may be different from your restaurant but still compete for your target market’s attention and spend.
Now that you’ve analyzed the competition, you should be able to spot how you’ll be able to stand out. What will your restaurant do that no one else is doing? What are your differentiators that will cause the market to take notice of your business?
After you determine your differentiators, you’ll know how your restaurant can fill potential gaps in the marketplace or provide a better option for customers. From the menu to the hours, whatever your restaurant can do better, list it here.
Now, the other side of the coin: what your restaurant may not be able to do better than the competition. Take the time to list these as challenges, provide rationale as to why your restaurant will face these barriers, and how you’ll tackle them once you’re open. Don’t be afraid of honesty here; a candid account of the challenges you’ll face will show readers you’re self-aware and ready to overcome problems with practical solutions.
Briefly sum up everything that you’ve talked about in this section, reiterating the demographics of your target market, advantages, and opportunities.
You may be an amazing chef and create exceptional dishes, but without customers and sales, you don’t have much of a business. You need a marketing strategy to get people in the door and coming back.
In this section on how to write a restaurant business plan, we’ll get into your strategy: how you’re going to price your meals, how you’ll position yourself to appeal to your target customers, and how you’ll promote your business to let customers know you exist.
Describe how you’ll appeal to your target customers and where you will place yourself in the customer’s mind. Use your differentiators in the previous section to guide your positioning strategy. How will you communicate your differentiators to your market? What will you be offering the market that your customers wouldn’t be able to get anywhere else?
Describe your pricing and how it compares to similar businesses. Provide ballpark figures for different menu items and list standard pricing for your type of business. List your competitors’ prices and explain why yours will be higher or lower. Make sure to align this section with your financials so that your food and labor ratios are taken into account when crafting this section.
If you plan on creating and maintaining social media accounts like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, explain how you’ll use them to promote your business. Describe your website’s main elements, design style, and who will build it. List all paid digital promotion here such as Google ads, paid social media ads, and any agencies you’ll work with to develop and execute on all digital marketing initiatives.
Will you be holding any events, releasing a press release, or taking out any print ads?
Briefly summarize your overall marketing strategy and what you’ll concentrate on the most: digital, traditional, PR, etc. Let readers know why you think your marketing strategy will work for your type of restaurant.
You’ve described your vision, the market, and how you plan to promote your business. But how will you actually execute your plans? Who will operate your business day-to-day? Here’s where you get into the nitty-gritty details of your business operations.
Introduce everyone on your payroll. List their qualifications, special skills, and job description, with an emphasis on how they will help you reach your goals and the tasks they will do every day. Categorize each staff member into other owners, chefs, managers, servers, bartenders, etc.
List your suppliers by type: food, payment, alcohol, cleaning, etc. Note how each supplier serves your restaurant’s needs, and list their credit and payment terms. List all suppliers for the following:
- Waste removal
- Restaurant supplies like dishware and glass
- Paper products
- Payroll service
- Cleaning services
- Plants or landscaping
- Linen service
- Marketing and advertising
- Technology, such as POS hardware and software, mobile delivery apps, loyalty apps, and an internet provider
Your restaurant will need insurance coverage. Do some research to determine mandatory insurance and special coverage, and start to compare costs between insurance providers. List each type of insurance your restaurant will need and what it covers.
What kind of licensing does your restaurant need? List all of the licenses and permits required for your restaurant and staff here. Check your local government office website for the details and anything else that you are required to obtain in your area.
Business operations summary
Briefly sum up everything that you’ve talked about in the Business Operations section.
You’ve now arrived at the most important – and the most daunting – part of your restaurant business plan. This is where you prove that your idea is actually a business that can turn a profit.
Complete a financial forecast that takes your concept and translates it into numbers. This exercise is the most important part of your business plan, as investors and lenders will be scrutinizing these numbers before they read anything else.
Your forecast will be broken into four main parts:
- Revenue: Forecasted sales
- Controllable costs: Food and beverage costs as well as cost of labor
- Expenses: Marketing, rent, supplies, utilities, etc.
- Start-Up Costs: What it costs to get you to open, as well as things like capital improvements and training.
We’ve created a downloadable sample forecast that demonstrates what you’ll need to do. Our example is Joe’s Burgers, a small 1,000 square foot quick service restaurant with no alcoholic beverage sales. Once you understand the sample forecast, we’ve included a blank forecast sheet where you can add in your own numbers to project how profitable you’ll be.
Notes about the forecast spreadsheet
- Take the blank forecast and “save as” so that if you make a mistake, you can return to the original spreadsheet and start again.
- There are formulas pre-programmed in the cells of the spreadsheet.
- If you are planning to open a restaurant that will serve alcoholic beverages, you will have to figure out your sales mix of the various beverages: bottled beer, draft beer, liquor, and wine, and the costs associated with each. For example, if your bottled beer cost is 28% and wine cost is 40%, you’ll have an average beverage cost of 34% to add to your forecast.
- If you are going to offer catering or other services, you can create another revenue stream that covers events executed, average spends, revenues, cost of goods sold and labor costs for that source.
Business Plan Summary
Your Business Plan Summary should tie the whole message together. Use this section to highlight how you’re different and what you’re offering, reiterating the most important points about your restaurant.
Sections to include are:
- Why you will succeed: in a few short sentences, repeat how you are different and why your business will work.
- What you need: if you’re asking for money, repeat the ask here.
- A thank you: a quick thanks at the end reminds people that you value their time and input.