Steps to Opening a Restaurant in Florida

Has it always been your dream to open up your own restaurant in Florida? Many potential restaurateurs might be reluctant since they feel limited by their lack of knowledge about how to open a restaurant. The path from conception through actualization isn’t always easy, but by following an organized process of steps, you can be on your way to fulfilling your dream.

A Great Restaurant Starts With a Great Idea

Any successful business venture begins with a solid idea, and a restaurant is no exception. The conception of a restaurant can be a solo venture or a group effort, but a focused approach is the first step to bringing life to your dream. What is the feeling you want your restaurant to have? Do you have an overarching theme in mind? The conceptual idea will help set the stage for everything from menu planning to interior design. The more details you can plan out at this point in the process will aid you later when you are working through a business plan and securing finances. When considering the atmosphere you would like to create for your restaurant, you should keep several things in mind.

  • What is your competition?
  • Are there restaurants with similar ideas already in your area?
  • What is your target demographic?
  • What feeling do you want your visitors to experience?
  • Are your plans upscale, low-key, or somewhere in between?
  • Are your plans adult-only or kid-friendly?
  • What unique characteristics will set your restaurant apart?

Once you have a well-formed idea of your initial vision mapped out, you can move on to the next step, which will see your restaurant move from the conceptualization phase to a more tangible product.

Formulate Your Restaurant Business Plan

At its core, a restaurant is like any other business. If you want to produce a successful business, a reliable and organized business plan is essential. Business plans have several key features and are especially important if you plan to explore investment options or take out a business loan for your project. If you aren’t comfortable formulating this document yourself, you should bring someone on board with plan writing experience or hire out a company to assist you.

Your plan should include a catchy initial summary that will draw in the reader and set your project apart. The details will come later, so the initial summary should show an investment why your idea is unique and needs to come to fruition. After the summary, a detailed description of your restaurant idea, including the information you organized during the conceptualization phase, should be included. The most formal part of your business plan needs to include the intended legal structure of your business as well as an analysis of the current market. These items will be useful to a potential investor or a lender at a bank. Outside consultation can help greatly with this section. Be prepared to answer financial-related questions about everything from licensing to potential salaries.

The final sections of your business plan should detail your proposed structure for management and employment as well as your ideas for promoting your business. End your plan with a strong argument of how to ensure your restaurant will be financially and commercially successful, including your financial goals.

How to Finance a New Restaurant

After you have formulated a strong business plan, you will need to find a way to finance your restaurant. Some restaurant owners decide to use their own savings or capital for financing, while others choose to pursue financing through a bank loan or to use the liquor license as collateral for the funding they need. Loans collateralized by the liquor license have many options including interest only and 5 & 10-year amortizations. Bank loans will need the information contained in your business plan as well as personal financial information on you and any partners involved in the restaurant startup if this is a group venture.

Another option for opening a restaurant is to try to find an investor. Investors will need a business plan pitch and will want to negotiate their ongoing role in your business if they decide to invest. If you decide to pursue a plan that includes investors, it might be a good idea to also include outside consultation.

Real Estate and Licensing

Once you have secured funding, you can work on obtaining your location. During your conceptualization process, you should have gotten a feel for what kind of atmosphere you want to convey. In your business plan, you should have explored the current market and the competition. Using your knowledge, you should now have a general idea about the type of real estate you will need for your restaurant. Will you lease or buy a property? Will you have a free-standing restaurant or will it be part of of a commercial shopping center? Will you need special permission to renovate a building, such as in a historic district? These are all questions you will need to answer when you are scouting a final location. A real estate agent that knows the area should be able to help you nail down a property.

One of the most important steps of opening a restaurant is making sure all permitting and licensing are covered, correct, and up-to-date. In the state of Florida, if you plan to serve any alcohol in your business, you will need a Florida alcohol license. In most states, several types of licenses are typically required when opening a restaurant.

  • Business license and Employer Identification Number (EIN)
  • Food service license
  • Copyright permission for music, if applicable
  • Certificate of occupancy
  • Liquor or alcohol license

Alcohol licenses are tricky to navigate, so make sure your chosen property is zoned for this use. Various types of licenses are available, from beer only, beer and wine, or beer, wine, and spirits. The license, once acquired, must also be visible in your restaurant. Obtaining expert help with licensing issues can save you a lot of time and effort.

Interior Design and Supplies

If you have the funding, have purchased or leased your property, and have made sure you have obtained the proper licensing and zoning requirements, you are in the home stretch. Some restaurant owners find the creation of the interior design and the securing of suppliers to be the most fun part of starting a new business. Details such as decor and floor plan layout can be handled by a design-savvy owner or by an interior designer. Everything from the large kitchen equipment to the table details will need to be planned out. Suppliers for food will need to be secured.


Hiring Employees and Promoting Your Business

A well-run restaurant needs a quality staff, so hiring the right people from the beginning can be crucial for an initial opening. Whether you do this yourself or delegate the process, make sure your new employees are as eager to see the restaurant to succeed as you are. Implement the marketing plan you outlined in your business proposal, and start getting ready for your opening day! Most experienced restaurateurs suggest a soft opening, which works a trial run for the real thing. Get ready to congratulate yourself and your partners for a job well done! Your hard work on the front end will pay off.

If you are on your way to opening your own Florida restaurant and need help with the licensing process, contact Beverage License Specialists. Our team of experts can help you navigate the challenging and sometimes confusing world of beverage licensing for your restaurant, saving you effort and time during your new and exciting adventure.

If you are seeking to buy, sell or finance a Florida liquor license, contact Beverage License Specialists today