restaurant kitchen with chefs

Restaurants Roadmap

A guide to help you get your restaurant business started

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Plan Your Business Plan Your Location Develop (Plan) Your Space Follow Regulation & Requirements Plan Your Operations

Plan Your Business

Visit the plan your business landing page for more information!

Plan Your Location

The City’s Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) designates zoning of properties in Raleigh, including which uses are allowable in each zoning district. Check the Allowed Principal Use Table in Section 6.1.4 of the UDO to find the zoning districts where restaurants are allowed. Then use the City of Raleigh’s iMaps tool to confirm that your location’s zoning allows restaurant uses, or to find a location with appropriate zoning for your restaurant.

Design professionals
You may need to hire one or more registered design professionals and a licensed General Contractor to help design your space and navigate the process to obtain the appropriate permits for your business.

Special districts
Your location may have additional requirements if it lies within a special district, such as a historic overlay district or a flood plain. You can check your location’s status by enabling the Zoning Overlay Districts and Flood Hazard Areas layers in iMaps.

Site Plan Review
If your location involves new construction or substantial site work, you are likely to need to submit plans for approval via the City's Site Permit Review (SPR) process. The SPR process and requirements are outlined in Section 10.2.8 of the UDO.

Develop (Plan) Your Space

Building permits
You will need to work with your design professional(s) to obtain a building permit for your restaurant. View estimated turnaround times for this process.

Sign permits
You will also need to obtain a sign permit for any signage planned for your business that will be visible from the public right-of-way. You can find out the types of signs allowable in your location’s zoning district by checking the table of Signs Allowed by District in Section 7.3.2 of the UDO.

Outdoor seating
If your restaurant will have outdoor seating (especially in a right-of-way like a sidewalk or streetery), you may need to obtain an Outdoor Seating Permit.

Curbside pickup zones
If your business needs space to accommodate cars for pickup orders, you can contact the City to request a Curbside Pickup Zone.

Follow Regulation & Requirements

Food Service Regulations
Wake County’s Environmental Health & Safety Division permits and inspects facilities that provide food service. Applications for Health & Safety Plan Review can be submitted online at the same time as submitting plans to the City of Raleigh for building permits. Visit Wake County’s Plan Review & Permits page for more submittal guidelines.

Review the North Carolina Food Code Manual and ensure that you have one employee who is a certified food protection manager. Review and understand the rules governing food protection and sanitation (.2600 Rules).

Once permitted, the establishment will be inspected on a regular basis, one to four times a year. These inspections are not announced so ensure that food service workers are following required laws and have good hygiene.

Alcohol Regulations
If your business will engage in the selling of alcohol, you will need to complete the ABC Retail Application Process. The ABC Commissions provides retail application checklists based on your business structure.

City of Raleigh Beer/Wine License
Any business that sells Beer or Wine within the Raleigh City limits must also obtain a Beer/Wine License (Schedule V in Business License application) before selling any alcoholic beverages.

  • Businesses must FIRST obtain Temporary Permits from the North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission.
  • Beer/Wine Licenses must be renewed prior to April 30 each year.
  • Be sure to contact the Development Services Customer Service Center at 919-996-2495 to assure that the sale of alcoholic beverages is allowed at your business location.

Noise Ordinance and Nightlife Permit
At the Dec. 5, 2023, City Council afternoon meeting, Council authorized a repeal of the Amplified Entertainment Ordinance and enacted the Nightlife Permit Ordinance. At the Jan. 2 City Council afternoon meeting, Council authorized updates to the Noise Ordinance. Both authorizations come after a multi-year effort to research, rewrite, collect public feedback, and edit the ordinances. If your business will engage in amplified entertainment or live music, familiarize yourself with the latest revisions to the Noise Ordinance and the Nightlife Permit Ordinance.

Plan Your Operations

Do you think you're ready to open? Visit the plan your operations landing page for planning business operation to learn more about topics such as employer requirements and planning your opening. 



Jocelyn Sanchez
Small Business and Workforce Development Coordinator

Housing and Neighborhoods
Service Categories:
Small Business
Related Services:
Small Business Startup Roadmaps