Everything you need to know about opening a restaurant

Are you thinking about opening a restaurant but are confused about where to start? To help you navigate this demanding and highly regulated sector, the following is a summary of the steps you must follow and the specifics you need to know – everything from market research and administrative formalities to financing solutions.

Conduct a market study before opening your restaurant

A market study is a requisite step before opening a restaurant, enabling you to validate the feasibility of your project.

A market study can be divided into four main steps: 

Find a location for your restaurant

When starting a restaurant business, the choice of location is a decisive factor for its success.  

When choosing a location for your restaurant, make sure that:

  • Foot traffic is sufficient
  • It is well served by public transport and has parking spaces nearby
  • The frontage is appealing 
  • It is located close to community areas (shops, cinemas, shopping centres, etc.).

Also check that the premises are large enough to accommodate a reception room, a kitchen and ancillary areas (storage area, cold room, sanitary facilities, customer reception area, etc.). Once the premises have been purchased, you will need to make the necessary adjustments to ensure that they comply with the standards in force. 

Depending on your project and budget, you can purchase a commercial property outright, rent a commercial property or acquire a business if you want to take over a restaurant.

Whrite a business plan for your restaurant

Before you open your restaurant, you will need to draw up a comprehensive business plan. The objective of this key document is to define your restaurant’s business strategy and financial forecasts.

Your business plan should include:

Pay particular attention to your business plan, both in form and in content: the business plan is your best ally for convincing banks, investors and commercial partners of the feasibility of your project.

Carry out the required legal and administrative formalities for opening your restaurant

As with any business project, setting up a restaurant requires following a number of administrative and legal procedures. In particular, you will need to:

Securing financing for your restaurant

There are several ways to raise the funds needed to open your restaurant (rental or acquisition of the premises, fitting out of the space, purchase of furniture and equipment, etc.):

Mandatory training to open a restaurant

No diploma is required to open a restaurant. However, certain specific training courses must be taken before you can open:

Obtaining a licence and operating permit

To open your restaurant, you will have to obtain a licence to sell alcoholic beverages and an operating permit. 

  • For the sale of alcoholic beverages with meals: you must obtain a Licence de restaurant or a Petite licence restaurant (for beverages with an alcohol content of 18° or less, e.g. beer and wine).
  • If you serve alcohol outside mealtimes, you will have to obtain a drinks licence for on-site consumption.
  • To obtain an operating permit (which is required to obtain a licence), you will need to undergo specific training. The permit is valid for 10 years.

Statutory signage and regulations in the restaurant sector

As you well know, the restaurant sector is governed by a multitude of regulations. In particular, restaurant owners must comply with certain obligations regarding the display of specific information, upon opening. These obligations cover:

  • Pricing – prices to be displayed inside and outside the restaurant
  • No smoking
  • Protection of minors and the repression of public drunkenness
  • Origin of beef
  • Licence obtained
  • Certain specific signage rules relating to beverages served.

Failure to comply with these obligations is punishable by a fine of €1,500 for natural persons and €7,500 for legal entities. 

Restaurant owners must also ensure that they comply with the regulations on hygiene, safety and accessibility as soon as the restaurant opens. 

The specificities of VAT in the restaurant sector

You should be aware that VAT in the restaurant sector has a certain specificities, in that different VAT rates are applied depending on the product sold:

  • VAT is 10% on foodstuffs (starters, main courses and desserts) sold for immediate consumption.
  • VAT is 20% on alcoholic beverages and 10% on non-alcoholic beverages.

In addition, reduced rates may apply in certain circumstances. See our article on VAT in the restaurant sector for more information.

Are you planning to take over an existing business? To find out about all the specific procedures, read our article: “The complete guide to taking over a restaurant”.

Also read: “Everything you need to know to run a successful restaurant”.

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