Fast-Food Business Plan: Essential Ingredients for Success

A smart fast food business plan is a fundamental part of starting and growing your business. Here's how you do it...

Though what’s on the plate in a fast food or fast-casual business may not seem like it requires rocket science to execute, a multitude of considerations go into getting it in front of the customer — and even more go into making sure the restaurant not only survives but thrives.

A smart fast food business plan is a fundamental part of starting and growing your business. It not only shows lenders and investors the validity of your concept in order to secure funding, but it also serves as a guidepost and map for continued success.

A strong resource to help get you started is available from the U.S. Small Business Administration. This can help you outline the key sections of a traditional business plan. Offering a brief description for each section of a traditional business plan, it recommends using whatever combination of the following sections are best suited to meet your business plan’s needs: executive summary, company description, market analysis, organization and management, product or service line, marketing and sales plan, funding request (if applicable), financial projections, and an appendix of supporting documents.

This process becomes a lot simpler if you have decided to open a fast-casual restaurant as a franchisee, rather than go it on your own. While you still have to build your own business plan to secure financing, one of the biggest upsides to franchising is guidance from the franchisor and access to the brand’s operational best practices.

Executive Summary

You’ve already done a lot of research and planning (or you should have!) before you even sit down to begin constructing your business plan. You’ve considered which offerings your menu will feature, how you’ll stand out among the competition, and much more.

The Executive Summary is your opportunity to tell this story. It should be your “elevator pitch,” summarizing your vision, including everything from where you’ll obtain your ingredients to the atmosphere and service level your restaurant will offer, to the headcount and roles of your staff, to your site selection criteria, and beyond.

Franchising takes the guesswork out of this piece. You still have the opportunity to tell your story, but also include why you have chosen this fast-casual brand and how you plan to succeed as a franchisee.

Company Description

More detail about your vision (or the franchisor’s) for the company goes here.

What demand or niche will your fast food or fast-casual concept answer or fill? Where do your target customers live and work? What do they do? What are their income levels? What site will you select in order to be visible and available to them? Your Company Description should answer all these questions.

You can also explain what types of funding and resources you already have, if any. This may include partial funding as well as planned sweat equity and expertise in foodservice you or a partner have.

Market Analysis

Your Market Analysis should showcase insight from research you’ve conducted of the competition and your market area.

Are you competing with Taco Bell or Chipotle or a couple of independent hamburger shops — or a mix of chains and local dives? Where are they located? What will be the key differentiators of your fast food or fast-casual restaurant? How many people live in the area? What other businesses and workplaces are nearby? Talk again about the criteria for choosing a location (lease terms, square footage, visibility, etc.) or your chosen site/location, if you’ve gotten that far.

If you are working with a franchise, they typically provide you with an overview of what their target markets look like, and, in some cases, a detailed analysis of the markets or territories available to you.

Organization and Management

Most likely, you’ve already considered potential stars for the team you’ll build. Perhaps you’ve chosen a manager who has some experience managing a similar type of restaurant. Maybe you have already secured the commitment or interest of a talented chef to engineer your menu. Emphasize the skills of the people you’ve chosen for high-level roles, and highlight what you expect from managers and employees for both the front and back of the house.

This is also a good spot to briefly discuss which business structure you’ll use, such as a corporation, LLC with other members, or a sole proprietorship. Seek advice from a trusted attorney before making this decision.

Service or Product Line

This section should illustrate that what you’re offering will be special and unique.

What makes your food and beverage offerings stand out from the competition? If your restaurant will utilize unique equipment or processes that your local competitors may not have, share that information. Are there emerging trends you’re exploiting that the place down the street is not? Maybe you’ve even collected feedback from consumers in the area on how other similar restaurants have failed to satisfy, and you have a plan for doing better.

The most successful franchises have built entire brands on recognizing a demand and providing a product or service to meet it.

Marketing and Sales

If you did not do so in the research phase(s) of your preparation, now would be the time to search for market reports that include psycho-demographic data and information about potential customers. This information will help you build a marketing plan that speaks to your target audience.

Understanding the characteristics of your customer base, such as age, gender, online use and presence, media consumption habits, etc. will allow you to determine the most effective social media channels for posting photos of mouth-watering cheeseburgers with limited-time offers, or how to reward customers who download your app.

Again, if you have chosen to go with a franchise, most of the heavy lifting has probably been done. All you have to do is provide an overview in your business plan and work within the guidelines provided.

Funding Request

The funding request should feel natural to the reader at this point; if you’ve made your case persuasively in previous sections. Show them you’ve crunched the numbers wisely — and ask for what you’ll require to get rolling.

Make sure you find out whether or not a franchise brand works with preferred lenders or has strategic partnerships with financial institutions. Many lenders that work with specific brands have already vetted the brand, which can simplify your request for financing and timeline.

Financial Projections

Take this opportunity to reassure potential investors or lenders with a set of data-based projections. You may choose to break down the first year by month, since you’ll incrementally be absorbing startup costs and may not break even within the first year. That’s perfectly normal. But your projections can then show, in detail, when you predict you’ll start to become profitable, and a longer-term forecast of revenue growth projections.


Because it’s best that your previous sections were efficient and relatively brief, in order to keep the reader’s attention, The Appendix is a reference repository for deeper learning. This may include business articles related to the kind of concept you are opening, formation documents, longer bios of key team members, and more.

Coming to this juncture in the journey, preparing the business plan upon which you will build your future and fast-casual restaurant is exciting, but often challenging. Remember to consider all your options before deciding on which path to take.

Opening a franchise location, with the support of an established brand, instead of starting your own concept from scratch, means you won’t have to “go it alone.” Joining a franchise means access to the franchisor’s guidance, systems, and best practices.

Franchise Opportunities with Wayback Burgers

Wayback Burgers offers qualified candidates the opportunity to open and operate a business in the highly sought-after fast-casual sector with a small footprint and a big upside. Currently operating in 30 states and seven countries, the Connecticut-based burger franchise increased its system size by 14 percent in 2018; and has reached 160 locations worldwide.

Wayback offers initial training and ongoing support for all its franchisees and works diligently on finding innovative ways to offer franchisees the opportunity to increase revenue while adding value to the customer experience.

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