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Restaurant Owner Education Requirements

Find out the undergraduate and graduate programs that can provide you with the education needed to open your own restaurant. Learn about course topics as well as restaurant and business license requirements.

What Kind of Education Prepares Me for Restaurant Ownership?

Running a restaurant requires management skills like any other business, though there are unique regulations you'll need to comply with in the food service industry. Whether you have culinary skills or plan to hire your entire kitchen staff, you can learn the intricacies of owning a food and beverage establishment through several public and private schools that offer associate, bachelor's and master's degrees in hospitality and restaurant management. You can find programs that focus solely on business management in the restaurant industry or choose one that also infuses culinary arts within the curriculum.

Degree LevelsAssociate's, bachelor's, and master's
Key Program ConceptsManagerial finance, sanitation and safety, inventory control, kitchen management, culinary theory
Online AvailabilitySome programs are available entirely or partially online
Certification and LicensureTo own and operate a restaurant, there are a number of different required licenses; you can also obtain optional licensure through a professional organization
Median Salary (2019)*$62,743 (for restaurant owner/operators)
Job Outlook (2016-2026)**9% (food service managers)

Source: *Payscale.com, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Will I Study?

Undergraduate restaurant management programs cover business management as it relates to restaurant and hospitality establishments. The business skills you'll study include managerial finance and accounting, operations and human resources management, marketing and leadership. Additionally, you'll learn sanitation and safety regulations, inventory control and purchasing, kitchen management and culinary theory.

Master's degree programs tend to contribute more research time to the study of restaurant management. However, some schools allow you to choose between entrepreneurship or academia, designing courses around your career goal. Both undergraduate and graduate programs often include an internship with a local restaurant or a school-run café. This hands-on experience allows you to work with customers, kitchen staff and servers.

Are There Online Programs Available?

A few public and several private educational institutions offer fully and partially online classes in their restaurant management degree programs. You can find online studies at both undergraduate and graduate levels. You might need to have completed some previous general education courses before applying to an online program, and some schools could require that you have some restaurant experience.

If you're employed in the industry, online courses give you the flexibility to work around the irregular hours required by some restaurant jobs. Hybrid programs require you to complete some on-campus coursework or participate in a school-sponsored internship to graduate. If you choose a distance learning option, you'll usually focus more on management training and less on culinary skills.

Can I Open a Restaurant After Earning a Degree?

There are a number of licenses and permits required for owning a restaurant, such as building permits, business license, food service license and liquor license. The types of licenses, as well as restrictions and requirements necessary to obtain them, vary by state. You'll also need to submit to state and local inspections before opening your doors to the public.

From a professional standpoint, optional certification through organizations, such as the National Restaurant Associate Educational Foundations (NRAEF), shows that you have the appropriate knowledge to manage a restaurant. You can earn certification by completing a degree program or equivalent restaurant management experience. You might need to participate in specific food safety training to become eligible for management certification testing.