open a restaurant

How To Open A Restaurant Or Cafe In The UK

Kurt GraverBusiness Start-up Advice

Opening a UK restaurant or cafe can be profitable and sustainable. Hundreds of new restaurants, cafes and takeaways are opened every week.

Opening a restaurant or cafe in the UK can be a daunting task. However, it can be a successful venture with proper planning and advice.  In this article, we’ll review the basic steps you must consider.

The Restaurant Industry

The UK restaurant industry is worth £20bn to the UK economy. It was hit hard by COVID, but this was partially offset by the growth of food delivery, which grew to approximately £4bn over the past two years.

In 2021, delivery accounted for £2 in every £10 spent on food service and was expected to drive habitual delivery behaviour beyond the pandemic. The use of third-party apps increased from 34 per cent in 2019 to 37 per cent in 2021.

Independent restaurants, especially local restaurants serving ethnic cuisine, make up 68% of restaurant sales, worth about GBP 13.5 bn.

The demand for multi- or ethnic cuisines is increasing as more consumers, especially millennials and baby boomers, are willing to experiment with new and global cuisines.

18–34-year-olds are the keenest to get out more and consumer intentions to support independent restaurants and takeaways.

Restaurant Concept & Menu

If you already have a location for your business, the area’s demographic should be used to shape your concept. If you’re beginning with the idea, you should choose a location with a demographic where you have evidence there will be a demand for your establishment.

Your concept should include the type of restaurant you want to open, the cuisine you’ll serve, and the service style you’ll use. The interior of your restaurant should also be in line with your concept. 

Your restaurant brand is more specific and can be thought of as how you communicate your mission and identity to the public. 

Your restaurant name, logo, menu design, and merchandise should present a cohesive brand image. The advertising channels should also rely heavily on your brand identity to influence the style and method.

Developing your menu is the next creative step in opening your restaurant.

Your menu will dictate the equipment you’ll need, the skills you should look for in your staff, and the type of customers you hope to attract. 

Choosing A Property For Your Restaurant

The first step in opening a restaurant or cafe in the UK is finding the perfect property. When searching for a property, it’s important to find one in a good location with the right amount of space and affordability. It’s also important to ensure the property is licensed for food and drink.

The most successful restaurant takeaways are in high-footfall areas, but these properties can be expensive. A more expensive property with high footfall is better than a cheaper one. Success in a low-footfall area is based on your ability to draw people to your business through marketing. This may not be sustainable.

When choosing a location for your new restaurant, the following factors are among the most important:

  • Visibility and Accessibility – Select a location with good visibility that receives plenty of vehicle and foot traffic. Consider parking availability and ease of access for cars and pedestrians.
  • Demographics – Your restaurant’s target market should match the area’s demographics.
  • Labour Costs – Your labour cost will vary depending on location. In areas where the cost of living is higher, you’ll need to pay a higher wage to attract good employees.
  • Local Competition – You can learn a lot by looking at the competing restaurants in your area. The key is to choose a location where similar restaurants are successful but avoid a neighbourhood saturated with restaurants that directly compete with your concept.
  • Finding a property that does not require much renovation work is also advisable.  

Restaurant Design

The next step is to design your kitchen and dining area:

This will be essential in determining the feasibility of your business and the types of food you’ll be able to serve.

You must consider the layout, equipment and storage when designing your kitchen. The layout will determine how efficient your kitchen is and how much space you have for cooking and preparing food. The equipment you choose will affect the types of food you can prepare, so make sure you have all the necessary appliances.

Keep these factors in mind when designing your restaurant layout:

  • Seating Capacity – Local regulations determine the seating capacity of your dining room. You must meet requirements for square footage per customer based on the size of your space and the number of exits. Keep these factors in mind when designing your dining room layout:
  • Dining Room Furniture: Choose restaurant seating that aligns with your concept. Consider seating capacity and comfort level when choosing the style and shape of your restaurant furniture.
  • Ambience and Decor – You can enhance your restaurant’s ambience through decor and lighting.

Funding Your Restaurant

The next step needed to start your new restaurant is to obtain funding. Without financial assistance, most people don’t have enough capital to cover the restaurant’s costs. 

Securing funding from outside sources will determine if you can make your dream of restaurant ownership a reality.

Begin by estimating total restaurant startup costs and the cost needed for daily operations. Use this information to create a budget and forecast the total cost of running your restaurant for the following year.

Most banks will require you to be in advanced negotiations with a landlord and see the lease so they can understand the costs and financial commitment needed.

Compliance & Licensing

You first need to find out what licences and registrations you need to open a restaurant or cafe in the UK. The type of business will determine the charges you need. 

You may need a food hygiene certificate, a licence from your local council, and a licence from HMRC to sell alcohol. 

You can find more information on the government and local authority websites.

Once you have the necessary licences, register your business with Companies House and HMRC.

You will also need to set up a bank account in the name of your business and appoint a bookkeeper.

Staffing your restaurant

When it comes to staffing your restaurant, there are a few key positions that you will need to fill to make your business run smoothly. 

First and foremost, you will need a head chef. This person is in charge of all the culinary operations in your restaurant and should have extensive experience in the kitchen. 

You will also need front-of-house staff, such as waiters and waitresses, to care for your guests’ needs. It is important to ensure that your front-of-house staff are outgoing and customer-oriented, as they will be the face of your restaurant. Finally, you will need a manager to oversee the day-to-day operations of your business. This position is key to ensuring.

Marketing & Sales

You have to get the word out and attract your future customers. Advertising provides basic information about your restaurant so prospective customers know where you’re located and what cuisine you serve. 

Successful advertising should also build excitement around your brand. Below are some tips for marketing your restaurant:

Online Marketing

Your website as a hub: Your digital restaurant marketing efforts should drive traffic to your website, and your neighbours should include links to all your digital promotional assets. Make sure you include the following investments on your website:

  • An e-newsletter submission form to capture visitors’ email addresses
  • Social media pages
  • Blog
  • Events
  • Promotions

Offline marketing

To broaden our catchment area and capitalise on the growing trends toward home delivery, we plan to partner with popular 3rd Party Applications like Deliveroo, Eat and Uber Eats. We will also expand our direct home delivery service.

  • Take-out and delivery apps
  • Reservation apps


There are four keys to success for a successful restaurant or cafe.

  1. Great Food – Provide high-quality food consistently and evolve your menu to customer tastes and trends.
  2. Helpful Staff – Employ skilled, professional and articulate staff. 
  3. Excellent Reputation – Get positive reviews through word of mouth and online review sites.
  4. Effective Marketing – To grow the number of customers, outsource your marketing, PR and reputation management to a specialist agency to maximise return on investment.

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