How to: Open a Restaurant in Italy

Stefano here. Today I am going to introduce the first guest post and my colleague Monica. She’s manage the start up of a very successful restaurant franchising in Italy, now expanding all around Europe. Monica is an engineer by training, a financial officer by experience and an heavy fighter when it comes to deal with the bureaucracy.

Me and Monica have worked on various companies together, so it was natural to write a post together. “How to open a restaurant in Italy” is not only the first post on the catering industry, but also the very first of (we hope) many “how to” guide on doing business in Italy. Enjoy!

Stefano Tresca

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What better place to start a restaurant than Italy?  No matter as many restaurants are on the market, there is always business for that special one. Italians love to dine out, although this is reduced in time of economic crisis, and millions of tourists come to Italy every month to enjoy a full Italian experience: monuments, lifestyle and – of course – food.

Location Location Location But …

The first rule to open a successful restaurant is to pick the right location. This is true all around the world, and particularly in Italy. Pick a place near a monument and the success is (almost) guaranteed.

Real estate agent in Italy

If you are unfamiliar with the area consider hiring a real estate agent, who can provide inside and show to the landlord that you are not a naive foreigners. Italy is a welcoming culture, however some Italians still tend to see a foreigners as a rich individual to exploit on the short run.

Downtown is great but tricky

Down-towns are usually beautiful and also the preferred destination of locals and tourists. However they came with a price: Ancient monuments mean usually no car parks whereas picturesque streets mean low space and high rent. Don’t wait that the restaurant is open to set the menu, do it at the very beginning and project what your revenue is going to be over the next 1, 3 and 5 years. If you can’t afford downtown, you can always find a good place in a growing suburb, but you should know it now.

More on the revenue projection

In order to project your revenue you should calculate the average income for lunch and dinner and multiply for 7 days a week, right? Wrong.

In Italy many restaurant are open only for dinner during the week, and sunday only for lunch. If you are in an historical city they probably open for lunch – because the high traffic of tourist – but monday they can be closed for dinner. Customs change from region to region, from city to city and sometimes from neighbour to neighbour. Italian restaurants have a “Giorno di chiusura” (i.e. “Monday we are closed”), “Giorno di riposo” (such us “every two months we close for 1 week”), “Chiuso per turno” (such us “I am in a network of four local restaurants and each of us take one weekend off every four”) and more.

You can decide to work 7 days a week of course, and this is quite common for take away pizza or kebab (the latest now very popular in Italy). But remember to scout before you start your venture and sign a lease. Habits can hold local customer to go out for instance Monday night, and if the museum are closed a specific day of the week you are going to miss the tourists. There is an ancient quote “In Rome do as the Romans do”, so before signing any lease: go around, eat in the existing restaurant, mix yourself with locals and tourists, and you will never regret.

Licenses, Permits and legal compliance for an Italian restaurant.

In the next posts we will check permit and licence and see how to buy a ready made restaurant. Legal compliance is particularly tricky, because everybody want to have a say: City Council, Health Office, Chamber of Commerce, Tax Agency, just to mention a few. It can be frustrating but there a quite a few hundred thousands restaurant in Italy and many are profitable. If they made it, you can make it too.

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7 Responses

  1. Hi Stefano!

    Can you please elaborate on street vending activity in Italy and how one can sell beverages at tourist spots or beaches legally.

    Thanks! Abdul

    1. Nice try 🙂
      You can’t have a full consultancy free in the comments of a post. Even if I had the time, I am not allowed by the Bar.
      Anyway, all the best for your venture

  2. I am interested to set up our traditional restaurant in Italy. Since i read your articles, it’s really useful for me & i have loads of questions to ask to you & discuss with you as well. Do you have any section to discuss in person? Look forward your reply.


  3. I live Canada going to move to Italy set up a traditional restaurant in Italy when I get my inheritance thanks for answering some of my questions Stefano L Tresca

  4. Please I am a Nigerian citizen and I will like to open my county food restaurant, please what documents do I need?

  5. Hi Stefano,

    I want open my restaurant in lecce, and I leave in Brindisi. My question is my arabic restaurant will work better in lecce? In historical location? Or brindisi better?

  6. I want to consult regarding opening a restaurant in the Alto Adige (Region), Italy.
    Kindly provide me your mobile number so I can further discuss in detail.

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