Foundry Law Group Blog

Starting A Food Business: From Soup to Nuts

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Favorite recipes

You’re a good cook. You’ve worked in restaurants your whole life, starting as a dishwasher when you were 16 and you’ve worked your way up. You’ve been a sous chef for a number of years, but you want to make your own menu. You grew up cooking—both your mom and dad enjoy being in the kitchen. You have some old family recipes you think others may like to try. You’ve got ideas.

You know food. You know the kitchen. And you know your customers. You’ve got your menu figured out, you know what staff you need to hire, and you’ve got a pretty good idea what atmosphere you hope to create. What next?

Did you know that to open a restaurant in Seattle, there are at least 17 permits you need to obtain? You’ll have to comply with city, county, state, and federal requirements before you open your doors.

If you are in Seattle, there are some great resources. I recently met with Jennifer Tam at the City of Seattle Office of Economic Development. She is a wealth of information and fortunately, she and her office are here to help! Jennifer is easy to talk to and despite the seemingly dry subject matter, she’s excited about her work. Her team has put together a great guide to restaurant success, which you can access online.

Of course, there are a ton of legal issues you’ll face along the way. Some food for thought: Have you sorted out your business structure or your finance plan? Have you considered having a professional look at a long-term lease to make sure you’re protected before committing to that lease agreement? Problems pop-up when you least expect them, too. For example, what happens if you and your landlord have a conflict about responsibility for the occupancy permit?

Fortunately, there are resources out there, and taking advantage of them doesn’t need to break the bank. “Restaurant Success” is part of a larger, statewide initiative that recognizes the vitality of small businesses and their importance to the local economy. The initiative created a Regulatory Roadmap, and more and more communities are figuring out ways to make it easier for entrepreneurs to open a food business. Spokane and Spokane Valley host websites aimed at helping restaurants get started, similar to the one in Seattle. Tacoma has two online worksheets to help restaurateurs, a Restaurant Location Selection Worksheet and Restaurants and Food Service Tip Sheet. Online regulatory roadmaps are coming soon to Lacy, Tumwater, and Olympia.

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Chopstix Food Truck, a delicious Seattle food business (click on the photo for more information)

Here at Foundry, we can help, too. It’s our belief that you should focus on your passion and let us worry about the details (our passion). We tailor our work to fit your needs, and we’ve got the experience to take on your projects, whether small or large. We can help you figure out which business structure is best for you and help you incorporate. We’ll help you protect your brand and trademark. We can help get you through the Regulatory Roadmap if you’d rather work on making your Grandma’s chicken-soup recipe work large scale. And if you ever feel like you’re banging your head on the counter over city, state and federal food business compliance issues, we can help ease your pain.

Remember the six “P”s of success: Proper prior planning prevents poor performance. (Sometimes there are seven “P”s – let’s chat about that one over coffee). Julia Child famously said, “In cooking, you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” In business, however, it’s a different story. A bad contract or the wrong business structure can turn your dream into a nightmare quickly. There are resources out there to keep that from happening – take advantage of them!

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