Opening a restaurant in the UK – Everything you need to know

It takes a particular type of person to open a restaurant. A genuine passion for food is a must, but more than that, you need to have a head for business. You’ll see it time and again when you analyse the restaurant success stories in the UK. These celebrated restauranteurs are just as talented with their budgets and business plans as they are with their creative menus and sophisticated wine cellars. If you’re willing to rise to the challenge, we have everything you need to know about opening a restaurant in the UK.


First Steps

It may seem like an obvious question, but do you have enough money to open a restaurant in the UK? You need funding for both the set-up and the ongoing costs. You’ll need to kit out your commercial kitchen and dining area, and if you want to attract quality staff and a loyal clientele, this isn’t an area where you can cut corners.

It doesn’t matter how big or small your restaurant is, the monthly outgoings are relative. These repeating costs are sometimes underestimated, and the impact they can make in the early days can come as quite the shock. Make sure you take into account:

  • Rent or mortgage payments – your biggest monthly cost by far.
  • Energy bills – those industrious restaurant kitchens are an energy-intensive environment. And you can’t ask your diners to pop on an extra layer when it’s chilly because you can’t afford to crank the thermostat up.
  • Staff wages – a restaurant is only as good as its team, and a top-class team equals another high monthly outgoing.
  • Restaurant insurance – one thing is certain in business: that nothing is certain in business. To prepare yourself for that fact, you need comprehensive insurance to ensure the “what ifs” don’t keep you up at night.

People have opened small, successful restaurants with only a few thousand pounds, but equally six figures can soon be eaten up by larger ventures.

If you feel your finances are solid enough to take the plunge, our restaurant opening checklist will walk you through what needs to happen next.


Shows a chef hard at work in the kitchen - Opening a new restaurant


New Restaurant Opening Checklist

There’s nothing quite like a checklist to help make a mountain of work feel achievable. Step by step, you can walk the path to opening the restaurant you’ve always dreamed about. Though we learn from our mistakes, some guidance to steer us around the potential pitfalls along this path never goes amiss. All of these considerations relate to opening a restaurant in the UK, but they can apply to other countries too.


  1. Got a concept?

We know you think you’ve got an incredible idea for a restaurant – but do you really? The customer will soon let you know either way, but rather than waiting for that feedback after you’ve spent thousands creating your concept – why not do some market research now?

The most popular restaurants in the UK are Indian, Italian, Chinese and Thai, but don’t panic if one of these isn’t your speciality. Food trends on the rise include flexitarian eating, Japanese flavours (these boomed after the Tokyo Olympics), and our good old nostalgic British dishes (especially puddings) are making a retro-feel comeback. So, while you may have a strong concept for your restaurant, make sure it reflects what people want – and be willing to keep on adapting.

Once you’ve refined your concept, ask your target customer whether they’d want the cuisine you’re serving and at your intended prices. Find out who your local competitors are and work out how you can differentiate your restaurant from theirs. Remember, your younger demographic loves restaurants that incorporate technology for booking, payment, or ordering. Top tip – insure your technology to protect against losses incurred if this technology “goes down” and dents your takings. This is one thing many people forget to think about when opening a restaurant in the UK.

Opening a restaurant in the UK - Shows a modern fine dining restaurant


  1. The Business Plan

This represents exactly how you’ll take your acorn of an idea and grow it into an oak. Put the leg work in with your business plan in terms of realistic costings and expenses. Don’t be unrealistic about profits in the early days and once you’ve got a solid plan – stick to it.


  1. The Right Location

Location, location, location – it’s true, the right spot really can make or break a food business. The restaurant needs to be “visible” and have good footfall and accessibility. Consider the costs of insuring your chosen building and whether its current state of repairs will make an impact.

Conflicted over renting or buying? Often, it’s best to find the ultimate location first and then let its ownership status guide your decision.

