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How to Start a Steakhouse Restaurant

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Steak, broiled to a crisp brown crust on the outside and succulent on the inside, is the main event for a steakhouse. Restaurants in the United States formed a $660.5 billion dollar industry as of 2013, according to the National Restaurant Association. Get your serving of that market for your steakhouse restaurant.

Pick the Type of Steakhouse

Steakhouses come in a variety of venues. The cowboy steakhouse is rough and tumble, with wood floors, rustic chairs and tables, Old West accessories and big slabs of meat at family-friendly prices. Chicago-style steakhouses have deep leather chairs, a laid-back atmosphere, private banquets and reasonable prices. An upscale steakhouse has elegant furnishings, white tablecloths, an extensive wine list and high prices. Your choice of style of steakhouse impacts the menu, pricing and décor.

Develop the Menu

Of course, steak is on the menu, but it's not the only item. Diners will most likely expect appetizers, salads and sides. Include chicken dishes, seafood, pork and perhaps a pasta dish or two for those who want a change of pace or don't like steak. A menu for seniors or early-bird diners is an option to fill the steakhouse restaurant before the main rush. Desserts and specialty drinks are high-margin choices. Before completing the menu, cost out each item. The cost of food should be between 30 and 35 percent of the menu price. Alcoholic beverages have a cost of about 20 to 30 percent. Beer and wine can be somewhat tricky to price. Diners know what their favorite bottle of wine or beer costs at the store and may balk at paying more than three times what they could buy it for there.

Acquire Furniture, Fixtures and Equipment

The size of the facility and the type of steakhouse determine what you'll need. Every restaurant requires tables, chairs, lighting, linens, dishes, glassware, utensils and kitchen appliances, however. A steakhouse may also need a grill, heavy-duty exhaust system and, if the grill's wood burning, a supply of wood. If aged prime beef is a specialty, you'll need a refrigerated meat locker.

Line Up Vendors

Find suppliers for the meat, vegetables, staples and other food items as well as for furniture and incidentals you may have to replace more often than once a year, such as glasses and dishes. Restaurant-quality equipment is pricey. If your budget doesn't allow for brand-new equipment, consider secondhand equipment in good working order.

Obtain Licensing and Registration

Obtain a business license, sales tax license and liquor license. Each person who handles the food may need to take a food handler's test. Some cities require special licensing for disposing of waste and exhaust fumes from cooking. An occupancy license may be another requirement. The health department will inspect the restaurant on a regular basis. Register the business with the appropriate city and state offices.

Hire the Staff

A gourmet steakhouse requires an executive chef and a knowledgeable waitstaff that can explain the different menu items. The finest upscale restaurants need a wine sommelier. A cowboy steakhouse doesn't need the experienced waitstaff but does need employees who make the dining experience fun for the customers. The number of kitchen and waitstaff personnel you need depends on the type of steakhouse, its size and its hours.


Brian Hill is the author of four popular business and finance books: "The Making of a Bestseller," "Inside Secrets to Venture Capital," "Attracting Capital from Angels" and his latest book, published in 2013, "The Pocket Small Business Owner's Guide to Business Plans."

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