A guide to opening a new restaurant in the Covid-19 era

You have done it! You have decided to make your dream of opening a new restaurant a reality. The pandemic has given many people a renewed appreciation for restaurants and dining out and now might be a good time to open a new restaurant. You know it will be challenging, especially given how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the hospitality industry, but you are ready to start a new venture. What now?

Here are some tips to help you open your new restaurant successfully:

Pick your brand!

First things first, you must think deeply about your restaurant’s identity. Think about what your restaurant’s brand and aesthetic will be and how that can be reflected how your business operates. Your concept should include the type of restaurant you want to open, the style of cuisine you’ll serve, and the service style you’ll use.

Tied to this, you will have to start to design your menu according to the kind of restaurant you will want to be. Think about what the staple items on your menu will be and what about your menu will make your restaurant stand out. Once you have conceptualised your restaurant, set up a detailed business plan that details all your expenses, advertising models and planning going forward.

When this is done you can get to the fun part – naming and branding your business.

Pick your location

Now that you know what your new restaurant’s brand will be, think about where your target audience is and see if you can find a location in that area. Think about how the location can assist with the layout of your business and aspects such as safety and parking for customers. If the location allows for a lot of foot traffic you need to think about how to best serve those kinds of customers. Perhaps you can have a takeaway window for them. You also need to think about the overall layout of your restaurant. A large restaurant may struggle if you have a kitchen that is too small to cater to many customers.

Cost is the bottom-line consideration for any business. If the rent or purchase of the space is more than you anticipate in profit, then the location is simply not feasible. It may be difficult and expensive to find your dream location, so work with what you find and make it your own.

Get the right permits

To open a new restaurant, you need to ensure that you acquire the correct permits and leases. To start a new restaurant, you’ll need to obtain several local permits and licenses. You will need to apply for a South African business license or register your company. A business license is generally required for businesses that need to comply with health and safety regulations, such as restaurants or any business dealing with food. If you plan to serve alcohol at your restaurant, you’ll need a liquor license.

At a later stage, you will have to think about registering your business to be VAT compliant once you reach the threshold for mandatory VAT registration.

Get the right equipment

Before you can open your new restaurant, your restaurant must be outfitted with the right equipment. There are some types of equipment that every restaurant needs, like refrigeration units and cooking equipment. You can then customize your business according to your needs. For example, an Italian restaurant may want to invest in a pizza oven while a coffee shop will want to invest in a high-end coffee machine for their baristas.

You will also need to think about your front of house equipment such as your point of sale system and your relevant card machines. A Point of Sale system is a vital part of a new business. Make sure you find a POS system that fits the needs of your business. TallOrder Point of sale is a Cloud-based solution that was built for speed and accuracy. Now available on iOS.  Request a free demo here. 

Find suppliers and hire employees

Time to think about your suppliers and employees. Think about what your business will need and compare ingredients and items from different suppliers. Look for good suppliers that are local and who guarantee fresher and more natural, locally sourced products. This helps to lower transportation costs and supports other local businesses.

Hiring the right team will be crucial to the success of your business. Make sure you have clearly defined roles in mind for when you start the hiring process. Start by hiring your management team so they can help carry out your mission and hiring goals. It is worthwhile to have a rigorous selection process and hire people who are truly motivated to work at your restaurant and who will embrace the values of your business.

Think about Covid-19 protocols

New restaurants will have to adhere to the latest COVID-19 protocol so make sure that you are fully aware of what they are. Ensure that staff are properly trained on your safety and hygiene protocols. Require frequent employee handwashing (e.g., before, during, and after preparing food; after touching garbage) with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Ensure adequate supplies to support healthy hygiene within the business. Supplies include soap, hand sanitiser, paper towels, tissues, disinfectant wipes, masks (as feasible), and no-touch/foot pedal trash cans.

Post signs in highly visible locations (e.g., at entrances, in restrooms) that promote everyday protective measures for both employees and customers. Clearly communicate the prevention steps the restaurant or bar is taking and any changes in protocols on business websites, emails, and social media.


Time to get the word out there and attract future customers. Plan for the different ways you want to market your new restaurant. Think about where you will find your target audience. Set up a website that is user-friendly or set up social media platforms for your restaurant. Offer promotions to your first customers and encourage them to spread the word. Join social networking groups in your area or connect with others in the industry. Work on an ongoing advertising budget in your business plan.

Now it is time to open!

Despite the challenges of the last year, the restaurant industry will always be an important part of our economy and culture. Good luck with your new venture!

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