Restaurants are wonderful placemaking businesses and one of the most traditional ways of entering into the food service industry. If you own another type of food business, whether that be a mobile food business, a catering business, a food manufacturing business, or even participating in farmers markets, opening a restaurant can be a way to expand your operations and create a place for your customers to come and sit and further enjoy your food and drink.

The guide below will help you navigate the through the different steps as you start or grow your restaurant. Our FAQ Page may also help answer some of your questions as you navigate through the different steps.

What is a restaurant?

  • A place where people pay to sit and eat meals that are cooked and served on premises and may offer take out and/or delivery
  • A café in a brick and mortar location that serves coffee, tea, juice drinks, prepared food items and/or pastries 
  • A bar that serves alcholic drinks and cooks and serves meals on premises
  • A quick-service brick and mortar location that has limited to no seating and cooks and serves meals on premises or for takeout only

Steps for Opening or Expanding a Restaurant

Start by developing a business plan. Visit our Business Planning page for helpful resources. 

Do your market research: 

State of Washington Business License

City of Seattle Business License

  • If operating in Seattle, every business in Seattle is required to have a City of Seattle business license. Apply online, in person or by mail.
  • If operating outside of the City of Seattle, other City specific business license may be required. Check with each City individually for this requirement. 

Visit our Location Matters page for different resources on how to research locations and items to consider when looking at a space. Location can have a big impact on your restaurant's success - including how long it takes to open your doors. Finding the right location requires careful planning and research and it will pay off in the long run.

Make sure to look at the Location Selection Worksheet to see helpful questions to ask and consider when looking at potential spaces. 

Items to consider when looking at potential spaces include but are not limited to: (more details on the items listed below can be found on the Location Matters page)

  • Land use and zoning
  • Parking
  • Waterfront
  • Historic locations
  • Outdoor Seating
  • Serving alcohol
  • Maximum occupancy
  • Sprinklers and fire alarm systems
  • "Substantial" renovations
  • Barrier- free accessibility / ADA compliance
  • Kitchen exhaust systems
  • Noise
  • Grease treatment grease traps or interceptors)
  • Solid waste management (garbage, recycling, compost)
  • Adequate utility services
  • Hazards
  • Ways to green your business

Visit our Restaurant Permitting page and State Specialty Restaurant Licensing page to learn about all the different permits and other licenses your restaurant may need which include:

  • Permanent Food Service Business Permit - Public Health - Seattle & King County (PHSKC)
  • Land use, construction, outdoor seating / patio areas on private property and trade permits  - Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI)
  • Sprinklers, fire alarms and assembly permits - Seattle Fire Department (SFD)
  • Signs, awnings and outdoor seating permits in the public right-of-way - Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT)
  • Retail liquor licenses - Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB)
  • Lottery retailer license - Washington State Lottery (WSL)
  • Cigarette retailer license - Washington State Business Licensing Services (WSBLS)
  • Gambling license - Washington State Gambling Commission (WSGC)

Once all permits have been approved and construction has been completed, final inspections need to be scheduled. Visit our Final Prep page for the details on how to prepare for and schedule final inspections.

If you plan on hiring employees, learn more about how you need to register, train and keep your employees safe by visiting our Final Prep page.

Congratulations! You're ready to open! Visit our You're in Business page to keep up to date with your ongoing business obligations.

Economic Development

Markham McIntyre, Director
Address: 700 5th Ave, Suite 5752, Seattle, WA, 98104
Mailing Address: PO Box 94708, Seattle, WA, 98124-4708
Phone: (206) 684-8090
Phone Alt: (206) 684-0379
Fax: (206) 684-0379

Newsletter Updates


Sign up for the latest updates from Economic Development

The mission of the Office of Economic Development (OED) is to help create healthy businesses, thriving neighborhoods, and community organizations to contribute to a robust economy that will benefit all Seattle residents and future generations.