How to Write a Business Plan for a Restaurant You Won’t Regret or Resent 10 Years from Now

Oct 31, 2023
Chef Daniel Humm and Alison Arth speaking onstage for Synergy Series Dialogue


Our profession was one of the hardest hit by Covid. During the pandemic, restaurants did whatever they needed to do to survive, and that was exactly right. It was exhausting, frustrating, scary, and stressful…and if you’re like most of our clients, you’re probably still feeling that way.


Do you feel like you had to treat your business like Mr. Potato Head, constantly moving various pieces around trying to meet the ever changing moment? 


You are not alone.

Acute pandemic circumstances paired with the re-evaluation that Covid invited about what really matters (and what really doesn't) has left so many hospitality leaders like you feeling detached from a sense of purpose.

If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, you might be feeling a call to action to create a more purposeful model for restaurants by opening a new business.

If you already own a restaurant, you might feel like your business doesn’t really fit you anymore, or maybe that inner calling for experiencing more meaning in your day-to-day work is getting too loud to ignore.

In either case, writing a business plan can be an incredibly powerful tool for getting clear on your vision, its viability, and exactly how you intend to bring it to life.

At Salt & Roe, we think returning to “business as usual” could be the most disastrous outcome of all on the other side of these incredibly challenging pandemic years because the business model and cultural norms we went into Covid with were begging to be disrupted.

If you feel that same call to disrupt industry norms and present a new vision for what a purpose-driven hospitality business might look like, we have a business plan template to help you do exactly that.


I recently interviewed Chef Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park in New York City and was deeply inspired by his story of reinventing one of the most decorated fine-dining restaurants in the world.

With a reputation for serving caviar, duck, and lobster on every tasting menu, Chef Humm disrupted cultural expectations to transform EMP into a completely plant-based concept.

Alongside crippling fear and uncertainty, lockdown gave Daniel the opportunity to investigate the restaurant's food sourcing practices, reconnect with creativity, and do deeply meaningful work preparing 8,000 meals per day for food insecure New Yorkers.

When given the opportunity to reopen by Eleven Madison Park's landlord, Daniel knew he couldn't bring the same restaurant back.

He couldn’t unsee the brokenness of our food system, and he anticipated that reviving the old model of EMP would generate the feelings of emptiness that had flooded him in the wake of being awarded the #1 spot on the coveted World’s 50 Best Restaurants list.

Feeding NYC’s 99% instead of its 1% had reminded him what it feels like to do truly purposeful work. He shared that while winning awards and stars is a powerful motivator, those decorations generate depression and burnout if they aren’t tied to a grounding purpose.

This massive transition from traditional, luxurious fine-dining to a paradigm-shifting, plant-based dining experience has opened up a whole new set of peaks to climb, but doing hard work and meeting big challenges when they’re all tied to a deep sense of personal purpose is radically different than enduring the grind for the sake of the grind. It’s energizing instead of depleting.


Feeling a sense of purpose in your work is the antidote to resentment and regret.


Chef Humm is a powerful model of what you already know to be true: if you find yourself resenting or regretting your work as a leader, it is your responsibility to get clear on your purpose and reorient your operation to align with it.

Whether you’re reinventing an existing business or opening a new one, it is essential to work to build it on a solid foundation that answers the question, “Why does this restaurant matter?”

At Salt & Roe, answering that question is part of our process for naming a clear and compelling purpose that’s baked into your business plan, and we’ve developed a simple to use plug-and-play business plan template for under $100 that guides you step-by-step in doing so.

Our goal isn’t just to support you in opening a profitable business. Our goal is to support you in opening a profitable business that you’ll still be in love with, energized by, and proud of a decade from now.


First and foremost, business plans are guiding lights for leaders.

At Salt & Roe, we believe the primary purpose of drafting a business plan is for you to gain clarity on the underlying purpose, credibility, and operational scope of your business venture.

If you’re creating a new hospitality concept (or you already own or lead one, and it needs a reset!), this foundational work is an essential step for getting your ideas out of your head and onto the page in an organized manner that effectively communicates your vision and makes a strong business case for why it should be realized.


In other words, drafting a business plan is the equivalent of a restaurateur doing their homework.


Five less obvious questions that might be on your mind and can be answered by a great business plan are:

  1. What is your role within the business? What does your job need to look like to ensure that you feel excited and energized by your work today, tomorrow, and 10 years from now? 
  2. What values is your business committed to? How will these commitments shape your actions and decisions?
  3. Why should your business exist? What is its underlying purpose and the impact you hope it to make on your own life, your team, your guests, and your broader community? 
  4. Does your business generate the financial outcomes required to offer jobs and investor returns that are compelling, equitable, and sustainable? 
  5. In what ways might your business bring prosperity beyond profitability?

Launching a thoughtful, economically viable hospitality business is hard. It should be! It’s a huge commitment and an immense responsibility. But here’s the good news…you don’t have to do it alone.

WHO SHOULD WRITE A BUSINESS PLAN FOR A RESTAURANT? (hint: business plans are not only for openings)

We can’t create what we can’t see. The act of writing a business plan is ultimately an act of detailed visioning.

A business plan documents the experiential, conceptual, financial, operational, and structural objectives for your business (most often a new one, but not always) and the strategies for achieving them. In its finished form, a business plan is a robust and powerful tool for sharing both the creative idea and the business case behind it with internal and external partners.

