On the Line / Fine Dining / What is a Churrascaria?

What is a Churrascaria?

Learn about the history of and how to start your own churrascaria, as well as what kind of food you can find on the menu at a churrascaria.

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A churrascaria is a restaurant where meat is cooked in a specific style, known as ‘churrasco.’ Learn about the history of and how to start your own churrascaria, as well as what kind of food you can find on the menu at a churrascaria.

What is a churrascaria?

A churrascaria refers to a restaurant that primarily cooks a selection of different meats in what is known in Brazil as ‘churrasco,’ a rotisserie style of cooking. A churrascaria is essentially a Brazilian-style steakhouse. 

A churrascaria offers a service called ‘rodizio’, referring to waiters who attend tables with meat on a skewer and allow you to choose what you want. These “passadors,” or meat waiters, then use knives to cut and serve the meat to you. You are able to communicate with the waiters at a churrascaria using red and green cards set on your table. The cards are how you indicate when you want more food brought to you versus when you are full and don’t wish to be served.

What is the history of churrascaria?

The term ‘churrascaria’ is Brazilian and comes from the word ‘churrasco’ which is a Portuguese translation of the word ‘barbecue.’ It also comes from the term ‘churrascar’ which is a Spanish term meaning “scorch,” and defines the method of cooking meats over charcoal or wood-fired grills. In Brazil, most churrascarias roast meat over charcoal, but churrascarias near Argentina and Uruguay are more known to cook over wood.

What is typically on the menu at a churrascaria?

A churrascaria is a meat-heavy restaurant that serves a variety of cooked meats on a display skewer, which will be brought to tables for serving. Typically, a churrascaria will serve a variety of steak cuts: prime sirloin, filet mignon, and short ribs; as well as chicken, lamb, duck, sausage, ham, and other pork cut options. Most meats are cooked medium rare or medium and are served by cutting portions off the meat skewers directly onto your plate. 

Some churrascarias will offer appetizers and desserts, which will also be brought to your table, though some restaurants will set them out as a buffet table. The side dishes typically served at a churrascaria include simple items, such as fresh hearts of palm, fried bananas, salad, pasta, various vegetables, and sometimes even sushi. At some churrascarias, you may see more traditional side dishes, such as farofa (a dish made of yucca flour, sometimes with bacon and eggs) or pao de queijo (a type of cheese bread).

How do you start a churrascaria?

To help you get started with your own restaurant, we put together a comprehensive step-by-step guide on how to open a restaurant. 

The first step to opening a restaurant is creating a business plan. Other steps include finding a good location (keeping in mind you may need a sizable restaurant to fit enough tables for a true churrascaria dining experience) and obtaining licenses, including a health department permit, a food handler’s license, and a food sales permit. 

Moreover, a churrascaria will require you to have a grill or firepit, so these are other important elements you will need to look for and consider when viewing restaurant locations. 

If you prefer to franchise a churrascaria, there are options to open one from successful churrascarias. Going this route would still require you to make a business plan and obtain the necessary permits, but its a good option if you don’t prefer to start your own.

How much does it cost to start a churrascaria?

A churrascaria is a big restaurant and the nature of them having cooked meats displayed and served on skewers means the costs of running a proper one will likely be on the higher end. You will need an adequate-sized location, a good commercial grill, and many people on your staff to keep your business operations smooth. And if you do decide to go the franchise route, startup costs can range anywhere from $10,000 to $1.3 million.

Restaurant startup costs can vary based on location, local rent prices, whether you have furniture and seating, renovation needs, and more. The average cost to open a restaurant can range from $100,000 to $2 million.

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