Opening a restaurant can be an incredibly rewarding endeavor – you get to share your passion for food with the world. However, the restaurant business is notoriously difficult. In fact, according to research from Ohio State University, nearly 60% of restaurants fail within the first year.

If you find yourself needing to shut down your restaurant, how long will the process take?

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: properly closing a restaurant can take 2-6 months depending on the size of the business, number of employees, commercial lease terms, and other factors that need winding down.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk through all the steps involved in closing down a restaurant so you can plan accordingly. We’ll cover major considerations like employees, permits, inventory, and real estate so you can dot your i’s and cross your t’s for a smooth closing process.

Notify Employees and Handle Payroll

One of the most crucial steps in closing a restaurant is notifying the employees about the closure. It is essential to give employees sufficient notice to allow them to make necessary arrangements. This will not only show respect for your employees but also help maintain a positive relationship with them.

Informing them in person or through a staff meeting is a good approach, as it allows for open communication and the opportunity to answer any questions they may have. Additionally, consider providing written notice to ensure clarity and to serve as a record of the communication.

Give Employees Sufficient Notice

When it comes to giving employees notice about the closure, the specific laws and regulations may vary depending on the jurisdiction. However, it is generally recommended to give employees at least two weeks’ notice.

This will give them time to search for new job opportunities and make any necessary arrangements. By providing ample notice, you demonstrate empathy and fairness towards your employees.

Pay Outstanding Wages and PTO

When closing a restaurant, it is crucial to ensure that all outstanding wages and accrued paid time off (PTO) are paid to employees. This includes regular wages, overtime pay, and any unused vacation or sick days.

Failing to pay employees what they are owed can lead to legal repercussions and damage your reputation as an employer. Be sure to calculate and document all owed wages accurately before making the final payments.

Consider Severance Packages

In certain cases, it may be appropriate to offer severance packages to employees. Severance packages are typically offered to employees who have been with the restaurant for a long time or have made significant contributions.

These packages can include additional compensation, extended health benefits, or outplacement services to assist employees in finding new employment. Offering severance packages can help mitigate the financial impact and provide some support to your employees during this transition.

File Necessary Paperwork

Lastly, when closing a restaurant, there is certain paperwork that needs to be filed to ensure legal compliance and closure of the business. This can include notifying government agencies, cancelling permits and licenses, and filing final tax returns.

It is essential to consult with an accountant or legal advisor to ensure that all necessary paperwork is completed correctly and in a timely manner.

Closing a restaurant is a complex process that requires careful attention to various aspects. By properly notifying employees, handling payroll, considering severance packages, and completing all necessary paperwork, you can ensure a smooth and respectful closure that protects both your employees and your business.

Settle Vendor Accounts and Cancel Services

When closing a restaurant, one of the essential steps is to settle vendor accounts and cancel any services that are no longer needed. This ensures that all financial obligations are met and that the restaurant can smoothly transition into its closure. Here are some key subheadings to consider:

Pay Off Any Outstanding Vendor Balances

It is crucial to settle any outstanding balances with your vendors before closing the restaurant. This includes payments for food supplies, beverages, equipment, and any other goods or services provided by the vendors.

By doing so, you maintain a good relationship with your suppliers and avoid any potential legal issues. Make sure to communicate with your vendors and come to an agreement on the payment terms, if necessary.

Cancel Food Delivery Contracts

If your restaurant has a contract with a food delivery service, it is important to cancel this agreement. Contact the delivery service provider and inform them about your restaurant’s closure. Make sure to settle any outstanding payments or fees associated with the contract before terminating it.

This will prevent any future charges and ensure a smooth termination of the agreement.

Terminate Cleaning and Maintenance Services

Most restaurants have contracts with cleaning and maintenance services to ensure a clean and well-maintained establishment. As part of the closure process, you need to terminate these contracts. Contact the service providers and inform them about your restaurant’s closure.

Settle any outstanding payments or fees and schedule the final cleaning and maintenance tasks to be performed before handing over the premises.

