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The Provi Guide: How To Open a Bar, Restaurant & Retail Shop

The Provi Guide: How To Open a Bar, Restaurant & Retail Shop

Table of Contents

From Dream to Reality — Planning a Food, Beverage and Retail Business
Guide to Sourcing Financing
Securing Permits and Licensing
Building a Menu and Curating Your Shop
Staffing Your Business
Marketing Your New Business
Opening Your Bar, Restaurant or Retail Shop


Realizing your dream of opening a bar, restaurant or retail business comes with many steps. First, there’s writing and pitching the business plan and then sourcing capital from investors or securing financing through a small business loan. How you intend to market your business and stand out from the competition requires a marketing plan and that’s all before you secure permits and licenses, purchase equipment, and hire and train staff. It seems like a long uphill battle, but in the end, running a successful food and beverage business contributes to your local economy and its culture and brings together the community at large. This resource from Provi will help guide you through the process of opening a bar, restaurant or retail establishment and provide you with tips and tricks along the way.

From Dream to Reality — Planning a Food, Beverage and Retail Business

Planning a food, beverage and retail business takes just that: lots of planning. A business plan is a living document that will guide you, your partners and potential investors on the path from a dream to a reality. Let’s look at the elements that make up a powerful business plan. 

To get on the fast track to writing a business plan, download our in-depth, step-by-step guide on How To Write a Bar, Restaurant or Retail Shop Business Plan

Executive Summary

The executive summary is essentially a thesis for your business, providing an overview of the restaurant and its business model. 

Topics to include in the executive summary

  • Business name, service type and menu/concept overview
  • Why you are opening a bar, restaurant or retail shop business
  • A brief explanation of your business’s competitive advantages and intended target market
  • Expected break-even point and first year’s sales forecast

Leadership Team

After the executive summary, highlight your opening team (partners, executive chef, general manager, head bartender, buyer/curator, etc.) to put faces to names and their roles within the organization. Be sure to include 2-3 sentences under each profile explaining their role and why they are best qualified for the position.

Business Overview

In the Business Overview section of your business plan, you will need to provide a high-level rundown of your business’s mission, the type of cuisine you plan to serve (if you’re a restaurant), or the concept or beverage direction (if you’re a bar or retail shop) that you’ll focus on. 

What to include in the business overview section 

  • Mission statement
  • Service type, cuisine and beverage focus
  • Examples of the menu(s) or product lists/offerings

Industry & Market Analysis

In this section, you’ll identify key findings from industry research as they relate to your business concept. Additionally, this is where you will also identify the on- or off-premise location of the business as well as your target market. This section is a critical element of the business plan and will prove the future viability of your business to investors.

Elements to include and expand on in this section

  • Industry Overview
  • Location(s)
  • Target Market
  • Competitive Landscape
  • (Optional) SWOT Analysis, Competitive Matrix, Porter’s Five Forces Analysis

Marketing Strategy

In this section, detail how you intend to drive your target customer through your doors. What marketing strategies will you implement both online and offline to grow your business?

Elements to highlight in your marketing strategy include

  • Brand positioning
  • Advertising and marketing outlets to cover
    • Public Relations (PR)
    • Social Media
    • Direct Mail
    • Community Engagement
    • Newspaper/Magazine Ads
    • Paid Search/Digital Marketing
    • Email

Foster brand loyalty and drive more guests through your doors with our free Bar and Restaurant Marketing Plan guide.


In the operations section of your bar, restaurant or retail shop business plan, you’ll need to define your business’s service model. List the equipment, supplies and employees needed for day-to-day operations, the technologies and services that assist and streamline back-of-house tasks and highlight staffing and benefits details.

Elements to include in the operations section include 

  • Service model
  • Kitchen and back-of-house operations
  • Equipment and supplies
  • Technology (reservation platform, beverage alcohol ordering marketplace, POS, payroll & HR, scheduling, etc.)
  • Staffing and hiring

Financial Overview & Projections

Now to the meat of it. You’ve built a strong visual of your business concept, mission, and vision and presented a solid case for how and why you’ll stand out. Now, you’ll need to prove how you plan to be profitable. 

Elements to cover in the financial overview and projections section include

  • Opening costs summary
  • First-year sales forecast or break-even point
  • Pro Forma Income Statement
  • Break-even analysis

Appendix, Supporting Documentation and Glossary

The appendix should include all referenced analyses and supporting documents for your business plan.

  • Financial statements, graphs, tables, charts and profit or loss projections
  • Photos or renderings of the location/brick-and-mortar
  • Sample menus or lists (if applicable)
  • Floor plans and architectural renderings for the buildout 
  • Additional relevant supporting documents
  • Glossary of terms used

Guide to Sourcing Financing

There’s no way around it, starting a business costs money. There’s property rent, permits and licensing fees, operational costs, equipment upkeep, supplier and distributor costs and payroll for staff to name a few. Securing capital ensures your business is set up for success in the short and long term. Let’s look at common ways to source capital for your bar, restaurant or retail business. 

