restaurant finance tips

Once you’ve made the leap and decided to become a restaurant owner, a whole new world is revealed of what exactly is involved in opening a restaurant. There are many obvious restaurant startup costs, but what are some of the not-so-obvious ones? If you don’t know, you may not account for them, and that can cost you a lot in the end.

Here are 5 unexpected start up costs that may come as a surprise to the new restaurateur.

Licenses and Permits

Every city and town is different and may have different requirements to run a restaurant. It is worth the effort to thoroughly educate yourself on all the permits you will need for your particular restaurant. You don’t want to be surprised by discovering you need a special fire certificate, sign permit, music license, or something else particular to your city.

Social media sounds great and free, but you will quickly find the days of free are gone.


Before opening your restaurant, you will want to have capital on hand for at least one year of rent and utilities. This may seem straightforward, but keep in mind this will likely include first and last month’s rent and a security deposit. Utilities also go beyond just gas and electric, you will need internet and phone service, water, trash removal, and possibly cable or a music streaming service.

Credit Card Processing Fees

It’s hard to be a cash-only business these days as people generally cash less than they used to, and the younger generation carries far less than their predecessors if any at all. Be sure you research the right POS system and credit card processing service to be sure you have the one that’s best for you, and you fully understand all the fees involved. Don’t forget any initial fees to set up a merchant account.

You don’t need to be an accountant to calculate food or labor costs or forecast your sales, you simply need a budget and a good expenses spreadsheet.

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Restaurant Marketing Costs

Social media sounds great and free in the beginning, but you will quickly find out that the days of businesses surviving the social media landscape on free, organic reach are gone. You will need to account for digital marketing as part of your overall marketing plan, and that includes the person you’re paying to do that work.

Non-Staff Labor

When accounting for your labor costs, including the additional expenses for labor that is not your staff. For example, at some point, you will likely need a plumber to fix a toilet, or someone to install a new light fixture or ice machine. These one-off expenses can come unexpectedly and you don’t want to be unprepared.

What expenses were you surprised by when you opened your restaurant?

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Kristin lives on the West Side of Providence with her wine blogger husband. When she's not co-hosting their monthly wine tastings, she's planning her next travel adventure and daydreaming about Spanish jamón. She can often be found pouring over travel guides at her favorite neighborhood spot, Nick's on Broadway.