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.

Should I Become a Restaurant Owner?

Restaurant owners may operate whole chains, or they might work as executive chefs, or managers at a single restaurant location. The owner 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.

Although there aren't any specific education or experience requirements, having a combination of both prepares you for operating a successful restaurant. Formal training provides you with the knowledge and skills necessary to complete tasks such as menu planning, restaurant management and business operations.

Career Requirements

Degree LevelHigh school diploma at minimum, completing a degree or certification program is helpful
Degree FieldHospitality or restaurant management, culinary arts
ExperiencePrior experience working in the food service industry beneficial
Licensure and CertificationLicenses, permits and approvals to open a restaurant, voluntary food safety certifications available
Key SkillsStrong leadership, organization, problem solving, communication and customer service skills, stamina, willingness to work long hours, ability to resolve conflict, attention to detail, knowledge of legal issues regarding wages, worker safety and consumer protection
Salary (2015)$57,693 per year (Median salary for all restaurant owners and operators)

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 isn't 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 are helpful. Restaurant owners must be familiar with laws regarding wages, discrimination, worker safety, consumer protection, food safety and hours of work. Associates, 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 perform a variety of restaurant duties such as hiring and firing staff, bookkeeping, cooking, waiting tables, and addressing customer complaints. Additionally, knowledge of the restaurant industry and business practices is beneficial. By starting out as part of the kitchen staff, waiting tables or being a counter attendant, you gain the necessary training needed for owning a restaurant.

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 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 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. The type of restaurant being opened determines any specialized approvals, permits and licenses that a restaurant owner needs to obtain. 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 for Career Advancement

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 the likelihood that the establishment will score well on health inspections.

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