Food, Beverage and Retail Funding Sources

Small Business Administration Loan

Small businesses can apply for a Small Business Administration Loan through the United States Government. These loans reduce lending risk and enable easier access to capital. Benefits of an SBA Loan include:

  • Competitive terms: SBA-guaranteed loans generally have rates and fees that are comparable to non-guaranteed loans.
  • Counseling and education: Some loans come with continued support to help you start and run your business.
  • Unique benefits: Lower down payments, flexible overhead requirements, and no collateral needed for some loans.

Merchant Cash Advance

A merchant cash advance (MCA) provides alternative financing to a traditional small-business loan. With an MCA, a company provides upfront capital that a business repays through a percentage of debit and credit card sales, plus a fee. There are pros and cons to an MCA. They are best for existing small businesses that need capital immediately to cover cash-flow shortages or short-term expenses. However, this type of financing can carry annual percentage rates in the triple digits and create a difficult cycle of debt. 


One way to fund a small business is through crowdfunding. Crowdfunding is a way for small businesses to raise money in exchange for equity, rewards or debt. Online platforms like Kickstarter, GoFundMe and SeedInvest all offer a way to source capital through individual investors. If you take the crowdfunding route, there are several things to consider.


Food and Beverage Investors

Many investors out there focus solely on food and beverage businesses and startups. Why? They love the industry and know a good idea when they see one. Sourcing a group of food and beverage investors is a common way to fund a business and comes with many benefits. Seasoned f&b investors know how to start and oversee a successful new business. They can help guide you through the startup process and help make important decisions for the health of your business. Alternatively, it’s important to understand their endgame. Are they interested in the long-term success of your business? Or are they looking to make a quick dollar? These questions along with how much equity they hold are important to consider when venturing down this financing path. 

Friends & Family

Last, it’s always possible to source startup funds from those closest to you. Friends and family are interested in not only your business’s success but your own. They want to see you succeed and if they can help be a part of that, then they will invest in that success. While this may not bring a large upfront source of capital, it can help get the business off the ground while you source additional funding for longevity. Keep in mind how you intend to reward these investors. Is it stock options? Equity? Free meals for life? These are details you will need to finalize before pitching your plan. 

Securing Permits and Licensing

10 Bar, Restaurant and Wine Shop Permits & Licenses

Whether your new business is taking over an existing space or building from the ground up, you’ll need to secure certain permits and licenses before you can operate. Here’s a list of 10 essential permits and licenses a food, beverage or retail shop may need to obtain depending on the concept type and/or local city or state regulations. 

  • Business License
  • Food Service License
  • Employee Health Permit
  • Seller’s Permit
  • Resale Permit
  • Liquor License
  • Certificate of Occupancy
  • Sign Permit
  • Dumpster Placement Permit
  • Valet Parking Permit

Building a Menu and Curating Your Shop

The next phase in opening a bar or restaurant is building out your menus. If you’re opening a retail establishment, this is where you’ll focus on curating your product selection. 

Discover more about getting your drinks to look perfect on paper and download the Ultimate Guide to Building a Better Cocktail Menu

Bar & Restaurant Menu

Solidify Your Concept & Audience

In the early stages of developing your bar or restaurant business, you identified your cuisine type and gained an idea of what your menu(s) will look like. In this stage of your business, you’ll need to fully develop recipes for your menu items keeping in mind your overall concept type and target audience. There are a few things to consider when finalizing your menu(s). 

Use a flavor matrix to help guide and diversify your menu offerings

A flavor matrix can help identify gaps when developing a menu. If you have too many menu items in one quadrant, your menu becomes unbalanced and you risk alienating potential customer preferences. 

Engineer your menu for profitability

Engineering your menu for profitability helps identify which menu items to highlight based on their profitability and popularity. The matrix is divided into four quadrants: Stars, Plow Horses, Puzzles, and Dogs. 


Consider the psychology of menu design

Patrons are out to have a good time and your menu should give them plenty of options to choose from, but that doesn't mean you are completely without control when guiding their experience (and their wallet). There have been many studies on the psychology of menu design and how owners can tailor their menus to improve profits. Consider the following when designing your menu. 

  • The Golden Triangle
  • Remove Dollar “$” Signs
  • Write Enticing Descriptions
  • Hire a professional graphic designer with menu design experience

Solidify your concept and curate your store with your target audience in mind

Whether you focus on specialty wine and spirits or solely on craft beer, in this phase of opening your business, you’ll need to seal the deal on your overall concept and direction keeping in mind your target audience. For example, if your target audience is craft beer enthusiasts, you’d put your business at a disadvantage by trying to appeal to domestic beer drinkers. This is where carefully curating your product offerings comes into play. 

