How to

Start a Restaurant

  • 1

    Create Your Business

  • 2

    Plan Your Space

  • 3

    Apply for Permits

  • 4

    Begin Construction

  • 5

    Prepare to Open

  • 6

    Open Your Doors

Step 1: Create Your Business

Creating your business involves knowing the type of restaurant you will open.

You also have to know how to register it properly: LLC’s, Corporations, and Limited Partnerships with NY State; General Partnerships and Sole Proprietorships with the County Clerk. An EIN (Employer Identification Number), also known as a Federal Tax ID Number will identify your business, so applying for that is an important step. If you’re a sole proprietor, you may be able to use your Social Security Number. Research insurance, such as workers’ compensation, liability and disability. Some are required for permits and licenses. You’ll need a Sales Tax ID from NY State, and be sure to apply early to avoid delays receiving other permits. The types of food/beverages you sell will affect which permits and licenses you’ll need. Be sure to comply with applicable laws regarding wages, sick leave and transit benefits.

Step 2: Plan Your Space

Planning your space properly can minimize potential overages and future difficulties.

Find a location zoned for your business and note that taking over a space that previously was a restaurant can potentially save time and construction costs. Consult a licensed professional to review your location, plan any construction and accessibility requirements. Only a registered architect or professional engineer may submit plans to the NYC Department of Buildings. Changes to your space must comply with the NYC Department of Buildings, Department of Health, Fire Department and Department of Transportation (sidewalk) regulations. Allow time for approvals if your building is landmarked or in a historic district. Check that your kitchen has a grease interceptor or plan to install one.

Step 3: Apply for Permits

Have your licensed professional submit plans and required documents to the NYC Department of Buildings and apply for construction permits.

Changes are often made to plans if there are objections due to safety or compliance issues, so make sure to be in contact with your licensed professional during each step of the construction process. Monitor your job on NYC Department of Buildings BISWeb. All commercial cooking – gas or electric stoves, fryers or ovens – requires a range hood and fire suppression system and make sure your licensed professional files plans with the Fire Department. Research “Professional Certification” (Pro Cert) to potentially save you weeks in receiving approvals and permits. Have your licensed professional submit digital plans to the NYC Department of Buildings Hub. Make sure you consult with your team to identify utility requirements for your property as well: gas, electric, water and sewer.

Step 4: Begin Construction

Begin construction only with licensed contractors.

Progress inspections may be made throughout construction so make sure you discuss any required ones with your licensed professional. If you want to install a canopy or signs on the outside of the building, ensure you comply with the NYC Department of Transportation (canopy) or the NYC Department of Buildings (awning or mounted sign). Health violations are sometimes identified after you open your business, which can affect whether you pass your pre-operational inspection. Pay attention now to avoid costly changes once you’re open.

Step 5: Prepare to Open

When the job is almost complete, prepare to open.

Make sure there’s a Food Protection Certificate. A restaurant must pass pre-permit inspection before a permit can be issued. Learn more about permits and Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) plans here. Your architect should arrange for final inspections. To avoid violations, obtain a Certificate of Occupancy, Temporary Certificate of Occupancy or Letter of Completion before opening. Hire a private carting service for waste removal and avoid costly fees by separating waste into metal-glass-plastic, paper and trash. Start your application process early if you plan to serve alcohol or open a sidewalk café as both require approvals. If 75 or more people will gather in your restaurant at any time, you will need a Place of Assembly Certificate of Operation and Permit.

Step 6: Open Your Doors

You’ve opened your doors and are operating your restaurant - congratulations!

Plan ahead to keep things running smoothly. Post all required posters and permits, such as signs for your CPR kits and No Smoking. Schedule equipment maintenance and set reminders in your calendar to review your permits and licenses. Be ready for inspections that happen throughout the year, sometimes unannounced. A Commercial Cooking Cleaning Company can help you maintain necessary cleaning standards. Work with your accountant to prepare to pay taxes. Avoid sewer backups by maintaining your grease interceptor. Make sure to also comply with NYC noise regulations.