If you want to learn how to start a Korean BBQ restaurant, but don’t know where to begin, you are in the right place.
In this article, we will provide a step-by-step guide to starting a Korean barbeque business, from formation to launch.
We will cover also cover some key introductory topics, including what a Korean BBQ is, typical menu items, how much it costs to start one, how much you can expect to make, and what equipment you will need.
We’ve got a lot to cover so let’s get into it!
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The information contained in this post is for informational purposes only. It is not a recommendation to buy or invest, and it is not financial, investment, legal, or tax advice. You should seek the advice of a qualified professional before making any investment or other decisions relating to the topics covered by this article.
What is a Korean BBQ Restaurant?
A Korean barbeque restaurant is a restaurant where customers cook various meats on a grill in the center of the table. These barbequed meats typically include traditional Korean BBQ dishes like sliced pork belly (samgyeopbsal), beef brisket, marinated tenderloin or sirloin (bulgogi), marinated beef short ribs (galbi), marinated chicken and other meats.
The BBQ is accompanied by various side dishes (or “banchan”), dipping sauces (including “Ssamjang”) and other sides, which may include steamed eggs and traditional Korean soybean paste soup (“Doenjang-jjigae).
How Much Does It Cost to Start a Korean BBQ Restaurant?
On average, you can expect to invest between $300,000 to $1,000,0000 to start a Korean BBQ restaurant depending on size, location, the amount of remodeling needed, and the type of equipment you purchase.
That’s a really wide range, so let’s see if we can figure out what you will realistically need to pay. The nice thing is that we have some pretty reliable sources of data on start-up costs.
Korean BBQ franchises, for example, tell you exactly how much the initial investment is likely to cost. If you want to buy a Koryo Korean BBQ franchise (which usually have a smaller footprint because they are in food courts), the cost ranges from $385,000-$550,000. Source
In contrast, the total cost to open up a full-scale Korean BBQ franchise like Dae Gee Korean BBQ is between $679,375 to $954,125 for a 1,500-2,000 square foot restaurant. Source
How Much Money Do Korean BBQ Restaurants Make?
Korean BBQ restaurants can be highly profitable. There are many in my area that have thrived and opened up multiple locations. But there are plenty that have failed too.
It will depend on how good your food tastes, whether there is enough demand for the product, your location, and a host of other factors. Unfortunately, there is not a lot of data available on profitability of Korean BBQ restaurants.
But I did find an interesting article from a Cal State University scholar, who presented to the university a draft business plan for a Korean BBQ restaurant. That article projected that the restaurant would make around $28,000 in profit during the first year, but would eventually improve and clear $200,000 by the end of year three. Source
What Type of Equipment Do I Need to Start a Korean BBQ Restaurant?
In addition to the standard equipment and supplies that every restaurant needs, such as a restaurant-grade kitchen, tables, chairs, cooking equipment, etc., you will also need some items that are specific for Korean BBQ.
They include grills for each tabletop, proper ventilation hoods for each table, and various bbq utensils and items (including platters for the meat, scissors to cut the meat, and tongs to cook the meat).
You will also need miscellaneous items like clay pots for cooking and serving Korean stew (e.g., doenjan-jjigae), chopsticks, and dishes and plates suitable for Korean side dishes (banchan).
Of course, there’s a lot more, but these are sort of “must haves” for a proper Korean BBQ joint.
Ok, now that we have the introductory stuff out of the way, let’s get into the nuts and bolts of actually starting the business.
How to Start A Korean BBQ Business
Step 1: Establish Your Business
The first thing you want to do is set up your Korean BBQ business. This includes selecting your name and logo, establishing your website and online presence, and setting up your business entity.
Name and Logo
The first thing you want to do is select a name and logo that you like.
Having trouble figuring out a name? You can try incorporating some Korean words that relate to the theme, such as “Gogi” (which stands for meat) or you can stick to English words that convey the right barbeque-type theme.
Some successful Korean BBQ restaurants I have seen are Honey Pig, Gogiville, Iron Age, and So Korean BBQ (“So” is Korean for cow).
As for a logo, you can go on canva.com and check out some of their logo templates and start from there. It’s a free option, but you will need to customize the logo templates to your liking. If you want a more ready-made solution and are willing to pay, check out Fiverr.
You go on their website and you can simply hire someone to create your logo. There are tons of people who do this, and I have seen pricing as low as $5.
Note: You want to make sure your name and logo are original to you and are not going to infringe someone else’s intellectual property. If you are unsure, you can check the USPTO’s trademark search tool as a starting point.
If you still need inspiration, check out my full article on the topic: How to Choose a Company Name and Logo [16 Key Strategies and Tips].
Set Up Your Korean BBQ Website
When it comes to your website, it does not have to be incredibly fancy or cost a lot of money to set up, but you should definitely get one. In fact, Google allows you to build your first business website for free.
List Your Business Online
It is also important to get your new restaurant on Google. You can do this by listing it on Google My Business. This way, people who are searching for Korean BBQ in your area can find you.
If you want to learn more about how to do this, check out this tutorial from Google.