Find the right products for your seasonal menus   Refresh your cocktail menu for the upcoming season with new products that will get your regulars to wander from their usual order  

Staffing Your Business

Tips for Attracting and Hiring Staff

Hiring and training staff is one of the final stages of the opening process. There are many elements to consider when interviewing candidates for open positions. But before you can decide on the right person for a role, you’ll need to attract them first. Here are a few tips to help you attract applicants:

  • Write fun, enticing job descriptions
  • Publish job postings on hospitality recruiting websites
  • Emphasize employee benefits, training and career pathing
  • Offer creative incentives or signing bonuses
  • Make it easy to apply online
  • Promote your bar or restaurant’s culture on social media
  • Use your network as leverage and seek out referrals
  • Ensure the interview process is a two-way conversation
  • Analyze and determine emotional, mental and physical ability to perform the job well 
  • Verify credentials, training, past performances and competence
  • Make competitive offers to ensure you hire the top talent
  • Ultimately, hire people you enjoy spending time with

Tips for Training Staff

Once you’ve hired a stellar opening crew, it’s time to train them. While there will inevitably be different experience levels and expectations among staff, getting everyone up to speed on how you intend to operate is important. Here are a few things to consider when training your opening team: 

  • Hold staff orientation and schedule team training sessions ahead of opening day
  • Indoctrinate staff by sharing your mission and business values
  • Develop a recipe for success in the form of a training manual
  • Create a clear organizational structure, with team leads and reports
  • Emphasize the importance of accountability and responsibility
  • Cross-train staff on technologies, equipment and order of business operations
  • Train staff on important safety guidelines, including responsible service when dealing with alcohol
  • Emphasize respect for colleagues and patrons
  • Help them develop soft skills like good communication
  • Educate staff on menus, where you source products from, wine regions, tasting notes and more.
  • Encourage empathy — it’s the key to great hospitality  

Marketing Your New Business

Your dream is now a reality. You’ve set out on the path to open your long-anticipated bar or restaurant. But your potential investors, whether they’re a financial institution or group of individuals, are curious about how you plan to stand out against stiff market competition. What sets your business apart from the rest? That’s where a robust marketing plan can help translate your business idea to investors to secure funding. 

Successful marketing plans cover your brand and brand positioning, define your target market, and detail how your business will attract customers and the marketing initiatives and channels you’ll use to establish a foothold in the market. This guide aims to help you convince both yourself and your investors that you can build an established brand that is prime for growth and a long, successful future. 

Branding and Positioning

This section serves as your chance to wax poetic about your new bar or restaurant! Establish your target market and customer base, highlight your position in the market and include how you intend to stand out from your competitors. 

Elements to include in the branding and positioning section include 

  • Introduce your brand
  • Establish your target market
    • Create your customer personas
  • Highlight your market positioning
    • Perform a competitor analysis (SWOT Analysis)
  • Showcase your brand’s creative assets
    • Logo, logotype and/or logo mark
    • Color scheme
    • Typefaces
    • Illustrative elements for promotional materials
    • Brand flyers, menus, packaging, etc.

Digital and Traditional Marketing Strategies

Now that you’ve introduced your new bar or restaurant brand, and established its target market, marketing positioning and creative assets, it’s time to define your digital marketing strategy. In short, this is how you intend to create brand awareness, drive foot traffic and grow your audience and customer base using online digital marketing tools and channels.

Highlight your digital and traditional marketing strategies in this section 

  • Plans for your website
  • How you will implement SEO
  • Managing review sites like Yelp, Tripadvisor and Google My Business
  • Social media marketing strategy
  • Email marketing strategy
  • Plans for working with or without a PR agency
  • Community engagement tactics
  • Guest engagement tactics
  • Plans for leveraging direct mail, media advertising or print advertising

Marketing Timeline & Budget

Your marketing strategy must include a timeline to track and manage all marketing initiatives. This section should include what always-on marketing campaigns will be marketed, as well as one-off campaigns such as tap takeovers or holiday initiatives. 

Marketing Budget

Your marketing strategy will need a budget. This section will highlight the total cost of your marketing initiatives with specific reference to vendors and channels of distribution and expected return on investment, if applicable.  

Opening Your Bar, Restaurant or Retail Shop

At this point, opening day is in sight. Congratulations! There are only a few more steps before your doors are open and guests are filling seats or stocking up on delicious wine, beer and spirits. Your opening staff is trained and well-equipped to handle the busy days and nights to come. Your equipment is cleaned and ready for use. You’re fully stocked up on inventory and supplies. And you’ve spent the last few weeks aggressively marketing your new business across your digital channels and setting up your Google My Business account so new guests can easily find you. All that’s left to do is turn on the lights and unlock the door. Cheers!

Corey Hines

Career bartender turned Content Marketing Manager at Provi, covering all things beer, wine and spirits.


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