how to start a fast-food restaurant
by Laura-Andreea Voicu

Fast-food restaurants are profitable ventures for many who are considering opening a food business. With a high profit margin and lower costs, this business model can help you succeed in the competitive food industry.

Here’s how to start a fast-food restaurant in ten steps, and what tools and technology you can use to be profitable long-term.

How Profitable Is a Fast-Food Restaurant?

The average fast-food restaurant’s profit margin ranges from 6 to 9%, which is higher than full-service restaurants due to the higher turnover rate, less expensive ingredients, and reduced staff.

So, if you’re thinking of opening a restaurant, a fast-food is one of the most profitable options.

How to Start a Fast-Food Restaurant in 10 Steps

Create a fast-food business plan

The first step to opening any business is writing a comprehensive business plan that will serve as a blueprint and guide you as you cross items off your to-do list.

Base your business plan on the type of fast-food restaurant you want to open because that will inform many of your decisions. Will you follow a counter service model, offer drive-thru, have a dine-in option, or just pick up?

Once you’ve answered these questions, put pen to paper and outline:

  • An overview of your business
  • Target audience
  • Industry and competition analysis
  • Financial analysis
  • Your marketing strategy
  • The team you want to hire
  • Your company policies
  • The suppliers and systems you need

Choose the best location for your fast-food restaurant

Fast-food businesses rely on location just as much as any restaurant. To choose the best location, consider the following factors when outlining your fast-food location strategy:

  • Accessibility and visibility: is your location easy to spot by both pedestrians and drivers? Can they reach it quickly and do they have a place to park their car? Will you need to invest extra money into signage that will make your location more visible?
  • Foot traffic: is the location you’re scouting on a crowded street where people will pass by it any time of the day? Is it located in a popular tourist spot?
  • Competition: how many other fast-food restaurants are in the area? Will your restaurant get drowned out by many other similar ones or will you stand out?
  • Costs: how much do the rent and utilities cost? What other expenses are there?
  • Future growth: is the area in full development? Does it have the potential to expand more in the future?

Secure financing

How much does it cost to start a fast-food restaurant? The average startup cost for a fast-food is $19,815. If you don’t have the money readily available, consider financing options such as:

  • A loan or a grant
  • A credit line
  • Crowdfunding

Get all the licenses and permits you need

To open a successful fast-food business, you need to ensure you’re complying with local rules and regulations. These are the most common licenses and permits you may need:

  • Food service license
  • Business License
  • Employer Identification Number
  • Building and zoning permits
  • Signage permits
  • Alcohol license
  • Music license

They depend on where your restaurant is located and what services you plan to offer. Check local laws before opening the restaurant to the public.

Don’t forget to also get insurance to protect your restaurant, staff, and customers.

Buy the equipment needed to start a fast-food restaurant

How do I set up a fast food shop?

Source: Shutterstock

Without equipment, you can’t start serving customers. Here is a list of the basic equipment you’ll need for your fast-food restaurant:

  • Fryers
  • Ovens
  • Grills
  • Microwaves
  • Toasters
  • Mixers
  • Knives and cutting boards
  • Slicers
  • Display cases
  • Freezers
  • Beverage dispensers
  • Smallwares (cups, plates, cutlery, bowls, napkins, straws)
  • Dishwashers
  • Sinks
  • Cleaning supplies

Use layout design to attract more customers

how to start a fast food business and help it succeed

Source: Shutterstock

Here’s how to start a fast-food restaurant that customers will love just by using purposeful design:

  • Make your entrance look appealing using signage, menu boards, lights, and other decorations.
  • Use red when decorating the interior because it makes customers feel hungry.
  • Play music everywhere, not just at the counter, to make customers feel welcome, but don’t blast it so loud that they can’t hear each other.
  • Ensure customers have enough space to wait in line at the counter without disturbing people who are sitting down.
  • Consider creating a separate line for delivery drivers to pick up orders so it doesn’t interfere with the regular customer flow.

Fast-food menus are all about convenience. The options are usually limited but people can choose menus, combos, and customize their order with sides, extras, and add-ons.

how to start a fast food restaurant

To serve more customers faster and avoid interminable lines, consider implementing a QR code menu that customers can scan to order and pay at the table. You can do that for free by watching the video below:

The best part about a contactless menu, apart from being extremely convenient for the customer, is that you can make changes to it on the spot: add a new menu item, update a price, add a limited-time promo and more.

Design a fast-food menu in minutes… ...and convert it into a QR code to enable customers to order and pay at the table

Choose the tools and technology you need to succeed

From a point-of-sale (POS) to a kitchen display system (KDS), you need to think beyond equipment to the technology you need before opening a fast-casual restaurant.

