So you want to get into the food business, but don’t have the money to get yourself started. It seems like a daunting task, but with a little effort, there are definitely ways to open a restaurant with no money.
Opening a business is almost always a big risk, and restaurants are no exception — according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, of the foodservice establishments opened in 2015, less than 60% were still open by March 2020, even before the pandemic hit the U.S. But if you’ve got a solid concept and you’re willing to put some work into it, it’s more than possible for you to open a successful restaurant, even if you’re starting with nothing.
Unfortunately, the reality is that you can’t just open a restaurant with zero dollars. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t several ways to get the funding you need to open your dream restaurant.
In this article, we’ll teach you how to open a restaurant with no money.
1. Find some potential investors
One of the quickest ways you could generate the money needed to start your own restaurant would be to find someone who would be willing to put down capital and help you get started.
Maybe you have some friends or family who could help you. You could also ask a business connection, such as a colleague or former colleague. It can definitely be difficult to ask somebody you know for money, but oftentimes people will have the desire to see you become successful.
An important thing to keep in mind when taking this route is that money can put your personal relationships in jeopardy. If you want to ask someone you know for money, make sure they understand that it is an investment and that it may all be lost.
Don’t guarantee success to them, because you never know what could happen. Small businesses fail all too often, and if you promise someone that yours will be successful and it turns out not to be, you could ruin your relationship, and even your reputation.
If you don’t personally know anybody with the money or the willingness to help, peer-to-peer investment networks may present a solution. These networks will connect people or groups looking to make investments with small businesses looking for investors.
2. Get a Bank Loan
A slower but more traditional way of sourcing money to open a restaurant is a small business loan from a bank or other financial institution. The process of qualifying for a bank loan can be difficult — you have to prove to the bank that your business will be worth an investment, and that you’ll be able to pay off that loan at a later date.
Qualifying for a small business loan from a bank will also generally require you to have a good credit score and a solid business plan, so make sure you have those assets before you attempt to apply. Merely having a general idea of how you envision your restaurant won’t be enough for most banks, so make your plans meticulously detailed.
When you’re offered a business loan, it’s also important that you take a close look at the terms. Take a look at options when it comes to interest rates, collateral, and so on. You don’t want to get trapped by accepting a loan that you eventually cannot pay back, especially if your restaurant doesn’t take off.
Unfortunately, if you’re trying to start a food business with no money, you may have debt or another limiting factor that prevents you from receiving a bank loan, or a bank loan with an acceptable interest rate. If that’s the case for you, keep moving down the list and exploring other options.
In the digital age, crowdfunding has become a popular way to raise money for a variety of causes, from charities to creative projects to personal expenses. It can be a great resource if you’re trying to open a restaurant with no money.
There are several crowdfunding sites to choose from, each with their own terms and conditions. GoFundMe is a popular option for business expenses, and there are other crowdfunding sites, such as EquityNet, that focus specifically on crowdfunding money for businesses. Survey your options, and choose a crowdfunding site that seems to best suit your restaurant’s needs.
Crowdfunding campaigns often incentivize donors to contribute by giving them something in return. In the case of a restaurant, you could offer donors a free meal at opening, or a similar promotion. Not only can this drive more donations to your restaurant crowdfunding campaign, but more people eating at your restaurant can help spread the word once it’s open.
If you do choose to crowdfund, it’s important that you get the word out! Share your fundraiser far and wide through social media channels like Twitter, Facebook, or even Reddit, and ask friends and family to do the same.
The more people that see it, the more potential donors you’ve reached. To reach more donors, ask your friends and acquaintances in the area to share the link, or try posting QR code links around town. Get creative with it!
Your best bet for finding crowdfunding donors on a traditional site like GoFundMe is going to be the community surrounding your restaurant’s potential location. They’re the ones who are going to get to try your fresh idea, so make sure they can chip in.
4. Get a Government Loan or Grant
The U.S. government loves to encourage investment and small businesses, and so do states and municipalities. At the federal level, the U.S. Small Business Administration offers loan programs to help small business owners with financial needs. They also have a lender match program that pairs businesses with private lenders who may be able to help.
Most states and some cities also have programs to give loans or grants to those looking to start businesses. Take the time to research and see if your state has any options that could help you.
Grants.gov is a database of federal grants that are available to kickstart funding for businesses and organizations. Many of the grants listed there are reserved for nonprofits, so it may be hard to find something that a restaurant may qualify for, but look up “restaurants” in the search bar to see if you can find any you qualify for.
5. Look for Angel Investors
If you’re feeling lucky, you could always try reaching to the heavens for some money… or just look into some angel investors.
Traditionally, angel investors are wealthy individuals who will invest in startup businesses, usually in exchange for equity (think Shark Tank). There are some well-known angel investors who have invested in hundreds of new businesses, and if you think you’ve got a great idea, it might be worth reaching out to one of them.
If you do reach out to an angel investor, make sure you’ve got a great sales pitch for your restaurant. Foodservice businesses are high-risk investments, and that may make it difficult to sell someone on it.
These days, there are also angel investor websites that provide capital out to emerging businesses. One such site is ClearAngel. The Angel Investment Network is another site that helps connect entrepreneurs to angel investors who may be interested in their business.
Reduce Operating Costs
Every part of running a business comes with a monetary cost and mapping out your operations will give you a good idea of just how much money you’ll need. Be sure to research all of the components of common restaurant startup costs.
As a business owner, you’ll want to make things as cost-efficient as possible. One of the most expensive parts of running a business is labor — and unless you plan on doing everything for your restaurant by yourself, you’re going to need to pay others.
Luckily for you, there are easy options to cut down on staffing costs. Self-ordering restaurant kiosks will allow for customers to place orders themselves, eliminating the need for front-of-house staff at your restaurant. They also put the customer in complete control of their order, eliminating any mistakes that a server might make and increasing customer satisfaction.
Combine the kiosks with a digital kitchen display system, and you can eliminate the need for paper tickets. This will also ensure that orders get from the point-of-sale to the kitchen instantly, maximizing your restaurant’s speed.
Instead of printing paper menus, you can also use digital menu boards. Not only will you save money, but these digital menus allow you to change the menu instantly, when necessary. Whether you want to fix a spelling error or add a brand-new item to the menu, a digital menu board will allow you to do it in seconds.
All of this tech is designed to cut down on costs and increase your restaurant’s speed and efficiency. It can also help you set your restaurant apart from the competition by providing better and faster service, increasing your customers’ satisfaction. It’s the 21st century, so make use of all the technology you can!
Other Considerations for Opening a Restaurant
As you prepare to open your restaurant, you’ll also need to secure some restaurant licenses and permits so you’re legally allowed to do business. Required permits vary, in both type and cost, based on your location.
Once you’ve got these plans in place and your licenses secured, don’t forget to promote your restaurant before it opens! If you want to draw a crowd on opening day, you’ll need to do plenty of restaurant promotions before then.
Once you set up your business plan and use one of the above methods to find your funding, you’ll be well on your way to making your dream restaurant a reality.
There are several routes you can take to get funding when trying to start a restaurant with no money. Some of these will work better than others — you might even need to combine multiple funding methods before you’ve got enough money to start your business.
Even if the process gets tough, don’t let it discourage you. Thousands of entrepreneurs have gone from having no startup money to running successful businesses, both big and small. If you put enough work into your search, you’re sure to find the funding you need to make your dream restaurant a reality.