How to Start a Restaurant in California


California's rich soil yields lots of great things for restaurants, from avocados to strawberries to grapes for the wines of Napa Valley. In the 90s, the distinctive nature of cooking in this state--using fresh ingredients with an Asian twist--gave this type of food the name California cuisine. Whether you want to open this type of establishment or another, perhaps ethnic one, you will find that Californians are food lovers eager to try new restaurants.

Start a Restaurant

Step 1

Create your concept. The concept is more than just the type of food you will serve. You must study the eating habits and demography of the location you are zeroing in on. Try to find a niche that is not yet filled. Then decide if you will target your menu more towards adults and couples, or towards families, or towards young people. Choose your dishes accordingly.

Step 2

Narrow in on a location. As in real estate, the restaurant location is all important. If you plan to open an exotic (say, Burmese) or challenging (think molecular gastronomy) restaurant in California, you may want to stick to the big cities, especially places with a developed food culture like San Francisco. Steer away from these cities if you have a simple concept like a diner that may be more welcome in Central California.

Step 3

Plan your marketing strategy. One of the most difficult issues for a new restaurant is getting the word out. Plan who you choose to market to. If you've opened a sushi restaurant in southern California, for example, you may want to emphasize the food's healthy and low-fat properties to the many actors and models who live there. Or you may want to promote an artsy decor to a northern California crowd.

Step 4

Hire your staff. Because your customers will come face-to-face with your waiters daily, this is the most important step. Consider paying them more than the minimum wage to secure people who understand your concept and can be friendly to guests. Hire a chef based on your budget and their recommendations, but also be sure to taste test all of their dishes.

Tips and Warnings

  • Be sure to obtain a food handlers license before you begin serving food to customers.


  • Seasonal Chef: California Cuisine
  • Entrepreneur: How to Start a Restaurant
  • Wall Street Journal: Can you Open a Restaurant with No Money?
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About this Author

Rebecca Jenkins has contributed to newspapers and blogs since 2004. She has written for numerous publications, including her college newspaper and the "San Francisco Chronicle." Her work has also appeared on various websites. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in history from the University of Dublin and has done master's work in political science.

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