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The Italian Restaurant: What You Need to Know Before You Open One

The United States has always been a melting pot of different cultures, and each culture brings their own twist to the menus of Americans everywhere. Thanks to diversity, you can eat delicious biscuits from the Denver Biscuit Company or indulge in boutique desserts from micro-bakeries. But many long-lasting staples of American diet come from Italian restaurants.

Whether you’re savoring pasta in a warm and cozy restaurant or eagerly ordering a custom pizza from a pizzeria’s website, Italian restaurant menus have captured the attention of food-lovers and the taste buds of Americans for decades.

If you want to open your own Italian restaurant, you may be wondering just exactly how popular Italian cuisine is. This guide will educate you on the immense demand for Italian street food, the main types of restaurants with this cuisine as well as actionable tips that will help you establish your own Italian restaurant.

How Big is the Demand for Italian Cuisine?

getting a slice of pizza

There is no shortage of food franchises and restaurants in the U.S. Many profitable Subway franchises occupy storefronts everywhere and unique diners crowd the streets of city districts. But Italian cuisine has become synonymous with both quick meals and elegant dining experiences, ever since it was brought over by Italian immigrants in the late 19th century.

According to one study of the industry, the country has over 28,000 Italian restaurants and over 71,000 pizzerias, which account for 17 percent of all restaurants in the US. Warm and cozy restaurants featuring food form Italy are popular from coast to coast, with major metropolitan areas on both the Atlantic and the Pacific boasting thousands of Italian restaurants. There are over 9,500 such food establishments in California, and over 8,400 in New York.

The demand for Italian food is worth billions. Consumers in the United States spent more than $37.8 billion on quick service pizzas in a single year alone. Among sit-down Italian restaurants, over 85 percent can expect to cash in more than $10 per customer transaction. This translates to potentially hundreds of thousands worth of profit.

More than 25,000 pizzerias in the US report annual sales reaching more than $500,000 per annum. Meanwhile over 10,000 Italian restaurants that focus on pasta can look forward to the same amount of sales. Clearly, American consumers are enamored with warm and cozy restaurants redolent with the smell of boiling pasta, basil and the rich aroma of cheese. It’s no wonder entrepreneurs frequently turn to Italian street food and other offerings for lucrative restaurant ideas.

What are the Most Popular Italian Foods?

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Because of over a century of Americanization, most people tend to forget that there is no such thing as a single Italian cuisine. Rather, there are as many cuisines and dishes as there are regions or even cities in Italy.

But certain meals, more than others, have proven more popular among Americans. Italian restaurant menus will often feature one or all of the following popular meals from Italy.

  • Pizza

pepperoni pizza

In the United States, nothing advertises Italian restaurants more than a delicious pizza. As previously noted, Americans literally spend billions of dollars on pizza alone. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, an astonishing 13 percent of Americans eat pizza every day. The average American will also consume a whopping 23 pounds of pizza in a year.

  • Pasta

pesto pasta

The second most popular meals found in warm and cozy restaurants is pasta, a dish with infinite variations. Research discovered that Americans consume approximately 9 ounces of pasta in a day, which translates to almost 6 billion pounds consumed annually. When it comes to sit-down Italian cuisine, pasta is the way to go.

  • Italian Street Food

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Aside from pizza and pasta, there are plenty of other Italian street foods that are very popular in America. There are calzones for those who want more travel friendly food and cannoli for cheese-enthusiasts. Other less popular but equally delicious street foods include arancini or savory rice balls, and porchetta, a moist and herb-flavored pork roast.

What are the Types of Italian Restaurants?

neon pizza sign

When you’re planning on opening your own establishment for Italian cuisine you need to understand the complexities and variations of this culture’s culinary offerings. There are two different types of Italian restaurants popular in the United States. The first are sit-down establishments, the kind of warm and cozy restaurant you probably associate with candles, checkered tablecloths and romantic dinner nights. These places serve pizza and pasta, as well as more sophisticated versions of Italian street food. There appeal comes from both the ambience and their delicious fare.

