All You Need to Know about Starting a Floating Restaurant - Hisea Dock

Everything You Need To Know About Starting A Floating Restaurant



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Customers increasingly seek variety in their dining experience. The best way to satisfy this need for variety is by establishing a charming floating restaurant where they can dine in the middle of the deep blue sea. Whether a romantic candlelight dinner with a partner, a business meeting, or casual dining with the folks, a floating dock restaurant caters to all these needs perfectly. A floating restaurant creates an authentic dining experience in an aesthetic setting. Due to their exceptionally enigmatic expertise, they have reached the trending mark. 

The concept of managing a floating restaurant, however, is a daunting process for many entrepreneurs. While ambiance takes care of itself, operating a moving restaurant combines the difficulties of boating and managing a restaurant. To understand the details of creating a successful floating restaurant business, scroll down and read further!

What Is A Floating Restaurant?

Float House Restaurant
Source: Unsplash

Before understanding its establishment, it is essential to comprehend a floating restaurant. Constructed on a medium to big size vessel, a floating restaurant is essentially a diner that uses a plastic floating dock. The famous floating restaurants are built on a steel barge or a giant hulk. It converts a pontoon boat or other vessels into a destination for serving meals and drinks.

With catchy themes and various sources of entertainment, many entrepreneurs look to open a floating restaurant establishment. Depending on the scale of the restaurant, different vessel size measurements and docks are used. Certain restaurants use used or repaired vessels, bought or taken for lease. Some notable examples are as follows:

  • The Jumbo Kingdom in Aberdeen, Hong Kong
  • DiMillo’s in Portland, Maine
  • Captain John’s Harbor Boat Restaurant in Toronto, Canada
  • Riverboat Mexican Grill (former Big Kahuna) in Port Dalhousie

Floating restaurants are not just a place to eat but also place where many activities take place from romantic dinners to business negotiations to casual family parties. It is designed to create a localized experience for tourists and citizens. They directly contribute to the economy through the construction, tourism, and service industries.

Factors To Be Considered Before Starting A Floating Restaurant Establishment

Quality Floating Docks

Long Quad Floating Docks For Boathouse Restaurants
Source: HiseaDock

When cafes are built on a sturdy floating platform, floating restaurants form one of the best catering business ideas in the contemporary economy. There is significant potential for monetization and higher customer turnover by using quality plastic floating modular docks. A diversified experience where customers simultaneously satisfy the desire for boating and delicious cafe dishes is sure to make good profits. 

For these floating restaurants, having those docks with fixed stability to varying water levels is essential. Having a quality dock at hand that is moisture and temperature resistant can take your vessel to higher levels of service and a longer lifespan. 

It is essential to keep the measurements straightforward when approaching a customizable dock solution. The restaurant must be space-efficient when looking at a kitchen or bar and restaurant dining space. A total area of 1100㎡ is a must for every floating restaurant. Doing so will ensure a capacity of at least 200-500 seats, which one can adjust accordingly with the restaurant’s theme and style. A variety of considerations need to be made concerning climate and weather conditions. Business owners often overlook this aspect. Some dimensional measurements are as follows:

  • Dimensions: 43.6 x 11.40 m
  • Lower deck: 340 m²
  • Main deck: 380 m²
  • Upper deck: 300 m²
  • Terrace: 80 m²
  • Maximum capacity: 500 persons

Standard floating restaurant dimensions follow the measurements given under:

  • Total area: 308 m²
  • Lower tier: 144 m² (Consists of staff toilets and kitchen)
  • Upper deck: 142 m² (Storage and management rooms)
  • Intermediate tier: 22m²
  • Maximum capacity: 200 persons

These varied dimensions can be brought to effect with reliable floating waterfront companies with customization facilities. For numerous years, Hisea Dock earned its reputation for delivering quality floating systems for various business clients seeking to establish a successful boating restaurant. We assist them by making customizable docks to fit their unique style for an affordable cost. Made with long-lasting materials, we put our clients at the top with their specific requirements. As with any business, there always needs to be an element that attracts tourists and vacationers. 

Proper Water Course And Location

A Location And Course Reference for Floating Cafes
Source: Unsplash

Nature can be a friend or foe for your business. As such, it always becomes vital to consider the right location and the vessel’s choice. A waterbody is filled with sturdy rocks and heavy waterfalls, which requires proper consideration and mapping. While local lakes are considered safer and more attractive, such decisions can prevent the element of adventure attractions. Hence, adventures must be planned for excitement, not danger. On the contrary, this is a restaurant they’re talking about. Therefore, adding the element of fun and danger is entirely up to the owner’s discretion.

