How to Start a Restaurant

Pre-Application Checklist

Review of this checklist should be your first step as you begin to think about starting or buying a restaurant. It identifies important planning and operational issues to help you determine if and how you want to proceed with opening your own restaurant. When you can answer each question on this checklist, you should be ready to proceed with your planning.

Contact a Small Business case manager for assistance - 415-554-6134

Other restaurant resources: Top Ten Tips for Starting a Restaurant in SF

Project Name:

Proposed Project Address:

Proposed number of seats of restaurant at site:

Business Planning

qð Completed business plan
qð Pre-opening funding:
qð Post-opening funding:
qð Construction budget:
qð Contingency budget:

Use Permits (contact City Planning Department for definitions)
Type of use (check all that apply)
qð Full service restaurant
qð Small, self-service restaurant
qð Large, fast food restaurant
qð Formula retail. Does the business or franchise already have 11 or more locations in the United States?

Current Use
qð Vacant restaurant. Unoccupied for low long?
qð Existing legal restaurant. In operation for how long?
qð Non-restaurant site. Current tenant occupying site for how long?

Site Zoning - Have you received approval from City Planning for your restaurant?
qð Yes
qð No

Occupancy - If applicable, indicate the current number of allowable seats (must be confirmed by DBI and Fire Departments)
qð 49 or fewer (see Table 1016 of the 2007 CA Building Code to explain occupancy)
qð 50 or more
qð Seating square footage:
qð Number of exits and location of these exits:

Building Permits, Title 24 Disabled Access and Other Construction Requirements

Building type (will help determine construction requirements/limitations and other important building requirements)
qð Single Story
qð Multi-story with restaurant on first floor
qð Multi-story with restaurant above first floor
qð Special District (Historical)

qð Existing kitchen needs to be replaced
qð Certain kitchen equipment needs to be replaced: List equipment:
qð Existing hood has filters
qð Facility is adequate for fire suppression (verified by a Licensed C-16 Contractor)
qð No change in the existing kitchen is planned

Waste Disposal
qð Site includes an accessible, designated outdoor area for trash containers

qð Adequate for Occupancy
qð Title 24 Disabled Access compliant. You have been provided with City-approved reference drawings.

Site Disability Access (see CA Building Code Title 24)
qð Full Title 24 Disabled Access compliant
qð Partially compliant
qð Not compliant


Electric power
qð Existing adequate for use
qð Upgrade needed

qð Existing adequate for use
qð Upgrade needed

qð Existing adequate for use
qð Upgrade needed

Operational Permits (check permits you may need)

Liquor License
qð New liquor license
qð License transfer. If applicable, list constraints:
qð Beer, Wine, and Food (Type 41 License)
qð Beer, Wine, Distilled Liquor, and Food (Type 47 License)

Entertainment License
qð Place of Entertainment permit. Indicate type of entertainment (live, DJs, other):
qð Extended Hours Premises permit (2-6 AM)

Public Assembly Permit (required when the occupant load is 50 or more)
qð Hours of Operation:
qð Approved plan with verification of occupant load (from Fire Department)

Parking Permits
qð On-site parking
qð Valet
qð DPT/Color Curb Program
qð No parking arrangements required

qð Business License (required)
qð Open Flame permit (candles, torches etc.)
qð Outdoor Seating permit
qð Permit/license to Operate a Restaurant (required)



Small Business Assistance Center, City Hall, Room 110, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, San Francisco, CA 94102
Phone: 415-554-6134 Office Hours: M-F, 8 AM - 5 PM