Pizzerias are Italian restaurants that focus solely on making pizza as quickly and efficiently as possible. Some of these pizzerias have extensive Italian restaurant menus that offer more than just pizzas, but mostly they focus on their main products. The main draw of pizzerias is their efficiency and their speed, which needs to be balanced with great-tasting products.

Aside from these general types of restaurants, there are also the many variations on the cuisine. Will you be featuring Neapolitan or Florentine cookery? Are you going to focus on a specific style of cookery, such as kiln-baked pizza or would you rather have simply fare? Determining these factors is essential in creating an Italian restaurant that has a unique and well-thought out menu.

Tips for Opening and Running an Italian Restaurant

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Running an Italian restaurant can be a very tricky business. Only 40 percent of restaurants make it past the first year of business and your new Italian food establishment isn’t exempt, despite the immense popularity of your fare. A lot of similar restaurants also don’t have the safety net of being part of a chain or a franchise. Over half of pizzerias are independent operations, as 84 percent of Italian restaurants are independent as well.

This means you need as much help as you can get to ensure your own endeavor begins smoothly and runs efficiently. Here are tips you should follow if you want your warm and cozy restaurant to stay operational.

  1. Choose Your Set-Up

The events of 2020 have radically changed the way businesses operate. Among restaurants, 42 percent have been forced to expand to delivery options. Think very carefully before you decide in opening up a sit-down Italian restaurant and consider the factors in your community as well as your finances.

  1. Pick an Italian Cuisine

There are a dizzying number of variations one can prepare pasta or pizza, depending on which area of Italy you prefer to focus on. The success of your enterprise may depend on what kind of food customers can find on your Italian restaurant menu. Send out online surveys to potential customers or study consumer reports on your prospective area to determine which type of Italian street foods and meals will be popular.

  1. Focus on a Few Items

Some restauranteurs make the mistake of trying to cook too many options to cater to a large consumer base. However, keeping supplies in stock and hiring enough employees to cook so many varied businesses can quickly strain your resources. Focus on a few key items, like quick but delicious pizza or pasta and you can expect to rake in a fortune.

  1. Beef- Up Delivery

pizza in a box

Unfortunately for so many warm and cozy restaurants across the country, the events of 2020 have made intimate dining experiences riskier. To that end, your new Italian restaurant should definitely have a robust delivery system from the very beginning. Hire or partner with plenty of food couriers and apply for the necessary permits beforehand to ensure your delivery apparatus can cope with demand should you need to.

  1. Be Rigorously Clean

Cleanliness is one of the most important tenets of any food-service business. Given the health crises that have plagued the country in 2020, consumers and authorities are more vigilant than ever for slovenly restaurants. Ensure all your employees have access to plenty of protective equipment like hairnets and facemasks and rigorously impose such mandates and cleaning schedules. This attention to hygiene and sanitation will make a huge difference in retaining customers.

  1. Work on a Website

Italian restaurants are everywhere and you need to make your own enterprise as unique as possible. Aside from that, you should make it easy to find over the internet and the best way to do so is through a website. By building a digital storefront, you can appear on search engines and post the contents of your Italian restaurant’s menu as well as make it accessible through smartphones.

  1. Find Local Suppliers

One of the biggest costs of running a restaurant is acquiring the necessary ingredients and supplies. Material for Italian cuisine, especially authentic ingredients, are already expensive but they may also have to travel far and wide before they reach you. Look for local suppliers who can offer you substitutions and alternatives at a cheaper price. This is because local suppliers won’t have to spend more money shipping or trucking the supplies, meaning more affordable ingredients for you.

America has no doubt embraced and integrated Italian cuisine into its everyday menu. With such high demand for pizza and pasta and other street food, its only natural an aspiring entrepreneur would want to open an Italian restaurant of their own. These tips and advice should be more than enough to ensure your warm and cozy restaurant not only survives but thrives in the years to come.

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