The location and course are directly related to the point of safety and entertainment. It becomes imperative to consider the vessel’s strength while making such choices, as there can be a risk of boat damage. Specific factors that need to be considered for the best boat ride experience are as follows:

  • Waterfalls and their strength
  • Wind currents
  • Water currents
  • Water level increases and decreases
  • Rocky surfaces
  • Underwater animals and adequate protection from them
  • Other boats and vessels in the same waterbody 

Perfect Boathouse

A mobile boathouse
Source: Pexels

After all the safety measures are taken, the next step is establishing a charming boathouse. This is the fun part because this is where a host of ideas are brought to life. Most well-known floating restaurants are carried on a large barge or hulk. Doing so can enable more excellent maneuverability for the floating bridge. Floating docks are built in a flexible manner, which allows them to adapt to varying water levels. Smaller the sizes of these bridges, the higher the maneuverability. They are equipped with the ability to take off during off-seasons. When the configuration is adjusted according to requirements, they are excellent for boat rides. However, remember that a standard boat can also be used for budding restaurant owner aspirants. It is generally considered a safer avenue when not sure about the ordeal.

When looking to invest in a colossal boating vessel, a rule of thumb to use is to strike a balance between sturdiness and flexibility. Ensure the foundational base is fixed and stable to withstand any water instability. There should certainly be no disturbances that could potentially ruin a diner experience. As water cannot be controlled, it is essential to ensure that plates and glasses don’t fall over when waves hit the operator.

Another aspect to keep in mind is the movement control over the vessel. Should the ship be docked or moved into the water? While the former is a budget-friendly option due to lowered fuel expenses, this can kick the experience down a notch. It is best to choose a floating platform made with lightweight materials which are also sturdy enough to resist extreme conditions. Make sure they are welded onto a metal structure, and ensure the weight is distributed equally. 

Target Market Analysis

Source: Unsplash

As with any business, a proper target market analysis is required to narrow down the mission and vision of your business. Focus on the details of who the organization is primarily targeting. Doing so is essential from the perspective of jotting down the basic requirements the audience looks for in a floating restaurant. A proper analysis must be undertaken to evaluate information about the citizen’s dining habits. The news is that every place has a specific culture ingrained, and this can drastically influence the local dining habits. 

The best way to go about it is appropriately structured surveys and developing an image of an average customer. Certain other aspects to consider in floating restaurant market analysis is to ask these questions:

  • Where do the customers reside?
  • What do their income levels look like?
  • What elements of a restaurant can’t they stand?
  • What aspects of a diner would they prefer in a floating setting?
  • How often do they dine out?
  • What seasons work best for floating cafes?
  • What ideas would they like to see implemented in a floating restaurant?

Answering these questions can develop an understanding of what an ideal floating restaurant may look like. Great customized floating dock ideas can attract customers and local investors to the business. Once that is done, the next step is to develop a proper marketing plan and analysis.

Marketing Plans And Analysis

Source: Unsplash

“A badly marketed excellent product is the recipe for the organization’s downfall.”

This quote properly fits a floating restaurant setting. A proper business plan is built on a foundation of good marketing. Start with an attractive overview of the restaurant industry, and make your way into telling how this business is exceptionally unique. The right attitude toward serving the demographic and addressing current market needs and expectations is essential. 

Another aspect of market analysis is to break down the competitors’ services and implement them as your own. While this does not mean complete plagiarism, competitors can serve as great inspiration for a budding floating restaurant. Since their niches are already under implementation, gathering some ideas and competing in the market with your unique styles can be highly beneficial. Subsequently, it is also good to learn from their mishaps and be ahead in the game. 

There are plenty of ways to achieve this, such as hosting marketing events, promoting the restaurant on social media, and paying for advertisements. Frame them, so investors will have their ears peeled to hear about this excellent business plan. If marketing is not one of the vital areas, consider outsourcing arrangements

Business Organizational Management

Source: Unsplash

Before commencing business operations, it becomes imperative to jot down the business’s organizational structure. Communicating business plans to the head team members can create a comprehensive outlook on the primary business objective. Consider the organizational structure that works best under the current setting. This can be done through organizational charts and summaries of the shortlisted ideas. Frame them in a way that is easier to absorb. 