Exterior of a trendy wooden shack restaurant


  1. Setting Up

You’ve got your location. Now you must make it your own. Be very clear about the aesthetic and ambience you want to achieve through your interior design, and this will then make buying your dining furniture and tableware much simpler.

If possible, hire at least one of your head chefs before purchasing kitchen equipment. No one knows how to streamline a kitchen (and avoid unnecessary purchases) better than an experienced chef. Once you’ve paid for these assets, make sure you protect them with your insurance cover – a restaurant that’s just one oven, fryer or refrigerator down soon feels the pressure.

When hiring the rest of your staff, set aside time to research your prospective team members thoroughly. You need individuals who’ll share your vision and ‘gel’ with other team members in an environment where camaraderie and teamwork are vital.

What’s in a name? Rather a lot when it comes to your restaurant. It may tell people about your cuisine or hint at the type of experience they’ll have. The name should tell at least part of your story. The rest of that story must be conveyed through your logo, branding and website.

You and your new chefs can undertake the highly enjoyable task of devising the menu. Keep your market research and food trends in mind – and enjoy all the taste tests (perks of the job!)

Don’t forget to work out how you’ll take payments. Customers expect a sleek payment system, and a higher spec POS system can streamline communications between the front-of-house and the kitchen.


  1. The Legalities

Next on our new restaurant opening checklist, it’s time to dot the i’s and cross the t’s to make sure your restaurant will be working within the law. The Food Standard Agency website will help you navigate the critical field of food safety and hygiene standards. Your aim should always be to earn a five-star Food Hygiene Certificate rating.

Your kitchen must be a safe environment, with separate sinks for kitchen work and handwashing and designated areas for raw food handling and prep. To keep your customers with allergies safe, you’ll need to comply with food labelling regulations.

To allow your restaurant to serve alcohol, you must apply for a premises licence from your local authority. You’ll need a designated premises supervisor who’ll hold a personal alcohol license. This requires undertaking a qualification, and training for this can be booked through the government licensing portal. Don’t forget to give your local authority at least 28 days’ notice before you intend to open to obtain your restaurant license.

You even need a license to play music in the background of your dining area or elsewhere in the restaurant. The PPL PRS provides these; they ensure that artists profit from the use of their music.

Remember, if you’re changing the use of a building, or making structural alterations, your local authority and building standards will need to be involved.

When opening a restaurant in the UK and managing it day-to-day, you’re under a legal obligation to have employers’ liability cover if you have staff. It is highly desirable to hold public and product liability cover to protect you from legal claims made by members of the public.

New restaurant opening checklist - Shows a row of hanging glasses


  1. The Launch

You need to create a buzz locally for your grand opening. Host a launch event and include plenty of enticing offers, such as discounts, loyalty schemes and happy hours, to encourage repeat custom.

Make sure you already have a good social media presence pre-launch, then customers can easily tag these in their own posts. Importantly, listen to what your first guests tell you about their experience and be willing and ready to make minor (or major) changes to improve.


  1. Thinking Ahead

The final consideration on our new restaurant opening checklist is to think about the upcoming seasons and plan out events and offers to celebrate the likes of Valentine’s Day, Easter and Christmas. How can you increase turnover? Would takeaways or deliveries work? Perhaps your location would catch the breakfast crowd or be a draw for brunch meetings. Be willing to collaborate with local businesses and support local causes.


Opening a restaurant in the UK - Shows a colourful starter dish


We hope you found our guide on opening a restaurant in the UK useful. If you’ve got the drive and passion to open a restaurant, you deserve to protect that dream with a restaurant insurance policy that keeps you and your business secure. Park Insurance has over 30 years of experience working alongside the food industry, and we’re always delighted to hear from restauranteurs to see how we can help. It’s always an honour to be part of their journey and offer that crucial support. Give one of our friendly, experienced insurance experts a call, and you’ll soon feel in safe hands. Find out more about our restaurant insurance service and get a free quote.