How to write a comprehensive restaurant business plan

fanWhen opening a new restaurant, having a solid restaurant business plan is key for the success of a a business. The best ones identify, describe and analyse business opportunities while setting a blueprint. Here, we’ve put together a guide for how to write a restaurant business plan so life at your spot starts off on the right foot.  

What your restaurant business plan should cover

The strongest restaurant business plans always include all or most of the components described below. Charles Bililies, founder and CEO of Souvla, advises that first-time restaurateurs read plenty of different business plans for other restaurants, technology and retail companies to get a better sense of layout options, writing styles and clarity of concept. Put the sections that you feel would be most compelling to someone who’s never met you first: the “Management Team” section if you’re coming from high-profile establishments, for example. The goal is for the reader to keep turning the page.

Quick links
Branded cover
Sample menu
Management team
Target market
Market overview
Marketing and publicity
Specialists and consultants
Business structure

1. Branded cover

Include your logo (even if it’s not finalised), the date, and your name.

2. Concept

Describe your restaurant concept and get the reader excited about your idea. Go into detail about the food you’ll be serving, inspiration behind your concept and an overview of service style. Define clearly what will be unique about your restaurant.

3. Sample menu

The menu is the most important touchpoint of any restaurant’s brand, so this should be more than just a simple list of items. Incorporate your logo and mock up a formatted menu design (tap a designer for help if needed).

Your sample menu should also include prices based on a detailed cost analysis. This will give investors a clear understanding of your targeted price point, provide the first building block to figuring out average bill estimations needed to create financial projections and show investors that you’ve done the homework needed to be confident that you’ll be able to sell these items at these prices and operate within your budget.

4. Service

This section is most relevant for fine-dining concepts, concepts that have a unique service style or if you have particularly strong feelings about what role service will play in your restaurant. It can be a powerful way of conveying your approach to hospitality to investors by explaining the details of the guest’s service experience.

Will your restaurant have counter service designed to get guests on their way as quickly as possible, or will it look more like theatre, with captains putting plates in front of guests simultaneously? If an extensive wine program is an integral part of what you’re doing, will you have a sommelier? If you don’t feel that service is a noteworthy component of your operation, address it briefly in the concept section.

5. Management team

Write a brief overview of yourself and the team you have established so far. You want to demonstrate that the work experience you’ve acquired over the course of your career has provided you with the necessary skills to run a successful restaurant. Ideally, once you have described the strong suit of every member of your team, you’ll be presenting a full deck. Most independent restaurant investors are in this for more than just money, so giving some indication of what you value and who you are outside of work may also be helpful.

6. Menu Design

Incorporate some visuals. Create a mood board that shows images related to the design and feeling of your restaurant. Planning on cooking in a wood-burning oven? Include that. Photos of materials and snippets of other restaurants that you love that are similar to the brand you’re building are also helpful.

7. Restaurant target market

Who is going to eat at your restaurant? What do they do for a living, how old are they, and what’s their average income? Once you’ve described them in detail, reiterate why your specific concept will be appealing to them.

8. Location

There should be a natural and very clear connection between the information you present in the ‘Target Market’ section and this one. You probably won’t have a specific site identified at this point in the process, but you should talk about viable neighbourhoods. Don’t assume that potential investors will be familiar with the areas you’re discussing and who works or lives there — make the connections clear. You want readers to be confident that your restaurant’s ‘ideal’ diner intersects with the neighbourhood(s) you’re proposing as often as possible.

If you don’t have a site, this is a good place to discuss what you’re looking for in terms of square footage, foot traffic, parking, road accessibility and other important details.

9. Market overview

Address the micro and macro market conditions in your area. At a macro level, what are the local and regional economic conditions? If restaurants are doing poorly, explain why yours won’t; if restaurants are doing well, explain how you’ll be able to compete in an already booming restaurant climate. At a micro level, discuss your direct competitors. Talk about what restaurants share your target market and how you’ll differentiate yourself.

10. Marketing and publicity

The restaurant landscape is only getting more competitive. Talk about your pre- and post-opening marketing plan to show investors how you will gain traction leading up to opening day, as well as how you’ll keep the momentum going. If you’re going to retain a PR/marketing company, introduce them and explain why you’ve chosen them over other companies (including some of their best-known clients helps). If not, convey that you have a solid plan in place to generate attention on your own through social media, your website, and media connections. To help you get started be sure to check out our zero budget marketing checklist.

11. Specialists and consultants

List any outside contractors you plan to retain, such as:

  • Accountant
  • Lawyer
  • Architect
  • Designer
  • Main Contractor
  • PR & Marketing

Briefly explain the services they’ll be providing for you and why you chose them, along with any notable accomplishments.

12. Business structure

This section should be short and sweet. What type of business structure have you set up and why did you make that specific decision? You will need to work with a lawyer to help you determine what business structure is best for you.

Step one: write a restaurant business plan. Step two: hire a good lawyer. In addition to helping me build a smart, sustainable business structure, my lawyer was also a great resource for reviewing my business plan because she’s read thousands of them. She was a very helpful, experienced outside perspective for more than just legal matters”, Charles Bililies explains.

13. Restaurant financials and funding

Let your accountant guide you through this portion of your business plan. It is crucial that whoever you retain to help you with your finances has a wealth of restaurant experience (not just one or two places), as they should be familiar with the specifics of restaurant finances and know what questions to ask you.

Before creating realistic financial projections, your accountant will want to know approximately how many seats you’re planning on having, what your average bill will be, and how many covers you expect per day. Being conservative in these estimations is key as these three data points will be used as the basis for figuring out whether your concept is financially feasible.

Lou Guerrero, Principal at Kross, Baumgarten, Kniss & Guerrero, emphasises that, “You’ll get a lot of accountants that tell you that they’ve done a couple of restaurants, but you have to choose someone that has a deep expertise in what you’re doing. There’s nothing to gain from going with someone that doesn’t have a very restaurant-centric practice.”

A well-vetted accountant with restaurant experience will know exactly what you’ll need to have prepared to show investors. The key projections you can expect to work on are:

  • Pro forma profit and loss statement for the first three to five years of operation
  • Break even analysis
  • Capital requirements budget

Free tools to build a restaurant business plan in Australia:

If design is not your forte, consider using a free online template. There are plenty of templates available on the web that can aid in this process. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or need help getting started, there are some great options

  • Canva: Bring your descriptions and its templates will help you do the rest. Canva hosts a library of thousands of free menu templates to choose from.
  • Australian Government: a collection of free tools and templates to help you build your first business plan
  • VistaCreate: The plug-and-play menu templates are easy to use, and the platform has the option for print and delivery.


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