Regulations and Licences Required to Open a Restaurant

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licences regulations restaurant

Opening your own restaurant brings plenty of challenges along with it, from the cost of the initial investment, to the time you’ll need to dedicate to preparing all of your food and managing stock levels properly. But as well as the day-to-day difficulties you might experience, one of the most confusing and time-consuming aspects of opening a restaurant is the number of regulations and licensing requirements in the industry. If you fail to comply with any or do not obtain the right licences that your restaurant or café needs before you begin trading, you could find yourself in trouble with the local council and even have your premises shut down.

So, what do you need to comply with if you decide to open your own restaurant? We’ve broken down the confusing world of regulations and licensing for you.

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What licence do I need to open a restaurant?

In the UK, restaurants, cafés and any other establishment that sells food and drink need to make sure they have the right licences before opening for business.

To open a restaurant, there are two licences that are necessary for any business that sells food. You’ll need to apply for a food business registration which covers any ‘food operations’, including selling, cooking, storing, preparing and distributing food. You must register every premises where you carry out these tasks, including your home and any mobile premises including vans and market stalls.

If your business will be handling meat, fish, egg or dairy products, you’ll also need to get food premises approval from your local council. If you run another food business and have already been approved to serve these products, you may not need to apply again, but it’s worth checking with your local council just to make sure you don’t violate your previous approval. If your business is strictly vegan, or food accounts for less than 25 percent of your total products sold, you will not need to obtain food premises approval.

You’ll need to apply for both the registration and approval at least 28 days before you open for business or you could face up to two years in prison. It’s also worth noting that there are different regulations depending on where you are in the UK, so check out the specific criteria for food premises approval for your area.

Licence to Sell Alcohol

It’s likely you’ll also need to apply for a premises licence for your restaurant. This covers things such as selling alcohol, serving hot food and drinks between 11pm and 5am and providing entertainment such as film screenings, sporting events, live music, recorded music, dancing facilities and facilities for making music. You must be over 18 and provide details of a designated premises supervisor, which can be yourself or another member of your staff that has been granted a personal licence to sell alcohol.

To get one, contact your local council with details of your premises and when you plan to provide the licence services. You’ll also have to pay a fee for the application, which ranges from £100 to £1,905, depending on the value of your business. Once you’ve been granted the licence, you’ll need to display it publicly in your premises and keep all of the paperwork at the premises, as council officers or police can ask to look at them at any time. It doesn’t expire, but you will have to pay an annual fee and you can be fined £1,000 or sent to prison for six months if you carry out licensable activities without the proper licensing.

Events Licensing

If alcohol is something you’re only going to be serving on an occasional basis (for example, during special events), you can apply for a temporary event notice (TEN) instead. This will permit you to sell alcohol, as well as provide entertainment such as live music, dancing or a sporting event and serve hot food or drink between the hours of 11pm and 5am.

However, you can only apply for up to five TENs per year (or 50 if you already have a personal licence to sell alcohol), so if you want to serve alcohol, provide entertainment or have later opening hours on a regular basis, it’s worth considering applying for a separate, year-round licence instead.

Additional Licensing

Make sure you’ve also considered optional extra licences that could really benefit your business. A TV licence is something that cafés and bars may need if they decide to put screens in their premises and will need to be applied for in the same way as you would for your TV licence at home.

You might also need a permission to distribute leaflets licence if you’d like to display leaflets and flyers from local business, free newspapers and other printed material. You’ll need one of these licences even if you just want to display takeaway menus or other promotional flyers relating only to your business, or risk being fined up to £2,500 if you break the rules of your licence or don’t obtain one.

Regulations for UK Restaurants

You and your staff will need to prove that you’re aware of proper food hygiene and health and safety regulations, so make sure you’re properly certified and display food hygiene certificates clearly. If you fail to do so, you could find yourself in trouble with Environmental Health officers and even have your business closed down permanently. Check out the Food Standards Agency (FSA) website for a full breakdown of everything you’ll need to comply with once your restaurant is in business.

You’ll also need to comply with pest control regulations as set out in The Food Safety Regulations, and ensure you have Public Liability Insurance and other appropriate insurance policies to cover your business in the event of accidents, damage or theft.

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