Stop Credit Card Processing Services

If your restaurant accepts credit card payments, it is crucial to notify your credit card processing services provider about the closure. This will prevent any further charges or transactions from occurring. Make sure to settle any outstanding fees or payments associated with the service.

Additionally, remember to return any credit card processing equipment that you might have rented or leased.

Note: For more detailed information on closing a restaurant and managing the necessary steps, you can refer to resources such as or

Sell or Dispose of Inventory and Assets

When closing a restaurant, one of the most important tasks is to sell or dispose of all the inventory and assets. This includes everything from food and alcohol to furniture and kitchen equipment. Properly handling these items is crucial to ensure a smooth transition and minimize financial losses.

Liquidate Food, Alcohol, and Supplies

The first step in selling or disposing of inventory is to liquidate the food, alcohol, and supplies. This can be done by offering discounts or creating special promotions to attract customers and encourage them to purchase these items.

Additionally, reaching out to local businesses or organizations that may be interested in buying bulk supplies can help speed up the process.

It’s important to note that some regulations may apply when selling alcohol, so it’s essential to check with local authorities to ensure compliance with any legal requirements.

Sell Furniture and Kitchen Equipment

Next, it’s time to sell the furniture and kitchen equipment. This can be done through various channels, such as online marketplaces, auctions, or contacting restaurant equipment suppliers. Taking high-quality pictures and providing detailed descriptions can help attract potential buyers.

Additionally, offering package deals or discounts for bulk purchases can be a great strategy to sell these items faster.

If selling the furniture and equipment proves to be challenging, consider reaching out to other restaurants or businesses in the industry. They may be interested in purchasing used items at a discounted price.

Donate Leftover Inventory

In some cases, there may be leftover inventory that cannot be sold. Instead of throwing it away, consider donating it to local charities or food banks. Not only does this help those in need, but it also promotes goodwill within the community.

Make sure to follow any guidelines or restrictions provided by the organizations you wish to donate to.

Properly Dispose of Anything Remaining

Once all sellable items have been taken care of, it’s important to properly dispose of anything that remains. This may include expired or spoiled food, broken equipment, or other non-sellable items. Follow local waste management regulations and guidelines to ensure a responsible and environmentally friendly disposal process.

Remember, when selling or disposing of inventory and assets, it’s essential to plan ahead, research local regulations, and consider the most appropriate options for each item. By doing so, you can efficiently close your restaurant and minimize any financial or logistical complications.

Terminate Lease and Return Keys

When closing a restaurant, one of the crucial steps is to terminate the lease agreement and return the keys to the property owner. This process involves several important considerations to ensure a smooth transition and avoid any legal complications.

Review Commercial Lease Terms

The first step in terminating a lease is to carefully review the terms of the commercial lease agreement. This document will outline the specific requirements and obligations for terminating the lease.

It’s important to understand the notice period, any penalties or fees for early termination, and any other relevant clauses that may impact the process.

If you are unsure about any of the lease terms, it’s advisable to seek legal counsel to ensure you fully comprehend your rights and obligations. This will help you navigate the termination process more effectively.

Negotiate Early Termination if Possible

Once you have reviewed the lease terms, you may consider negotiating an early termination with the landlord. This option can save you time and money, especially if you are struggling financially or have found a suitable replacement tenant for the space.

Approach the landlord with a well-thought-out proposal that highlights the benefits of early termination for both parties. This could include offering to help find a new tenant or covering any costs associated with advertising the space.

Negotiating in good faith can increase the likelihood of reaching a mutually agreeable solution.

Schedule Final Building Inspection

Prior to vacating the property, it’s essential to schedule a final building inspection with the landlord or property manager. This inspection ensures that the property is left in the condition specified in the lease agreement and helps resolve any potential disputes regarding damages or cleaning requirements.

During the inspection, both parties should walk through the premises together and document any issues or discrepancies. It’s recommended to take photographs and make detailed notes to support your case in case of any future disputes.

This process helps protect your security deposit and maintain a good relationship with the landlord.

Return Keys and Vacate Property

Once the lease termination has been agreed upon and the final building inspection is complete, it’s time to return the keys and vacate the property. Coordinate with the landlord or property manager to arrange a suitable time and place for the key handover.