To minimize costs, find tools that pack as many useful features as possible. For example, the free online ordering system from GloriaFood not only allows you to accept orders online for pickup and delivery but also:

  • Use the same menu for dine-in ordering
  • Allow customers to schedule orders in advance
  • Provides detailed reports to help you improve your business
  • Includes an extensive promotions module with templates you can customize in minutes

You can find a breakdown of all the features here.

Help your fast-food restaurant succeed with the free online ordering system from GloriaFood Boost sales online, and attract new and returning customers

Assemble the perfect team

how to start a fast food restaurant

Source: Shutterstock

Next, take your time building a team of people who are excited to work at your fast-food restaurant, and share your goals and ideals.

Not just that but create a plan that will help you train and retain them. Motivating fast food employees with an attractive salary, benefits, and opportunities for development will help you build a healthy work environment.

Decide on the fast-food marketing strategies you will focus on

Finally, how will you promote your fast-food restaurant? Here are some fast-food marketing techniques to keep in mind as you get started:

  • Build a strong brand including logo, name, colors, and fonts, and keep branding consistent across all platforms.
  • Choose the social media platforms where you want to be active.
  • Decide whether you will promote your fast-food restaurant using billboards or ads in local newspapers.
  • Consider doing search engine optimization (SEO), especially if you also sell your food online. That will help more people find your restaurant on Google.
  • Collaborate with local influencers to promote your restaurant to a new crowd.
  • Attend festivals and events in your area to increase your restaurant’s popularity.

Now, let’s take a closer look at five fast-food marketing tricks that will help you hit the ground running.

How to Run a Successful Fast-Food Restaurant

Get a restaurant website that will help you sell more

If you’re going to sell your food online, your own restaurant website is the best place for that. The website should be designed with conversion optimization in mind.

Instead of hiring an expensive developer to help you create one, you can use the restaurant website generator from GloriaFood to create one yourself in minutes:

You don’t need any prior tech knowledge; you will simply use the drag-and-drop editor to choose and arrange the sections you want your website to contain. The website will be optimized for your cuisine and area, and it comes with online ordering already built-in.

Increase your sales with a fast-food restaurant website optimized for online ordering Generate your own in minutes and start selling your food online in hours

The moment customers access your website, they will be greeted by the See MENU & Order button and be able to place an order in minutes.

How do you run a fast-food restaurant successfully? Get a sales optimized restaurant website

Offer regular promotions and special offers

There’s nothing customers love more than a promotion that can help them get more food for their money or a freebie with a large order.

Implement regular promotions, from percentage discounts to meal bundles and free delivery to attract more customers to your fast-food restaurant.

fast food menu

Here’s how you can use GloriaFood’s promotions module to set up any of these promos and more and display them at the top of your online menu:

Consider offering a secret menu

Fast-food restaurant secret menus are very popular nowadays and with good reason. A secret menu is a dish or a variety of dishes that you don’t advertise or list in your actual menu, thus creating exclusivity and generating buzz.

You can read more about the benefits of a secret menu and how to create one for yourself here.

Send email marketing campaigns to increase customer loyalty

Attracting new customers to your fast-food restaurant is not enough to succeed in this competitive market. You also need to secure their loyalty.

Instead of spending time setting up complicated fast-food marketing campaigns, leave the hard work to us. Try our Autopilot marketing module that enables you to set your email campaigns once and then let them run in the background.

The campaigns are designed to:

  • Encourage second orders
  • Prevent cart abandonment
  • Re-engage clients who haven’t placed an order in a while
Give customers a reason to come back with targeted email campaigns Hook them with impossible-to-resist promotions using our Autopilot module

Implement fast-food social media campaigns to engage with your followers

It’s no secret that social media is a valuable tool for restaurants. Here are some ideas of posts you can use to boost your social media presence on a variety of platforms:

  • Post your daily offers and promotions on Instagram Stories.
  • Shoot behind-the-scenes videos for TikTok.
  • Share secret recipes and cooking tips on Facebook.
  • Create your own Snapchat geofilter to help more people discover your restaurant.

Bottom Line

Learning how to start a fast-food restaurant can seem daunting if you don’t have the necessary information and tools at your disposal. Follow the steps above and you’ll have your fast-food up and running in no time.

photo of GloriaFood blog writer Laura-Andreea Voicu
Laura-Andreea Voicu

Laura-Andreea Voicu is an experienced content writer with a knack for marketing and SEO. She creates guides and resources designed to help restaurants grow their presence online and boost sales.

She has been featured on the Oracle Food and Beverage Blog and wrote for Search Engine Journal, Clutch, Sender, Venngage, Quickbooks, and many more.

Find me on LinkedIn.