Set Up Your Business Entity
If your business is going to be a corporation, LLC, or some other business entity, you should establish that as well. Setting up a business entity can give you a range of benefits, including liability protection. You can hire a lawyer to help you, or you can use many of the online resources that can help you set up your business entity.
I like Northwest because they can get you up and running quickly and easily. They are also one of the most affordable options that I was able to find that still offered great customer service ($39 as of the date of this article).
According to their website, they are the only national registered agent service that lets you use their office address so you don’t have to use your own. That’s a killer privacy advantage.
Definitely worth checking out.
You should consult with your accountant and lawyer before taking this step, so you understand the tax and legal consequences of setting up this type of organization for your business.
Step 2: Create a Business Plan For Your Korean BBQ Restaurant
A business plan is essentially a roadmap for your business.
It organizes your thoughts relating to your business into an actionable plan. Some things to include in your business plan are budgeting, identifying your target market and competition, pricing strategy, marketing strategy, and growth projections.
Don’t stress too much about getting it perfect. I would use it more as an organizational tool at this point.
Don’t know how to get started? The Small Business Administration has a great tool to help you write your business plan.
Step 3: Obtain Financing
Unless you have a ton of cash lying around, you will probably want some help funding the start-up costs of your business.
SBA loans or traditional bank financing are the most likely sources of funding.
If you prefer to operate online, you may want to check out Fundera. They are affiliated with Nerdwallet and offer small business financing options from a variety of potential lenders. You fill out one application and they provide you with a list of lenders suited for your situation.
Of course, you can finance through non-traditional means too, such as through peer-to-peer lending, using a home equity line of credit, or withdrawing contributions from your Roth IRA (be careful of tax and penalty implications).
You can even “finance” your costs by partnering with someone who will front you the money in exchange for a share of the profits.
If you want more great ideas on how to find money for your Korean BBQ business, check out my article on how to buy a business for no money. It focuses on how to buy a business with little or no cash, but many of the funding ideas translate well when starting a business too.
Step 4: Find a Great Location
You want to find a location that has great visibility from the road and high traffic. Having plenty of parking is also important.
You will also want to assess if there is enough demand for this type of food in the area. Although Korean BBQ is rapidly gaining in popularity among non-Koreans, you may want to target a location that has a decent number of Koreans living in the area.
The location you choose will also determine how much money you are going to need (for rent, deposits, remodeling, etc.), so it is a critical choice.
You also want to assess the local competition in a given area (a simple Google search should pop up local Korean BBQ restaurants in the area you are targeting). If the neighborhood is over-saturated, you may want to look for a location that has less competition.
Step 5: Get Your Equipment and Supplies
We have already covered off on the basic equipment and supplies you will need to start this business, so I won’t belabor the point.
Finding a good source of meat and other menu items is going to be important to your success, so shop around and find a supplier that is reliable and provides high quality meat at a reasonable price.
Step 6: Hire Employees
Once you have secured a good location and purchased everything you need to start your business, you should start looking to hire appropriate employees.
The most important hire is going to be your chef.
You are going to want to find someone who has some experience with Korean BBQ and can properly marinate the meats. Of course, you will also need to hire staff who know how to handle the meat and can instruct customers on how to properly grill the meat.
Step 7: Get Appropriate Licenses, Permits and Insurance
This step is about getting your legal and risk issues squared away.
First, you should get insurance for your business. You will want to look into the following:
- General liability coverage
- Workers compensation insurance for your employees
- Commercial auto insurance (for your vehicles if you are delivering food)
- Commercial property insurance for your equipment
In addition to getting the right insurance coverages, you will need to check with your state and local municipalities to see what type of approvals and licenses you need. They may require permits to operate a restaurant, especially one that has open flames at each table.
If you need help, you should hire a qualified lawyer to guide you through this process.
Step 8: Market Your Business and Launch It
If you want a successful business, developing a good marketing strategy is key.
You need to make sure that people know about your business when you launch. But you also need to maintain a strong marketing program so you can keep getting customers and growing your business.
So how do you do this?
Here are some marketing strategies you can use for your Korean BBQ business.
For online marketing, you can do the following:
- As we already covered, set up a Google My Business, so that people looking for local restaurants can find you.
- Get a great website that draws traffic to your business (you can hire an SEO expert to help you do this)
- Get on Yelp for business and let your customers find you. They are an extremely well-known brand and many people look there when searching for local restaurants. Want to learn more? Check them out below:
If you want to go old school, you can also advertise in your local newspapers, circulars, or through direct mail, flyers, etc.
Try experimenting with various marketing strategies – you may be surprised at what works best.
Finally, don’t forget to hold an amazing grand opening. Make sure to get the word out and offer deals to get customers in the door.
So, there you have it: 8 steps to start your Korean BBQ restaurant. Hope it has been helpful and best of luck in your entrepreneurial journey.
If you want to learn more about starting a business in general, check out my ultimate guide to starting a business, where I go in-depth on the various steps needed to successfully plan for and launch a business.
If you want more to explore more ideas on potential businesses you can start, check out my article on the topic here. I cover tons of different business ideas. You may find some that resonate with you.