How Much Does It Cost to Open a Restaurant?

Last Updated on March 14, 2024
Written by CPA Alec Pow | Content Reviewed by Certified CFA CFA Alexander Popinker

For many entrepreneurs, opening a restaurant represents the ultimate dream venture – the ability to share their passion for food, hospitality, and design with the world.

However, transforming this vision into a thriving reality requires navigating countless logistical, financial, and operational considerations. With so many expenses involved in launching a restaurant from the ground up, far too many aspiring owners underestimate the true total investment required to bring their concept fully to life.

In this guide, we’ll thoroughly cover the countless expenses involved in taking your restaurant from concept to opening day and beyond.

You’ll come away with a clearer understanding of realistic budgeting for every stage, from initial construction to designing an efficient kitchen and dining space, sourcing suppliers and inventory, hiring and training staff, implementing technologies, and managing ongoing operational costs.

With deeper insight into the investments required, you can make informed financial decisions and concentrate your creativity on amazing food, impeccable ambiance, and fantastic service.

How Much Does It Cost to Open a Restaurant?

The cost to open a restaurant can be $250,000 to $1 million+, for a moderately-sized full-service restaurant in most markets, before even hiring staff or cooking a single meal.

Before you can start serving your first guests, the following essential elements require significant capital outlays:

  • Lease deposit and renovation/construction costs – $$40,000-$250,000 depending on location and scope of work
  • Essential kitchen equipment and appliances – $30,000-$150,000+ for a fully outfitted cooking space
  • Furnishings and décor – $20,000-$100,000+ for an inviting ambiance
  • Licensing fees, legal expenses, and pre-opening permits – $5,000-$30,000+ can easily be spent getting proper approvals
  • Initial inventory and core ingredient/supply stocking – $5,000-$20,000+ must be spent before opening accounts with vendors
  • Grand opening advertising and promotional marketing – $5,000-$20,000+ to generate critical early buzz and traffic
  • Working capital reserve for the first crucial few months – $100,000-$500,000 minimum recommended to cover operating losses until the business gains traction

Significant capital reserves or financing is absolutely essential to opening with enough of a financial cushion. There are no shortcuts – go big or go home!

Opening a restaurant can cost anywhere from $180,000 to $800,000, according to WebstaurantStore, with an average cost of $275,000 or $3,046 per cover for a leased space.

CloudKitchens notes that restaurant startup costs vary from $175,500 to $750,000, depending on factors like the type of restaurant, location, and size.

Sage US writes that the average restaurant startup cost is $275,000 or $3,046 per seat for a leased building, increasing to $425,000 or $3,734 per seat for ownership.

The total cost of opening a restaurant can range from $95,000 to over $2 million, influenced by expenses like rent, furniture, construction costs, and permits, according to ToastTab.

The cost to open a restaurant typically ranges from $175,000 to $750,000, impacted by factors such as location, size, and concept of the restaurant, as LightspeedHQ mentions.

Recurring Operational Expenses

Once open for business, the following ongoing expenses will quickly eat into revenue:

  • Rent and utilities– $36,000-$120,000+ per year
  • Labor costs including benefits– $60,000-$300,000+ per year for staffing needs
  • Food ingredient costs– Approximately 25-35% of total sales, one of the largest line items
  • Restaurant supplies and disposables– $15,000-$60,000 per year
  • Business insurance premiums– $5,000-$30,000 + per year
  • Targeted marketing campaigns– $15,000-$150,000+ per year to drive traffic and engagement

For most full-service restaurants with significant dine-in volume, total overhead expenses easily exceed $250,000++ annually. Every dollar must be vigilantly managed for profitability.

Securing Sufficient Capital and Financing

Funding your restaurant opening has multiple options, each with advantages and disadvantages:

  • Personal savings and assets – The most convenient option but rarely enough for most new entrepreneurs. Requires many years of diligent prior saving and investing.
  • Small business loans – Banks will heavily scrutinize restaurant proposals. Be prepared to personally guarantee. Loans mean assuming high-interest debt obligations.
  • 401(k) or IRA Rollover for Business Startups (ROBS) – This provides tax advantages but risks your entire retirement nest egg. Hefty IRS penalties apply if the business fails.
  • Equity crowdfunding – Pitching your concept to many small investors through dedicated online portals is gaining traction. Best suited to established brands looking to expand.
  • Outside private investors or partners – Injects needed capital but requires giving up ownership shares. Ensure vision alignment.

For most first-time owners, raising at least $500,000+ in capital gives a new restaurant venture the best shot at financial security and buffer room to overcome inevitable hurdles.

Optimal Restaurant Location and Lease

Location plays a monumental role in success or failure. Consider:

  • Foot traffic patterns, visual exposure, and accessibility for drawing in guests
  • Availability of ample dedicated parking or valet services
  • The competitive landscape of nearby restaurants cannibalizing your audience
  • Neighborhood demographics and their match to your cuisine, vibe, and price points

Negotiate lease terms thoughtfully:

  • Seek below-market rent with modest annual escalation terms
  • Secure tenant improvement allowance funds from landlords for build-outs
  • Make repairs, maintenance, and CAM fee payouts the landlord’s responsibility in the triple net lease

A prime location deserves a higher rent commitment. But don’t sacrifice quality just to save – it’ll cost you far more down the road.

