How Much Do Restaurant Owners Make?

How Much Do Restaurant Owners Make blog header

Wondering how much restaurant owners make? It might surprise you. While the restaurant business can be very fulfilling and rewarding, it’s not always the most lucrative, especially when you’re first getting started. That said, owning a restaurant can still be a great investment as long as you know what you’re getting yourself into. We’ll jump into the details around how much restaurant owners make annually in terms of their salaries. We’ll also talk about what to consider when determining your salary, and answer some general questions you might have regarding how much restaurant owners really make. Let’s get started.

How much do top restaurant owners make?

Top restaurant owners, according to ZipRecruiter, can make $139,500 or more annually. On the other end of the spectrum, it’s estimated that 17% of restaurant owner jobs earn an annual salary of only $18,500 to $30,000. They say the national average for a restaurant owner salary is around $72,000 per year.

How does a restaurant owner determine their salary?

As a restaurant owner, figuring out your own salary can be difficult. When determining salary, you should take into account seasonality, location, how long you’ve been in business, and your operating expenses. As a good rule of thumb, remember that most restaurant owners take home less than 50% of total profits as their salary. In general, it’s best to ensure your restaurant is profitable before taking a huge paycheck. Especially as you’re trying to get a new restaurant off the ground, it’s important to reinvest the profits into improving your menu offerings and upping your level of service. 

What should a restaurant owner keep in mind about their salary?

As we’ve mentioned, there are a number of items to consider when determining your salary as a restaurant owner. We’ll go into more depth here. 

  • Location
  • Seasonality
  • How long you’ve been in business
  • Operating expenses


Where your restaurant is located could have a big impact on your take home salary. If your restaurant is in a big city with a large population, you’ll have a larger potential customer base, will be able to charge higher prices, and can likely expect more sales throughout the day than more rural areas.


Can your monthly salary change depending on the time of year? Yes. Summer months are often busier and other times of the year can include slower sales months. On top of that, this can vary drastically from one restaurant to the next. Know your busy seasons and when there’s a lull and plan to take home less money personally when times are tough.

How long you’ve been in business

It may take some time to establish a base of loyal customers. If you’re first starting out, don’t plan to take a huge salary. After you’ve established yourself, then you can start thinking more about how much you should increase your salary by. 

Operating expenses

How much does it cost to keep the lights on? How much is rent? What about your monthly food cost? And how much does it cost to pay your cooks and employees? You should take all of this into account when thinking about operating expenses. If you run your restaurant out of a food truck, chances are your operating expenses are going to be much lower. Alternatively, if you own a large dine-in restaurant in San Francisco, you’re going to spend quite a bit on rent. Remember all this before you cut yourself a large check.

Is opening a restaurant a good investment?

Opening a restaurant can be a good investment, but it’s a tough business and you have to treat it as one. First, you must be dedicated to putting in as much work as necessary to make it succeed. Not only that, you must also have the tools, knowledge, and connections to have success. If you have enough passion and perseverance, and a great location and menu, opening a restaurant can certainly be a good investment. Just don’t go into it blindly.

How much profit should you make in a restaurant?

Obviously, the more profit you make the better. It is helpful though to understand how much you should be making in profit on average. Even the highest profit margins are only around 15% or so. The average restaurant profit margins overall are around 3% to 6%.  

How long does it take a restaurant to turn a profit?

It can definitely vary, but on average, it’s said that it can take a restaurant about two years to make a profit. If you have a great location, low costs, and the right strategy, you might be able to turn a profit more quickly. If, on the other hand, you aren’t so dialed in on strategy, it could be quite a while before your restaurant is profitable. Be patient and trust the process. Don’t pay yourself a large salary too early. Trust that your hard work will pay off.

Which type of restaurant is most profitable?

The most profitable restaurant is a bar. Why? Because alcohol is expensive and can be sold at a premium. After that, diners, food trucks, and delivery-only restaurants come in. Quick service and buffet restaurants also make the top ten list. In general, if a restaurant isn’t a bar, it’s likely most profitable if its operating expenses are low. For instance, a food truck doesn’t require the restaurant owner to pay rent, and a delivery-only restaurant means you don’t need to pay rent on a large sit-in restaurant space. 

Who is the richest restaurant owner?

Tillman Fertitta is believed to be the richest restaurant owner. With an estimated net worth of more than $4.5 billion, he owns not only restaurants like Rainforest Cafe and Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., but also an NBA team (the Houston Rockets), and many hotels and casinos. Fertitta is the owner of Landry’s Inc. which owns and operates over 600 entertainment destinations, hotels, casinos, and restaurants. 

Behind Fertitta, you may recognize names like Gordon Ramsay and Guy Fieri. Also in the top five are Jamie Oliver and Emeril Lagasse. 

What is the best city to open a restaurant in?

Location, location, location. It’s important in real estate, and it’s perhaps even more critical in the restaurant business. In general, when thinking about the best city to open a restaurant in, you’ll want to consider cities with a large population. One source references Cedar Park, Texas, as the best city for opening a restaurant, as it’s a growing suburb outside of Austin. It goes on to list cities like Minneapolis, Minnesota, Louisville, Kentucky, and Riverside, California. Kansas City, Missouri, Boston, Massachusetts, and Ann Arbor, Michigan, which can also be found on the top ten list.

What tools can help determine your salary as a restaurant owner?

Before you can decide on your salary as a restaurant owner, you need enough data to make an informed decision. That’s where restaurant reporting and analytics software comes in. We can help you there. With our software, you get a crystal clear picture of where you stand in terms of sales and profitability. You can even run reports and gain real-time insights. Customize the reports to your unique specifications and even schedule them to run at a specific time so you have the data you need, when you need it.

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