restaurant owner turning open sign

It’s not rocket science—opening a restaurant will cost some money. Everything from restaurant licenses and procuring a physical space to training staff and investing in necessary equipment adds up fast.

Beyond the obvious, though, are some unexpected costs that most restaurateurs don’t plan for when they set out to start a restaurant.

While it helps to be aware of what they are so you can plan better, don’t let them discourage you from your goal of becoming a restaurant owner.

restaurant interior

Even though the intense effort required to get up and running typically lasts for about 5-10 years, as Paul Abrahamian of Sticky Finger Joint in New York City told Thrillist, despite all the hard work, “…it’s hard for me to give anyone a reason not to pursue their own dream. If you don’t have a dream, you don’t have much. At the end of the day, there is only one type of success, and that is to be able to live your life your own way on your own terms. One cannot think in terms of the monetary. One must think in terms of the pursuit of happiness.”

Restaurant Technology

Of course, technology is essential, but this is one place where extra spending creeps in. Thinking of your restaurant as the new business that it is, Restaurant Engine asks “does your startup really need it all? Too much high-tech can be bad for your restaurant’s financial health.” Even in the places where tech is necessary, consider whether or not the newest models are essential or if you can get away with using older and less expensive versions instead.

waitress tying on her apron

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Restaurant Marketing

Fancy marketing firms come with a price, but in today’s day and age, all it can take to get your restaurant known is a solid Instagram presence. If you’re not at the place where you can invest in an expensive media strategy, there are plenty of freelancers out there who are just as adept who can run your social media marketing like a pro, without all of the overhead costs associated with hiring an agency.

Restaurant Utilities

Everyone knows they have to pay utilities, it’s just the actual cost of them that might take new restaurant owners by surprise. It’s smart to look into your utility situation before signing the contract. Like in residential situations, sometimes previous owners leave without settling up their bills. By signing on, you take on the debt and have to pay it before services will start.

There are some unexpected costs that most don’t plan for when they start a restaurant.

Restaurant Music

Background music is one of those things that is so common these days that it practically goes unnoticed, but when it’s not there, the silence can be deafening. If you plan on playing music in your restaurant, you’ll have to pay for the rights to music because restaurants are commercial businesses and thems the breaks. Compared to the other heftier costs of starting a restaurant, music licensing costs are minimal, but they’re something so many owners forget about and, therefore, don’t budget for.

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Cinnamon is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer and journalist who paid a large part of her way through college and graduate school by serving. Her work has been published with outlets like National Geographic, the Washington Post, Pacific Standard, and more. You can read more about her at