How to Start a Buffet Restaurant

Buffet restaurants typically serve food in an all-you-can-eat manner. Food is spread out on buffet tables and customers serve themselves, paying a flat price to eat however much food they choose on their visit. Buffets are popular across the country in cities large and small, and are especially popular with families and small groups, since they can eat heartily for a sensible price. If you are considering starting a restaurant, a buffet may be the ideal venture for you.

  1. 1.

    Target a niche, or type of food you will serve, for your buffet restaurant, such as pizza, home style or comfort food, vegan cuisine, or a soup and salad bar. Build your menu around your chosen niche.

  2. 2.

    Write a business plan, including five-year expense budget and profit projections; marketing and public relations strategies; analysis of competing buffet restaurants in your niche.

  3. 3.

    Contact your state's health department to find out what permits you will need to start a food business. Depending on where you live, this may include food handler permits, a food enterprise license or food manager certification.

  4. 4.

    Obtain the business permits you will need from your city to operate a restaurant, such as a sales and use tax permit, Employer Identification Number or fictitious name certificate.

  5. 5.

    Buy or lease a building for your buffet restaurant. The amount of space you will need depends on how many patrons you wish for your restaurant to hold at once. Ensure there will be enough room for customers and staff to navigate the buffet lines and be seated comfortably.

  6. 6.

    Hire enough staff for your buffet restaurant, including servers for the buffet lines, hosts and hostesses and chefs. Ensure they are familiar with your menu and restaurant layout, which is key to efficiently serving restaurant patrons.

  7. 7.

    Browse classified ads to find quality, discounted furniture from other restaurants and delis that are going out of business. Doing so can save you considerably more money than paying full retail for your furnishings.

  8. 8.

    Purchase wholesale supplies, such as napkins, utensils and serving ware, as opposed to paying retail. To get a wholesale discount, you will likely be required to buy in bulk, but you will still save money in the long run.

  9. 9.

    Utilize local produce and ingredient suppliers whenever possible to cut down on shopping costs and provide your customers with the freshest food possible.

  10. 10.

    Promote your buffet restaurant. Place ads on the websites of your local news stations, buy radio advertisement spots, send news releases to media outlets in your city and consider offering discounts to groups, such as seniors, families with young children, veterans and active duty military members.