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Restaurant licence and regulation laws

From A3 usage licences to hygiene in restaurant regulations, Startups takes a look at what you need to know

Restaurant regulations

Unfortunately, there's no umbrella license that covers all the necessary licenses and certifications you need to apply for before opening your restaurant. So when it comes to restaurant regulations and laws, be prepared for a fair amount of paperwork and toing and froing with councils and various government bodies.

If you're planning on getting directly involved in food preparation, you'll need to have completed the necessary food handling training courses, which we also detail in the list below.

Food business registration

Register your food business with your local authority. You must apply for this license if you're planning on preparing, cooking, storing, handling, distributing, supplying or selling food. You should register your business at least 28 days before opening. If you don't register your business, you could be fined or imprisoned for up to two years.

Once you've registered your business, you may be visited by the Food Hygiene Agency. While not mandatory for you to open, you should always be prepared for an inspection – a low rating could seriously harm your chance of success.

Food Premises Approval

If you restaurant handles any meat, fish, egg, or dairy products (so all restaurants aside from strictly vegan ones), you must be inspected and approved by your local council in order to obtain Food Premises Approval. You can apply for this license here.

Premises Licence

If you plan to sell alcohol or provide any type of licensable activity, you’ll need to obtain a Premises Licence.  The licence will also cover you for serving hot food and drinks outside of standard hours (between 11pm and 5am), and playing live and recorded music. A Premises Licence costs in the region of £100 – £1,905 per year, depending on the value of your premises.

Personal Licence

You or a member of your team must hold a Personal Licence to sell alcohol. This means every sale of alcohol is authorised under the person who holds the Personal Licence. You'll need to apply for the licence through your local council.

Restaurant Insurance

There isn't specific restaurant insurance, but you will need to make sure that you have public liability insurance. Public liability insurance covers legal and compensation costs should a member of the public injure themselves or become ill in the event of visiting your restaurant.

Legally, you'll also need employers' liability insurance, which covers you in case one of your staff members becomes ill or is injured because of their place of work. Other insurance to think about is buildings insurance (usually covered by the landlord if you lease your premises but best to check!), contents insurance, and stock insurance.

Pest control regulations

You have a legal requirement to have “adequate procedures” in place to ensure pests are controlled. Read more in the Government's legislation on The Food Safety (General Food Hygiene) Regulations.

Food hygiene certificate

While it's not a legal requirement to have a food hygiene certificate, knowing best practice when it comes to handling food will help to ensure your restaurant is a safe place to eat. You can even do your training and earn your certificate online. The government also has lots of free additional food safety courses, such as food labelling, and allergen training.

Covid-19 restaurant regulations

Make sure you're operating your restaurant in line with the latest Covid-19 rules for your area. Bear in mind that they differ for England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. Here are the rules for each region outside of a national lockdown (correct on 18/11/2020). Please use the government website for your region to check the most up to date Covid-19 regulations.

England – tiering system when not in full lockdown

Level 1 – Follow the rule of six when meeting indoors or outdoors

Level 2 – No household mixing indoors

Level 3 – No mixing, restrictions on the sale of alcohol

Level 4 – Circuit breaker

Scotland – tiering when not in full lockdown

Level 0 – More than six people can meet

Level 1 – Follow the rule of six when meeting indoors and outdoors

Level 2 – No household mixing indoors

Level 3 – No mixing, restrictions on the sale of alcohol

Level 4 – Non-essential retail closed

Wales – national measures in place when not in full lockdown

People can only meet with people who are in their bubble or household

People can only meet in groups of up to four people

No alcohol served between 10pm and 6am

Places with a license to sell alcohol must close by 10.20

Northern Ireland rules

No confirmation of rules – looks set to following the tiering system in England


Invest in an order and pay app

An order and pay app will enable you to operate your restaurant legally in the event of a full lockdown.

Although you can't have customers eat on your premises, you can still operate a takeaway and delivery service from your restaurant. An order and pay app is a great way for your customers to access your menu, order their food, and pay online. Once they've paid through the app, they can come and collect their order or have it delivered if that's a service you offer.

Order and pay apps don't have to cost the earth. There are lots of white label suppliers that allow you to create a fully branded app on their platform, which means you don't have to worry about spending thousands of pounds on hiring an app designer.

The set up cost of your app will depend on whether you choose a web-based app (doesn't require downloading) or a native app (requires downloading), but usually it's no more than a couple of hundred pounds. Your order and pay app supplier will then charge you a percentage per order made through the app.

We can help you find the right order and pay app for your restaurant business. We just ask you a few simple questions, which will give us an idea of what you need, then we'll put you in touch with the best suppliers.