If you are a current or aspiring entrepreneur and you check any of these boxes:

  • You want to open an intentional, profitable, purpose-driven restaurant and you don't know where to start
  • You already own or lead a hospitality business and you aren't feeling connected to it and aren't sure how to evolve it in the direction of a new vision
  • You want to grow your restaurant group with a new concept that offers both financial and human sustainability

…writing a business plan could be the critically clarifying next step you need to take towards opening a successful new concept or resetting an existing one.


Step 1: Choose the Best Business Plan Template for Restaurants

If you’re thinking to yourself, “I would love to dig into writing a business plan for my restaurant, but…

  • I have no clue what’s supposed to be in it!”
  • I’m a terrible writer!”
  • I was never a good student and this feels like a big homework assignment!”
  • There aren’t any templates online specifically for restaurants!”
  • I’m worried that what I create won’t be complete or look professional!”

We hear you loud and clear, and we’ve got your back. Salt & Roe’s Business Plan Template was created specifically for hospitality entrepreneurs looking to create a financially sustainable business that also feeds their soul and serves their team and community.

And, we’ve done a lot of the heavy-lifting for you. Our template reflects our experience supporting over 50 restaurant openings across the country.

Our editable Google Document template includes:

  • All 12 sections you need to create a complete, thorough, and polished business plan, including Target Market Analysis, Competitive Research, Opening Timeline, Team, Marketing & Public Relations, and an overview of required Financial Projections...just to name a few
  • Pre-populated copy that borrows from our professional writing experience and sets you up to thoughtfully edit and add content that produces a personalized business plan without having to start from scratch
  • Detailed instructions and tips for writing a brilliant business plan
  • A comprehensive PDF guide that explains exactly how to customize this template for your business and offers suggestions for other supportive pre-opening resources like a Pitch Deck Template and Pre-Opening Critical Path, based on our decades of experience opening successful hospitality businesses

If you’re craving even more details, give this 90 second video from my partner, Kimberly, a watch to learn how our work can best support you in doing yours.

Alison Arth writing a restaurant business plan

Photo captured by Julia Ngo of Eloquent Co.

Step 2: Invite Collaboration & Critical Feedback

Remember, the goal of this work is to demonstrate (first and foremost to yourself) that your beautiful, compelling vision is also a sound business model.


That said, just because it’s your dream doesn’t mean the numbers work.


Unless you have a legal and accounting background, you’ll likely need to invite some strategic partners to the table to support you with:

  • Determining the best business structure for your concept
  • Structuring investor terms if you choose to raise outside investment to fund your project 
  • Developing essential financial documents like: a pro forma financial statement for the first 5 years of operations, a capital requirements budget, and a breakeven analysis

Get your attorney and accountant involved as early as possible. A one-hour conversation today can save you a lot of heartache down the road if you’re able to address a whole host of questions that aren’t in your area of expertise upfront.

Collecting input from counsel serves to pressure test your business idea before you actually start spending time and money to open a restaurant that hasn’t been vetted, and so does soliciting feedback from trusted colleagues and industry vets.

When your business plan feels complete, share it with people who are experts in areas that you’re not. Accept critical feedback from friends and mentors who have been in your shoes, and when receiving their wisdom, remember that it can be hard to see the picture when you’re inside the frame.

Step 3: Get the Lay of the Land & Consider Investing in Support Before You Put Pen to Paper

If you’re opening your first restaurant, I highly encourage you to download our How to Open a Restaurant ebook. This completely free resource looks under the hood of the often elusive process of opening a restaurant and shows you the ins and outs from start to finish so you know exactly where you’re headed.

If you’re looking to open or reboot a purpose-driven restaurant and you want to take ownership of your responsibility as a business owner to make an intentional and complete plan for success, Salt & Roe’s Business Plan Template ($95) might be the next right step.

If all of the above is true, and you’re also planning to pitch investors and could use guidance on covering all of your pre-opening bases once you’re funded, take a look at our How to Open a Restaurant Toolkit ($995), which includes our ebook and Business Plan Template, as well as a polished Pitch Deck Template, Pre-Opening Critical Path Template (basically a giant, sequenced to-do list that ensures you won’t miss any steps), and a Guide to Hospitality & Service Template that supports you in opening an irresistible hospitality concept that generates prosperity and purpose for you, your team, your guests, and your community, from day one.

If you’re longing to do work, lead a team, and own a hospitality business that actually supports your values and your vision for your life rather than pushing against them, and you’re looking for personalized coaching support to get there, we got you there too.

Our 6 month Business Development Program gives you the time, space, and experienced thought partnership you long for to connect with your creative vision and put one foot in front of the other to make progress in your business (whether it already exists or you’re looking to bring it to life) in a way that you’re proud of.

It is an undeniable truth that no amount of business planning can reveal exactly how you’re going to relate to your business 2, 5, or 10 years down the line. That said, intentional business planning makes longevity for a business and sustainability in leading it significantly more likely.

In a nutshell, it IS possible to open and grow a profitable restaurant business that you don’t regret or resent, but it won’t happen by accident. Long-term success requires intentional planning that is rooted in a meaningful sense of purpose and supported by comprehensive preparation.

You got this. And we got you.

Behind you,

We've been called wise big sisters and restaurant whisperers. 
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