This article is for educational purposes and does not constitute legal, employment, or tax advice. For specific advice applicable to your business, please contact a professional.
What do you need to run a quick-service restaurant or commercial kitchen?
After nailing your restaurant business plan, registering your business, acquiring a licence, determining your financing, and finding a location, you’re ready to take the next step and build out your space. But where should you start, and what are your options?
Having a well-equipped, connected, and easy-to-manage restaurant is essential to set up yourself, your staff, and your business for success. According to the Square Future of Restaurant report, 79% of customers say they’d prefer to order via online kiosks rather than directly through staff. Executing that kind of automated, omnichannel strategy requires upfront planning and organising.
Here is the Square checklist for some hardware and tools you may want to consider purchasing to get up and running.
It can be easy to forget these basics when you’re starting out and focused on fine-tuning your restaurant, but planning will help your operations run smoothly while avoiding surprise expenses.
- WiFi: Before you open your doors, ask yourself if WiFi will be used for staff only or if you also want to offer it to customers to connect.
- Computer/tablet: While you can do plenty of business management from your phone, it’s helpful to have a computer or tablet available for larger projects.
- Basics (pens/paper/staplers/clips): Like many of these tools, buying bulk and budgeting ahead can help save on future costs.
- Cleaning supplies: Items such as bins, bin bags, brooms, mops, and disinfectant wipes will help your restaurant maintain cleanliness to attract customers.
- Business bank account and necessary documentation
You might not need a traditional break room but consider spaces dedicated to your staff. Giving employees an area to unwind with amenities — even small ones like comfortable chairs and a stocked fridge — is a nice step towards attracting and retaining talent.
- Break room: You can get creative here, and employees are likely to appreciate the perk.
- Filing cabinet and safe: You might not require space for tracking physical documents or providing security for specific items at your restaurant, but both can be helpful tools as you’re getting started.
- First aid kit
Kitchen equipment: Operations, shelving, storage, and food preparation
Specific kitchen tools will vary depending on the type and size of your restaurant, but this essential list can help you get started. For more significant expenses, such as ovens, consider if it makes more sense to track down used equipment or if it’s worth investing more money in something new.
- Prep counters and cutting boards
- Safety tools (first aid, fire prevention)
- Storage space, shelving, and containers
- Cooking equipment (pots, pans, utensils, bowls, towels)
- Sinks/washing equipment
Restaurants with revenue streams outside of the core business — such as subscriptions, grocery options, or meal kits — say that an average of 17% of revenue comes from those offerings. Consider what additional items you might need to run the essential elements of your restaurant and what tools could help you with diverse revenue streams.
- Food processors
- Ice machine
- Coffee maker
- Steam table
- Takeout supplies
- Cleaning supplies
- Floor mats
Dining room operations
Quick-service restaurants have plenty of flexibility regarding dining-in options for customers, and some businesses have found traditional dining rooms unnecessary. If you have a dining area for customers, cover the basics to start and then see what else is within your budget.
- Servingware (dishes, glasses, utensils, linens)
While both seating and uniforms are optional for a small commercial kitchen, consider how they fit into your financial planning and your vision for the brand and feel of your restaurant.
- Staff attire/uniforms
Restaurant point-of-sale (POS) system
Whether it’s a stand for your tablet, a small mobile terminal, or a full register, your point-of-sale system is so much more than a tool for the essential task of processing payments. The best POS nails the basics while streamlining administrative tasks and tracking everything from sales reporting to customer engagement to inventory management. Here’s how to get started choosing the one for you.
- POS hardware
- KDS: An efficient kitchen display system helps organise and fulfil orders, syncing front-of-house and back-of-house operations. It can be a good investment, especially if you’re offering food.
- Retail station (to-go goods, merchandise): More customers want options when visiting businesses. Having a dedicated station for your to-go items can help drive more attention to that revenue source.
- QR code printouts: QR codes have become a leader in the way customers order and pay, improving the overall guest experience and a business’s bottom line.
- Receipt printer
Your food and service quality will play a large role in creating repeat customers, but people also connect with restaurants because of the space itself. Consider what design elements will align with your brand and what additional touches are within your budget.
- Lighting: Your lighting choices can affect your business, including setting the right mood and guiding customers to specific areas of your space.
- Signage: Signage inside and outside your restaurant can guide customers while also acting as another branding opportunity.
Have the budget to amplify your space a bit more? Small things can make a huge difference in retaining customers.
Creating a welcoming environment and friendly experience for customers ultimately means repeat business from a loyal customer base, and helps businesses grow through word of mouth and referrals. As Foam café owner Gerald Arbuckle puts it, “customers really buy into the lifestyle more than just the coffee”.
While physical marketing tools aren’t essential items for your restaurant business, you should consider whether they’re useful for the business you’re starting and if they fit inside your budget. While digital marketing can be highly effective, a new restaurant can get a boost from these items.
- Business cards
- Stickers, pens, and small giveaways
- Branded merch, including shirts, tote bags, and hats