You might also like our articles about the cost of starting a business, opening a laundromat, or opening a coffee shop.

Design and Décor Budget

Create an inviting ambiance and brand experience through:

  • Architectural build-outs and interior finishes – $50,000-$500,000+
  • Custom lighting fixtures – $5,000-$50,000+
  • Furnishings – $10,000-$150,000+
  • Signature artwork and aesthetic flourishes- $500-$50,000+

Remember to account for designer fees and refresh costs every few years too. First impressions matter greatly.

Necessary Licenses, Permits, and Insurance

Legalities to budget for:

  • Public health department permit – $500-$5,000+
  • Local food service establishment license – $200-$1,000+
  • Liquor license approval – $2,000-$150,000+
  • Fire department inspection – $150-$1,000+
  • Special permits for outdoor eating, events, etc. – Varies
  • Mandatory liability insurance – $6,000-$36,000+ per year

Don’t open doors until fully licensed, permitted, and insured legally or consequences could be catastrophic.

Crafting a Spot-On Menu


  • Ingredients that align with your theme, price points, kitchen skills, and availability from suppliers
  • Targeting approximately 25-35% of food costs on menu item pricing for profitability
  • Balancing higher-cost proteins and produce with affordable sides and starters
  • Dishes that intrigue guests while also being easily prepared at high quality
  • Dietary needs like gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, etc. to expand your audience

The menu represents the very heart and soul of your restaurant.

Marketing for Successful Launch and Operations

To drive ongoing traffic and engagement, aggressively promote through:

  • A sleek website with online reservations – $3,000-$15,000+
  • Strategic social media engagement – Budget ample funds for social ads
  • Consistent local PR outreach and media networking
  • Paid search and display advertising – $300+ per month
  • A bold grand opening event – $5,000-$30,000+

Ongoing targeted digital marketing, social promotion, SEO, and creative campaigning are absolute musts these days for filling seats.

Assembling a Strong Service Team

Open a RestaurantFactor at least $30,000-$60,000+ for critical hiring costs:

  • Offering competitive wages to attract the very best talent – $15-$30+ per hour for key roles
  • Providing enticing bonus incentives and benefits packages
  • Budgeting for extensive training and smooth onboarding
  • Meeting various employment compliance mandates

The staff represents a major recurring monthly expense but is the engine ensuring excellent hospitality and service. Invest in your team.

Technology Solutions

  •  Point of sale (POS) systems – $1,000-$5,000+ for hardware and software
  • Reservation and table management platforms – $100-$300+ per month
  • Inventory management and menu engineering tools – $200-$500 per month
  • Staff scheduling and payroll automation – $200-$600+ per month
  • Customer loyalty programs – $500-$5,000+ startup costs

The right technologies boost efficiency substantially over manual processes. They’re worth the investment for most restaurants.


Opening a successful restaurant requires $250,000 to $1 million+ in capital and thoroughly planning for profitability. With realistic budgeting, tenacious marketing, and operational excellence, your restaurant vision can thrive for years to come. The rewards justify the challenges for aspiring restaurateurs with grit, passion, and business acumen.

Frequently Asked Questions

What not to do when opening a restaurant?

Common pitfalls include underestimating costs, choosing the wrong location, signing an unfavorable lease, skimping on interior design and atmosphere, trying to overmanage operations without delegating, hiring the wrong early team members, neglecting targeted marketing, expanding too fast, and failing to accurately forecast expenses and capital needs using detailed financial projections.

Carefully avoiding these missteps through diligent planning and advice from experienced industry mentors greatly boosts the probability of success.

What is the first step a person wanting to open a new restaurant should take?

The crucial first step is conducting thorough market research and analysis to determine if adequate local demand truly exists for your envisioned restaurant concept. Survey relevant prospective customers for input on pricing, menu concepts, preferred locations, and competition perceptions.

Analyze area demographic and traffic data. Develop a viable business plan and detailed pro forma financial projections based on these insights to set your restaurant vision up for greatest success from day one.

Is $10 000 enough to open a restaurant?

In nearly all cases, no, $10,000 will be vastly insufficient funding to properly secure a location, design, build out a kitchen and interior space, obtain necessary equipment and furnishings, stock ingredients and supplies, hire any staff, complete licensing requirements, install tech systems, and successfully launch even a small starter restaurant concept in most markets.

A bare minimum of $150,000 – $250,000+ in capital should be secured, with $500,000+ ideal for a sufficiently comfortable financial cushion and a higher probability of being able to build your restaurant into a thriving asset.

How many people can fit in 1000 sq feet restaurant?

With an efficient dining layout and table spacing, most full-service 1,000-square-foot restaurants can reasonably accommodate approximately 35-55 dine-in guests at capacity. Quick-service spaces may be able to seat 50-75 by minimizing table sizes.

However, substantially more capacity than that would generally lead to an overly cramped dining environment during peak hours which negatively impacts guests’ experience, server maneuverability, safety, and compliance.

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