The 6-step guide to opening a restaurant (or any brick and mortar)

The 6-step guide to opening a restaurant (or any brick and mortar)

Portrait of Jess Cheung Lark's Author
Portrait of Jess Cheung Lark's Author

Jess Cheung

May 19, 2023



3 min read

Opening a restaurant is like cooking a gourmet meal. You need the right ingredients, precise timing, and most importantly, a recipe. Think of project management as that recipe guiding you through the steps, ensuring a seamless and hassle-free restaurant launch.

Without good project management, your dream of owning a restaurant could turn into a nightmare. You could face endless delays, budget blowouts, unhappy staff, and a less than perfect launch. In this blog, we'll uncover the six steps to opening a restaurant that helps you avoid falling into that soup.

Opening a restaurant checklist: Follow these steps

Find the perfect location, quickly

Just like a dish needs the right spices, your restaurant needs the perfect location. This is where you're going to serve your customers, so make sure it's accessible, attractive, and suitable for your concept.

While you and your team are on the go to scout for the perfect location, we recommend sharing a mobile-friendly form with everyone in order to keep track of the various properties you're considering. On this form, you can set up questions for the team to fill in, such as property location, size, traffic, neighborhood, together with their pros and cons. This will allow you to make an informed decision more quickly by looking at a consolidated sheet of location reports and making comparisons easily.

Opening a restaurant checklist with step 1 being location selection. Two restaurant owners happily welcome customers on the first day of opening, with a detailed location evaluation chart underneath that helps these two owners find their new location.

Sign and organize contracts with dates in mind

Contracts are the meat and potatoes of your restaurant business, and you'll be dealing with many - from leases and licenses to supplier agreements, and later on employee contracts and agreements. The key here is to keep your contracts secure and accessible.

We recommend building up a digital document management system to store and update them, setting automatic reminders for key dates to avoid overdues, and tracking any contract-related tasks in the same place. This will prevent you from missing deadlines or losing important paperwork.

Delegate, delegate, delegate

Opening a restaurant isn't a one-person show. It's like a busy kitchen, where everyone has their role to play. In order to move the project forward, you and your store opening team need to assure no baton drops. This means everyone on the team needs to be accountable for tasks and milestones.

It is good practice to assign tasks accurately to individuals in your team based on their skills and expertise. For example, your finance person will be in charge of contract signing and payment. Your chief will spearhead the menu development and hand in a full menu 4 weeks before the opening date for timely supply ordering by your inventory manager.

On top of it, you can also leverage automations to make task and deadline tracking easier for your team, so that they don't miss out to-dos by accident.

Opening a restaurant checklist with step 3 being task assignment and tracking. Two inventory managers are checking through incoming supplies for the new store, with a notification on the tablet reminding them of an upcoming task due for inventory management.

Visualize your progress

Remember, your restaurant launch is a project, and every project needs a roadmap. Instead of suffering from the hassle of date scrolling in a spreadsheet, a visual representation of your progress will be more useful, such as a Gantt chart or a calendar view that shows what needs to be done, who's responsible, and when it's due.

This will help everyone stay on track, and you can quickly identify any delays and adjust your plans accordingly before it impacts your opening date.

Plan for the unexpected

In the brick-and-mortar world, surprises aren't always pleasant. A delay in your license approval, a sudden increase in equipment cost, or a key team member falling ill - anything can happen. It is good practice to always have a contingency plan. This not only reduces panic when something goes wrong, but also keeps your project on track.

We recommend considering your team's strength and expertise when it comes to this plan, and inviting all of them to brainstorm potential risks and applicable solutions in their area of responsibility. This brainstorming process can start and end using an online doc, where everyone can contribute, comment, and edit to convert ideas to plans in the same place.

Opening a restaurant checklist with step 5 being contingency preparation. An experienced server and a store managers are on the same video call to discuss and prepare for the new store contigency plan; the server is adding notes on his phone under the food defects section, while the store manager is writing about how to control the budgets for this new store on a laptop.

Invest in the right tools

Finally, we suggest you arm yourself and the team with the right tool that helps you do the above with ease, and make sure the tool is easy to use on mobile as your team will be on the move frequently. We recommend looking for the below functions in order to implement the tips hassle-free:

Here are the basic things to know before opening a restaurant. Opening up a restaurant is a dream for many, and with good management, that dream can become a reality. By following the tips here, you'll be serving your customers delicious food in your very own restaurant before you know it.

Ever wondered how to implement this checklist effectively? Lark has ready-made solutions to help you and your store team open up the next location with ease and check off every step mentioned.

Book a free demo with us today to learn more 😋