Your Guide to Starting a Restaurant

Once you’ve read our ultimate guide to starting your business, it’s time to head deeper into your chosen hospitality industry – the restaurant. Read on to learn more about the restaurant licences, rules and regulations you’ll need to know about. You’ll also find tips for choosing your venue location and employees.

You can also download this guide for later reference. Our free download version comes with a comprehensive startup checklist, a valuable tool to help you keep track of your to-do list!

Pros and Cons to Running a Restaurant

  • Ability to be your own boss and have more control over your career
  • If successful, financial reward will be superior to working for somebody else
  • Opportunity to be creative in relation to restaurant concept, including menus and fit outs
  • Ability to utilise a range of different skills that you may not get as a regular employee of a restaurant
  • Ability to meet a lot of new people, and establish the ‘goodwill’ of the local community
  • Running a restaurant is not a job and ‘business hours’ don’t exist: it requires a significant investment of personal time and planning
  • Restaurants can fail – meaning huge drain and stress on financial resources and time lost
  • Subject to seasonal variances meaning cash flow a notable stress point for restaurant owners
  • You will need a range of different capabilities beyond hospitality to be a successful owner of a restaurant; including business and finance management skills
  • Employee tenure can be lower than other industries; meaning higher time investment required to find and train staff

Which Restaurant Licenses Do I Need?

Business and food licences are designed to help restaurant owners follow proper food business requirements and protect their customers from contracting food-borne illnesses.

Business Licences

You’ll need to apply for a business licence and registration from the local council. The local council will ask you to provide information such as:

  • Your food business classification
  • The type of food to be served
  • Whether food is pre-packaged
  • The name of your food safety representative

For information on the process with your local council, visit the Australian Business Licence and Information Service.

Council Certificates

You’ll also need to apply for a number of certificates from the local council, including:

  • A zoning certificate
  • A construction certificate
  • A fire safety certificate
  • A compliance certificate
  • An occupation certificate

You’ll then need to pay the associated fees and fill out the required paperwork.

Food Licences

Food business licensing ensures your restaurant can produce safe food before it is supplied or prepared for the local community.

Licensing requirements vary depending on the size of the venue and state or territory where you’re establishing the business. These can be viewed here:


Liquor Licensing

Restaurants that intend to serve or sell liquor (alcohol) must ensure they have the right licence. Licences may include an On Premises licence, Liquor Approved Manager licence, and a National Police Certificate.

But requirements will vary depending on:

  • The state or territory you’re in
  • Where the alcohol will be consumed
  • Council requirements around land use (i.e. whether it falls into a no-alcohol zone)
  • Your business intentions

Employees will also require Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA) training.

Before you lodge an application for a liquor license, you’ll need a National Police Certificate which will include a criminal record check.

Other Licences

There are also several other licenses that you may require, so it’s best to seek advice. For example, if you plan to play music in your restaurant, you may need a music license to cover copyright issues.


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Owning a Restaurant: The Rules and Regulations



Food Authorities and local councils work together to inspect restaurants on a regular basis. Before you start trading, a representative will need to inspect the food premises to ensure it meets requirements.

The onus is on the business owner to arrange this final inspection. This representative will also complete regular food inspections to ensure your restaurant continues to comply with regulations.




If you want to use a public space to serve food or drinks (for example the footpath) you will need to apply and receive approval from the council.




And ensure you’re across smoking regulations for your state, as some states have already banned smoking in outdoor areas (i.e. NSW), and others are following – Victoria will see the ban come into force from August 2017.




You must also understand and comply with Fair Work laws, national employment standards and work, health and safety law.

Additionally, owners of a restaurant franchise are subject to the rules and regulations put forth by the franchisor.


How to Find Your Perfect Restaurant Venue:
Choosing Your Location



The right locations for restaurants often depend on the type of restaurant. Fine dining, casual, bistro or fast food – whatever your style of restaurant, you will need to consider the importance of your location.


These are some top questions to ask yourself when looking for the perfect restaurant location:


What’s the neighbourhood like?

Think about the location of your proposed restaurant. What is important about this side of town? Where are your customers coming from? Are they coming in straight from work, or are they coming in for a bite to eat before going out for a night on the town?

Who are your customers?

Are your customers looking for a family restaurant? They might appreciate a restaurant close to home. Are they looking for a hip place to have a good meal and a fancy cocktail? A city location might be the right choice for you.

What can your restaurant add to the community?

What is the area lacking? If the area has a number of pizzerias, ask yourself if it needs another. Figure out what you want your restaurant to add to the community and survey the locals to see what they think.

How to Choose the Right Staff for Your Restaurant



Successful restaurants always employ the best staff. Service is a key aspect of any good restaurant, so it’s important to find the right staff for your business. It can be difficult to build a good team, but it’s worthwhile to keep customers happy.

These are some of the tops tips for finding and keeping the best restaurant staff:


Good staff are worth the search

Searching for staff can mean a lot of work. Advertising online often means sifting through a lot of applications. But it’s important not to get disheartened. Advertising online means you will have a greater pool of applicants, giving you a better chance of finding high quality staff.

Invest in your staff

Training staff is a great way to improve and build on their abilities. Under-qualified staff are easier to find and as long as they are eager to learn, can be worth investing in. Hire them on a trial basis and train them up. They may surprise you.

If your restaurant serves alcohol, you’ll need to ensure your employees have their Responsible Service of Alcohol certificate. If they work in the kitchen, they may also need a Food Handling certificate.

Good qualities are priceless

Teamwork, dedication and a good work ethic are essential qualities to look for in your restaurant staff. Good interpersonal skills are a must have in this business. Also look for staff with great leadership skills who you can trust so you don’t have to work so hard.

Loyalty goes both ways

You know how hard the hospitality business can be: long hours, sore feet and difficult customers. Yet still some businesses take their staff for granted. Show your staff you care, and your restaurant will be rewarded.

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