Be a Restaurant Owner: Education Requirements and Career Info

Research the requirements to become a restaurant owner. Learn about the job description and duties and read the step-by-step process to start a career in restaurant ownership.

Do I Want to Be a Restaurant Owner?

The role of a restaurant owner can be varied. Owners may operate whole chains, or they might work as executive chefs or managers at a single restaurant location. The owner generally oversees all restaurant employees, maintains inventory, monitors the preparation and serving of food, ensures that the restaurant meets all health and food safety regulations, resolves staffing issues, maintains the restaurant's budget, handles payroll and makes sure that customers are happy.

This role contains a great deal of stress and responsibility. As a restaurant owner's own financial future is often on the line, he or she will likely work long hours to ensure a location's success. However, if a restaurant does become successful, the owner is among the first people to benefit financially.

Job Requirements

There is no single path to becoming a restaurant owner. Although there aren't any specific education or experience requirements, having a combination of both may offer the ideal skill-set to prepare individuals to own and run a successful restaurant. Formal training can provide individuals with the knowledge and skills necessary to complete tasks such as menu planning, restaurant management and business operations. The following table lists the core requirements for becoming a restaurant owner:

Common Requirements
Degree Level High school diploma at minimum; completing a degree or certification program may be helpful*
Degree Field Hospitality or restaurant management, culinary arts*
Experience Prior experience working in the food service industry is helpful*
Licensure and Certification Licenses, permits and approvals are needed before opening a restaurant;** voluntary food safety certifications available****
Key Skills Strong leadership skills, stamina, willingness to work long hours, ability to resolve conflict, customer service skills, attention to detail, effective communication skills, strong organization and problem-solving schools*
Technical Skills Knowledge of legal issues such as wages, worker safety and consumer protection***

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Compliance Service of America, ***City of New York, ****National Restaurant Association

Step 1: Complete Relevant Courses or Earn a Degree

Having a college degree is not a prerequisite for becoming a restaurant owner. However, taking classes or earning a degree in hospitality management, restaurant management or culinary arts and gaining work experience in the field may be helpful since restaurant owners must be familiar with laws regarding wages, discrimination, worker safety, consumer protection, food safety and hours of work. Associate's, bachelor's and master's degree programs offer courses such as food preparation, sanitation, human resource management, business planning, accounting, marketing and operations.

Step 2: Gain Practical Experience

Restaurant owners may need to execute a variety of duties in the operation of a restaurant, from hiring and firing staff and bookkeeping to cooking, waiting tables and addressing customer complaints. Additionally, knowledge of the restaurant industry and business practices is beneficial. Gaining experience by working in a restaurant or food service setting is an ideal way to get the hands-on training that can prepare individuals for the rigors of owning a restaurant. This experience may be gained by working as part of the kitchen staff, waiting tables or as a counter attendant.

Step 3: Plan Ahead

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), anyone thinking about starting a business needs to plan ahead. Aspiring restaurant owners should create a business plan, choose potential locations, research zoning laws, secure business financing and create a legal structure for the business. Before opening a restaurant, the owner also needs to register a business name, get a tax identification number, register for local and state taxes, get all necessary licenses and research all of the responsibilities that go along with being a business owner. Restaurant owners must also research and be familiar with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) laws and regulations regarding safety in the workplace, such as keeping the workplace clean, using non-slip mats in key areas and maintaining all electrical appliances.

Step 4: Obtain Permits, Approvals and Licenses

Restaurant owners make sure that the restaurant meets all state and local laws and regulations. Although the requirements and types of licenses and permits may vary from state-to-state, common licenses include a food service license, local business license, name registration, creation of a business entity, proof of worker's compensation insurance, zoning approval and building permits, equipment permits, police and safety inspections, approval from the fire marshal and a liquor license for any restaurant that serves alcohol.

Success Tip:

Research permit and license requirements for special features in the restaurant. Any specialized approvals, permits and licenses that a restaurant owner needs to obtain are determined by the type of restaurant being opened. For example, a separate permit is needed for a restaurant that features live entertainment. Likewise, permits are needed for restaurants that offer outdoor areas, amusement games or dancing.

Step 5: Consider Certification Options

Voluntary certifications are available from organizations such as the National Restaurant Association. Some certification options include food sanitation, food safety and safely serving alcohol. Benefits of gaining voluntary certifications include demonstrating strict standards and showing customers that the restaurant cares about serving food safely. Certification also helps restaurants keep better records and improves that likelihood that the restaurant will score well on health inspections.

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