Human beings are an organization’s most incredible resource; thus, it becomes a requirement to manage them efficiently. This is done through organizational management, or organizational behavior management (OBM). Ensuring proper management techniques are practiced throughout the organization can assist people in delivering quality work within a given time frame. Human resource management includes the following elements:

  • Planning
  • Organizing
  • Staffing
  • Controlling
  • Directing
  • Time Management
  • Leadership

Financial Projections

Source: Pexels

The financial aspect is where the business lives. All organizations run on funds, among other things. A creative yet effective business plan and proper marketing can attract investors and secure funds for the business. A high emphasis on “why” creates a reason for such investments, and there must be adequate data to explain why investing in this business can make profitable returns. A float-house restaurant business can drastically reduce costs by acquiring cheap, quality-efficient floating work platforms.

While business plans are great for securing additional financing when the business is in operation, the pre-launch activity requires financial projections backed by objectivity. This objectivity can be catered to by appropriate market research, the industry’s contribution to the economy, market value, trends in income, patterns in expenses, and many more factors for at least five years. The more accurate the projections, the better they are for the investors.

Once the business has commenced, these projections can take place in the form of existing cash flow statements, income statements, and balance sheets. Hiring appropriate management accountants and financial analysts can assist in applying investment calculations and modifying capital structure. Either way, an attractive and concise representation makes it simpler for prospective investors to gauge opportunities.

Alluring Name

Source: Pexels

Everything in this world is represented according to its respective characteristics and unique traits. The best way to describe a restaurant concisely is through a name that captures all of its features in mere characters.

Establishing a name for a restaurant not only creates a real identity in the mind of customers but also becomes a source of reputation. These names must be an apt representation of the floating docks for lakes. The internal and external stakeholders refer to the business by its name and are also treated as a citizen of society. Moreover, managers and other employees working in the establishment feel honored and respected when working in an establishment that is second to none. A name also becomes the basis for an attractive logo. 

Plagiarism must be strictly avoided when choosing a restaurant name. There are many names for restaurants, so pay extra caution when selecting one. When talking about ideas, anything and everything can be an inspiration for a name. Take a local river or location, for example. A name is an interplay with the theme of the restaurant, as well as its type and menu.

That said, a name must not only be limited to uniqueness but also the theme and services offered. A name creates memory, and a good one can make the owner remember his achievements and services. Make sure the name is simple to remember and pronounce. Remember to make it catchy and ensure it works with the theme.

Eye-Catching Theme

Source: Pexels

All establishments work on a motive, which translates into themes that are put into practice. A theme is an intangible asset of the business- it cannot be touched or seen, but it sure is felt through the overall outlook. This is where things get fun, as themes pour life into ideas and restaurants. A floating restaurant’s theme is what sets it apart from other similar floating restaurants out there. 

While having a floating diner experience is a theme, it goes deeper than just that. Theme can be injected from the floating dock to the ship’s entirety. While it is great to take inspiration, make sure you avoid copying their atmosphere. Remember that themes are the basis for judging the degree of uniqueness. It does not have to go overboard; subtlety is a theme. 

Themes induce ambiance, which customers look for in a restaurant beyond their standard local ones. Bear in mind that customers go beyond their comfort zone to seek reservations in a floating restaurant, and the turnover is higher during vacation seasons. So, ensure they have a great atmosphere and mood where customers can kick back and enjoy the ocean view. As mentioned previously, themes and names go hand in hand. Remember this while going through the shortlisted titles. While it is easy to go overboard with themes and go crazy, it is also essential to maintain functionality.

Some basic ideas to work on are as follows:

  • Pirate themes
  • Character themes
  • Sea themes
  • Candlelight ambiance theme
  • Locational themes

National And International Regulations

Source: Pexels

Regulations are incredibly crucial from a safety perspective. While different locations have hulling and marine rules, following the NR580 directions for floating establishments is vital. They cover the following aspects:

  • General classification: Purpose, definition, meaning, scope, and limits
  • Rules and standards: Effective date, application, equivalence, novel features, industry codes, standards, etc.
  • Duties: International regulations, interventions, operation and maintenance, use and spare parts
  • Surveys: Quarter term survey, intermediate survey, class renewal survey
  • Additional requirements: General, comfort, green passport, ice environment, pollution prevention

Delicious Menu

Source: Pexels

Coming to a restaurant’s essence, it is crucial not to mess up this area. A restaurant may have a great ambiance but have average food, and vice versa, is also possible. However, there must not be any limitation in both of these aspects when it comes to a floating restaurant. Theme and foods walk together and must also progress together. Linking the theme, name, logo, and dishes is widely practiced by famous restaurants. 