Before returning the keys, ensure that the premises are clean and free of any personal belongings. This includes removing all equipment, furniture, and inventory associated with the restaurant. Leaving the property in a clean and orderly state will leave a positive impression and help facilitate a smooth transition for the next tenant.

Remember to obtain written confirmation from the landlord acknowledging the return of the keys and the termination of the lease. This documentation serves as proof that you have fulfilled your obligations and can protect you from any future disputes.

Closing a restaurant is a complex process, and terminating the lease and returning the keys is just one aspect of it. By carefully reviewing the lease terms, negotiating if possible, scheduling a final building inspection, and returning the keys in a timely manner, you can navigate this step with ease and minimize any potential complications.

Cancel Necessary Permits and Licenses

Liquor and Business Licenses

When closing a restaurant, one of the first steps is to cancel any necessary permits and licenses. This includes liquor and business licenses. Liquor licenses are typically granted by state liquor control boards, and the process for cancelling these licenses can vary depending on the state.

It’s important to contact the appropriate licensing agency to inform them of the closure and follow their specific instructions for cancellation. Additionally, business licenses may need to be cancelled with the local government or licensing authority.

Food Service Permits

In addition to liquor and business licenses, food service permits should also be cancelled when closing a restaurant. These permits are typically issued by the local health department or regulatory agency and ensure that the establishment meets certain health and safety standards.

To cancel a food service permit, the owner or operator of the restaurant will need to notify the health department and provide any necessary documentation or forms. It’s important to comply with all regulations and requirements to avoid any potential penalties or fines.

Fire Safety and Building Permits

Fire safety and building permits are another important aspect to consider when closing a restaurant. These permits ensure that the establishment meets all necessary fire safety codes and building regulations.

Contact the local fire department or building department to inform them of the closure and inquire about the process for cancelling these permits. It may involve submitting a written request or completing certain paperwork.

By cancelling these permits, you are ensuring that the property is properly closed and in compliance with all necessary safety regulations.

It’s important to note that the process for cancelling permits and licenses may vary depending on the location and specific requirements. It’s recommended to consult with relevant authorities or seek legal advice to ensure all necessary steps are taken in a timely and proper manner.

File Final Tax Returns and Close Accounts

File Last Sales and Payroll Tax Returns

Before closing a restaurant, it is crucial to file the final sales and payroll tax returns. These returns will ensure that all relevant taxes are paid and any outstanding liabilities are settled. It is recommended to consult with a tax professional to ensure accuracy and compliance with local tax regulations.

Additionally, keeping thorough records of these tax filings will be beneficial for future reference and potential audits.

Close Business Bank Accounts

Another important step in closing a restaurant is to close all business bank accounts. This includes checking accounts, savings accounts, and credit card accounts associated with the restaurant. It is essential to inform the bank in advance about the closure and settle any outstanding balances.

Gathering all necessary documentation, such as account statements and transaction records, will help simplify this process. Additionally, it is wise to keep records of these account closures for future reference.

Dissolve the Business Entity

When closing a restaurant, it is necessary to formally dissolve the business entity. This typically involves filing dissolution documents with the appropriate government agencies, such as the Secretary of State or Department of Revenue.

The specific requirements for dissolving a business entity vary depending on the jurisdiction, so it is crucial to research and follow the necessary steps. Seeking the guidance of a business attorney can be beneficial in ensuring a proper dissolution and avoiding any potential legal issues in the future.

Pro Tip: Remember to notify all relevant parties, such as vendors, suppliers, and employees, about the closure of the restaurant. This will help in resolving any outstanding obligations and ensure a smooth transition.

For more detailed information on closing a restaurant and the legal requirements involved, you can refer to resources like the U.S. Small Business Administration or consult with a professional in the industry.


Closing a restaurant is a complicated endeavor that requires systematically winding down all aspects of your business. While the timeline can vary, allot 2-6 months to complete the process gracefully. Notify employees and settle accounts early on.

Then focus on liquidating assets, terminating leases and permits, and finalizing tax and legal details. With proper planning and professional help, you can preserve your reputation and loose ends during this difficult transition.

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