How To Open A Casual Dining Restaurant In The USA

image of a casual dining in restaurant

The restaurant industry in the United States has seen steady growth in the past few decades. Even though the Covid-19 pandemic brought some challenges, the restaurant industry continues to flourish. 

As per Statista, the U.S. quick service (QSR) industry’s output increased by over 50% since 2007 and reached more than 283 billion U.S. dollars in 2020 and is a leading contributor to the global restaurant market.   

Steps To Open A Casual Dining Restaurant In The USA

A casual dining restaurant serves moderately-priced food in a comfortable and laid-back setting. In a typical casual dining restaurant, guests are waited on by servers and bartenders. Some of them serve alcoholic beverages as well. Because of being moderately priced, these restaurants are popular among younger demographics and have high repeat customers. 

Here’re a few important things to consider while opening a casual dining restaurant in the U.S.

Setting the basics right 

To open a casual dining restaurant, you need to plan and decide the basics. You will have to chalk out these details, 

  • The concept of your restaurant
  • The theme
  • Your restaurant’s name
  • Your target audience, and demographics

Why are these answers important? Funding and marketing strategy will be according to the format of your restaurants. Having a clear thought process before proceeding with the business idea leads to a cleaner strategy that hits all the goals effectively. 

The location of your restaurant

Once you have your basic plan ready, the next effective step is to decide the location of your casual dining restaurant. Two factors determine this – your funds and your restaurant format. 

To finalize the location, you need to research the place and its demographics to ensure that the area you’re considering has enough footfall for your target audience.

  • Identifying the target audience of your casual dining restaurant 
  • Your budget and proximity to the vendors to ease out a lot of unplanned expenses
  • Parking space, safety concerns, and rush hour in the location
  • The level of competition in the locality 
  • Ease of access and connectivity to ensure returning customers

Acquiring Licenses To Get Your Business Started

This is the most critical part of starting a restaurant anywhere globally. In the USA, license requirements change according to the state you want to open your establishment, making the entire process very daunting and confusing. 

To help you get started easily, we have listed down some of the most important licenses you will need. 

  • Business License 

This is the first license you will need in the USA to open and operate a restaurant and is required for any business in America. The registration cost is somewhere around $50, and the license cost can change with the state. You simply need to follow the application procedure as per the state government site to get it. 

  • Liquor License

You need a liquor license to open a bar or sell liquor in your casual dining restaurant. You might need to apply for a beer & wine license in some states apart from a liquor license. It is a time-consuming process, so you apply for it as early as possible to serve liquor in your establishment.

  • Food Service License

This is essential if you wish to start a restaurant and is issued by the city or county health department after an in-person visit. The visit ensures that you follow all restaurant food safety regulations and can be withdrawn anytime during regular health department visits. This license also requires renewal, and the cost ranges from $100 to $1000. 

  • Employer Identification Number

An Employer Identification Number is required to operate in the USA. This is simply a tax I.D. number and is assigned by the IRS. You can easily apply for this through the IRS website, and it is free of cost.  

  •  Food Handler’s Permit

This license ensures that your staff has completed a food safety certification. The FDA even has specific training resources for employee health and food protection. The cost usually varies between $100 to $500.

  • Certificate of Occupancy 

Once your location clears the final building inspection, you will be issued a certificate by the building or zoning department in the city. A certificate of occupancy is also required to certify that the building has been properly built and maintained.

  • Sign Permit

The city government usually issues this, and you will need it to put up any outdoor signs for your restaurant. The local government approves this, and the cost can vary between $20 to $50. 

Apart from these, you might also need other important certificates, such as certificates of occupancy, to certify that the building of your establishment has been properly built and maintained. Additional licenses include music license, resale permit, valet parking permit, live entertainment permit, and so on. Refer to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration website to help you manage and get all the required licenses. 

Setting Your Menu & Hiring Right 

Once you know the format of your restaurant, you need to sit down with your head chef and set your menu. 

To create a unique menu that caters to the taste of your target audience and is profitable – look at what your competition is serving. Look at their pricing and then decide your own. In the beginning, it’s best to keep your menu short and focus only on the best things that your establishment and the team of chefs can serve. 

Running a restaurant is more than cooking and serving a delectable menu. Offering exception service to your customers will require hiring people to build a well-performing restaurant team. 

We have listed down a few roles that your casual dining restaurant will need – 

  • A manager
  • Shift managers
  • Sous chef
  • Prep cooks
  • Servers
  • Bartenders 
  • Kitchen staff
  • Dishwashers 

Increase the number of staff hires, depending on the size of your restaurant. Based on the role, you will also need to outline the responsibilities and requirements for each person. Having the right POS system will also help you keep track of their performance to ensure that your team is performing well and helping your establishment become profitable.

By carefully determining what you’re looking for and training your staff extensively, you will be able to create a stellar restaurant team for your new casual dining restaurant in the USA. 

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Daniel McCarthy is a seasoned restaurant consultant and serves as the Communication Manager at Restroworks, a prominent F&B SaaS company. Drawing from his vast knowledge of leveraging innovative technological solutions, Daniel excels at enhancing restaurant operations and revenue, thereby contributing to the ongoing transformation of the industry.


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