Since it is a floating restaurant, exquisite seafood dishes are a must for tantalizing the customer’s palette. Feel free to change the style based on the diner in mind, but make sure everything is interrelated in the smoothest way possible. Consider an instance where the floating restaurant’s theme revolves around pirates, and everything on the floating pier was designed in that manner, but its specialty is the dessert bar. While it works somehow, the audience may feel conflicted with the contrast. When in doubt, go with the first things that come to mind when hearing the theme. It is for the restaurant’s best to discuss the menu with the head chefs and workers to gather a more fantastic range of ideas. 

The menu is the restaurant’s life force and, consequently, its charm. And the ones who work on this lifeforce are the professional culinary members. Hiring the right kitchen staff capable enough to work in versatile conditions is crucial. It may be that the business owner would like to shift themes now and then. Moreover, the kitchen staff must be able to handle movements and disturbances and be comfortable in small spaces. 

Entertainment Value

A band is performing on stage in a restaurant
Source: Pexels

While the concept of floating restaurants is entertaining, it is essential to add entertainment as the novelty can get old. Be mindful that the entertainment value of the floating restaurant must cater to all age groups. Some ideas range from subtle instrumental performances in the daytime to blaring DJ music while the night is young. This is a very sensitive aspect as customers have different tastes. So, feel free to explore the preferences of the locals and tourists and choose the best atmosphere for the theme. 

Determining the best type of entertainment can sometimes become overwhelmingly daunting. Remember to think from the customer’s viewpoint- if the owner doesn’t find it refreshing, so will the customers. Try not to get overboard with this aspect and do appropriate research about the native’s taste- some people look for peace and solitude in their dining experience. Some ideas are given below:

  • Comedy shows
  • Silent skits
  • Instrumental performance
  • Mini concerts

Safety Equipment

A crashworthy ball for boat protection
Source: Hisea Docks

As a floating restaurant owner, an essential aspect to remember is that everyone must risk playing within nature’s rules. As water bodies are heavily unpredictable, it becomes imperative to keep safety first- for the owner, staff, and customers. A floating restaurant creates an unfamiliar environment for people, and while this can be an extraordinary experience, it also carries with it dangers. There are several possibilities to look out for. 

From a general restaurant perspective, the kitchen could catch fire and create panic among everyone. A substantial risk carried with a floating boat is its fundamental nature. Apart from standard safety equipment, a floating ship may call for additional support equipment. Consider the engine breaking down, the vessel starting leaking and starting to sink, or you could get stranded in the middle of nowhere. For this reason, the restaurant needs basic safety equipment at all times, regardless of the nautical miles the ship is destined to travel. They include, but are not limited to:

  • Fire extinguishers
  • First aid
  • Life jackets
  • Additional fuel
  • Engine repair equipment
  • Lifeboats

However, prevention is always better than cure. It becomes imperative to hold onto quality equipment, so these situations do not bud. Always make sure you build your foundation strong, not only for longevity purposes but also for making safety a number one priority. Always make sure the floating accessories and tools are from a reliable manufacturer. Ensuring to do so will assist the business in the long run.

Booking Softwares

Source: Unsplash

Customers may have a variety of issues that need to be voiced. One such concern is the waiting period. Several pieces of research show a negative attitude towards waiting time, which led to the advent of the concept known as reservations. The concept of safety is achieved through side balusters and long fender floats, but technological safety is crucial as well.

Before recent times, reservations were carried out through numbers. But technologically sound business owners know that the current trend is through booking software. Technology made it possible to have contactless reservations of tables and ordering as well. Incorporating this aspect in a floating boat restaurant can make everything more flexible and time-saving.

Ensure the software used is easily comprehended even by the less tech-savvy population. It must be easy to access and place reservations and must be user-friendly. Also, ensure the staff can handle technology effectively, making contact smooth and effortless. Make the system have all the booking and cancellation information. Customers can then make plan adjustments without breaking a sweat.

As everyone knows, technology has no-end development. While current-day entrepreneurs need to stay in touch with technological developments and keep improving, it is also essential to the needs of the less-exposed demographic. Having a choice between traditional menus and QR-code ones can attract a wide range of tech-savvy and boomer customers.


Although floating restaurants can be a problematic avenue, it is an excellent idea for people seeking a unique vacation experience. Not only is it increasingly becoming trending, but the return on investments shown in existing floating restaurant businesses is humungous. Traditional restaurants have lost their appeal, and the recent hike in experience standards has made customers look for the extraordinary.

Floating restaurants strictly cater to these aspects. Keeping the above elements in mind can ensure the clients and customers have the safest journey in refreshing holidays. Safety requires proper stabilization of floating docks. Building a solid floating platform can contribute to safety and aspects like customization and a sturdy foundation for the restaurant.

Interested in building a successful floating restaurant? Contact us to request a quote for quality floating docks today!

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