Be a Restaurant Owner: Education Requirements and Career Info

Research how 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. View article »

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Video Transcript

Restaurant Owner Job Description

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 how to become a restaurateur. 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 Level High school diploma or equivalent; bachelor's degree may be useful
Degree Field(s) Business, restaurant management, culinary arts, or hospitality
License/Certification Licenses and permits required for restaurant operation; voluntary certifications available for owners
Experience Experience in food service industry helpful
Key Skills Strong leadership, organization, problem solving, communication, conflict resolution, attention to detail, and customer service skills; stamina and willingness to work long hours; knowledge of legal issues regarding wages, worker safety, and consumer protection
Median Annual Salary (2019) $66,135 (restaurant operator)*


According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2018, food service managers working in restaurants and other eating places earned a median annual wage of $51,430, while said the median annual salary for restaurant operators was $66,135 in 2019. At minimum, a high school diploma is needed to become a restaurant owner, but completing a degree or certification program in hospitality or restaurant management or culinary arts is helpful. Prior experience working in the food service industry beneficial and voluntary food safety certifications are available. There are required licenses, permits and approvals that must be obtained to open a restaurant. Key skills that are required to be a restaurant owner include strong leadership, organization, problem solving, communication and customer service. It's also important that you have stamina, willingness to work long hours, ability to resolve conflict, and attention to detail and knowledge of legal issues regarding wages, worker safety and consumer protection.

How to Become a Restaurant Manager or Owner

What are the requirements to open a restaurant? There are five steps that you can follow.

Step 1: Complete Relevant Courses or Earn a Degree

There is no specific restaurant owner training and having a college degree isn't a prerequisite. 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. Although there are no restaurant owner education requirements, 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 Restaurant License, Permits, and Approvals

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.

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 safety 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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