How to Open a Restaurant Without Experience

Opening and running a restaurant requires more than just great food to be successful. A restaurant is a business after all, and you must consider your experience level in ALL aspects, including marketing, management ability, customer service, and restaurant operations. If you find yourself lacking in any (or all) of those skills and still feel driven to open a restaurant, then you are probably asking yourself if that is even possible.

Can you open a restaurant with no experience?  Yes, but it is more difficult and much more expensive. The two most important factors that your success will hinge on are your available starting capital as well as the collective knowledge/skill of the team you assemble or consultants you hire. Opening without experience OR money is a bad idea. 

Now that you know it’s possible to open a restaurant with little to no experience let’s take a closer look at this in more detail below. First, we’ll take a look at the biggest thing you will need to have a chance of success when opening a restaurant without experience-money.  

After explaining the importance of start-up capital, we’ll discuss what steps to take to get started. As a bonus, we’ll explore options for opening a restaurant with no money as well as how much cash is required upfront and explore whether or not restaurants are suitable investments (especially for first-time owners).

Cash is King

When considering opening a restaurant with little to no experience, it is essential to realize that cash is king. Think of it as a bar graph; as the level of experience/knowledge you possess increases, the amount of extra capital you need to start-up decreases.     

Successfully opening a restaurant without any previous background will cost significantly more than if you had the experience. There are multiple reasons that you need more money to open a restaurant without experience, including the cost of hiring consultants, specialists, and leaving more room than usual for error.  

You can open a restaurant with little to no experience. You can open a restaurant with little to no money. But you CANNOT open a restaurant little to no experience AND money and expect to find success.

How Do I Start a Restaurant with No Experience?

To start your own restaurant business without any previous experience, you’ll need to follow six basic steps. These include the following:

1. Determine Your Financing Options

The first step to starting a restaurant is determining whether you can finance it outright. If not, then you need to find a co-investor or apply for a business loan from your bank. With little to no experience, you should consider partnering with someone who has worked in the food industry and can assist with managing the restaurant. 

2. Research Information on Starting a Business

Increasing your awareness of how to run a successful business is step two. Simply hiring out every position needed to manage the restaurant won’t work. You must be fully involved in ALL aspects of your venture. Therefore, begin early and learn as much as you can. Attend seminars, read books, talk to other restaurant owners, anything and everything to broaden your knowledge base.

3. Decide on the Type of Restaurant 

Choosing a concept for your restaurant is step three. Whether it be fast food, casual or fine dining, you should explore the location in which you plan to launch and determine if there is a demand for such a restaurant. Ultimately, it’s the community that determines whether a business is successful (or not), so be sure you’re providing a food service that the people in your area want.

4. Hire the Right People

With no restaurant experience to speak of, step four involves assessing which professional skills you have (be honest with yourself about what you can and can’t do) and then hire the right people to help you run the business. They should demonstrate skill in the following areas:

  • Accounting and/or inventory management
  • Marketing and/or customer service skills
  • Cooking and/or serving experience
  • Equipment and/or building maintenance
  • Vendor and/or supplier relations

If you can find a co-investor or partner to consult with that has restaurant experience, great! You want as many skilled individuals as possible when first starting, especially if you’re new to the food industry. After all, a business is only as successful as the people running it!

5. Create a Business Plan

Start-up restaurants, especially those run by people with little to no experience, must have a solid business plan (with working capital for at least 3 to 5 months) in place. These include SWOT (strength, weakness, opportunities, and threats) analysis, pricing and cost evaluation, publicity and marketing strategy, and competitive venture researching. This is step five and a very important one at that!

6. Stay Passionate and Remain Committed

Step six involves dedication, which is the key to any successful business. When you choose to take a risk and start your restaurant (with limited or zero experience), you remain passionate and positive no matter what challenges arise. Staying focused and committed in the face of diversity will determine whether (or not) you succeed in the end.

How Can I Open a Restaurant with No Money?

Opening a new restaurant can cost anywhere from $50,000 to $75,000 upfront! That’s just the average amount needed for a ‘small’ restaurant (think café or diner). If you don’t have enough money upfront, you’ll need to find a partner/co-investor or apply for a business loan through your local bank.

You can also receive financing through a peer-to-peer lending group, which is an online service that matches lenders with borrowers, providing monetary benefits to both parties.

If the idea of opening a restaurant seems like too big of an investment right now, why not consider starting with a food truck instead. The initial costs are significantly less (especially if you buy a used vehicle). If you’re starting with very little or no experience in foodservice, this is an excellent way to ‘get your feet wet.’ For more information, why not check out another article entitled: Are Food Trucks Profitable?

How Much Money Do You Need to Open a Restaurant?

Opening a restaurant, even with the aid of a consulting team, is a HUGE capital investment, not including the typical day-to-day costs of only running the business. While the average start-up fee varies, the median cost is estimated at $275,000 or $3,046 per seat! If you factor in the cost of owning the building, this amount increases to $425,000 or $3,734 per seat!

If you have no previous experience in running a restaurant, you need not worry. Every restauranteur must start somewhere, even if it is at ‘ground zero.’ It’s important to understand that great food, while important, makes up only 20% of a restaurant’s overall success. Running a prosperous business requires a high level of customer service, management ability, and promotional skills.

Is Opening a Restaurant a Good Investment?

A restaurant owner can make anywhere from $30,000 to $150,00 a year, but the average amount tends to be somewhere around $60,000. The wide range in salaries is dependant upon many factors, including location, size, and labor costs.

Opening a restaurant tends to be a better investment for someone with food experience, as it saves money on personnel fees if you can do some of the day-to-day work yourself. This includes such skills as cooking, accounting, purchasing, and marketing. 

If you don’t have the experience, you will need to determine which business skills you do have -to see if they’re transferrable. For example, if you have managerial or inventory experience, this will save you money on accounting fees.

On the other hand, if you’ve worked in marketing or sales, you can save money on promotional fees. Saving money on fees will inevitably increase your profit market, thus improving your chances of success. 


To conclude, opening your own restaurant is possible, even with little to no experience. Money, time, and commitment are required to succeed!

Researching all aspects of the business beforehand is vital, especially if you’re not familiar with how the food industry works. Preparing a detailed plan on how to finance, manage, and promote the restaurant (for at least the first 3 to 5 months) is paramount. It’s important to realize that running a restaurant is a HUGE investment and must not be entered into lightly!

Thanks for reading, and good luck with your future business ventures!

Matt Roberts

A 20+ year veteran of the Restaurant Industry, Matt is the Founder and Owner of Restaurant Ninjas. He is also a giant geek of epic proportions who somehow convinced his wife to name their firstborn child Luke Skywalker.

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