Because your business will store, sell, and prepare food you'll need to register with your local environmental health department. They will inspect your premises and help you to comply with the requirements of the Food Safety Act and food hygiene regulations made under it. Contact your local authority early on in your planning so that you register in good time. There is no charge for registering.
Depending on the type of restaurant you plan to run you may need the following:
- in England and Wales - a premises licence from your local licensing authority covering the sale of alcohol - and if necessary, the supply of hot food between the hours of 11.00pm and 5.00am ('late night refreshment' - in some cases an exemption from this licensing requirement may apply). You can read more about alcohol licensing in England and Wales on the Gov.uk website. Your local authority will be able to give you more information about late night refreshment licensing
- in England and Wales - a personal licence from your local licensing authority authorising a designated responsible person (for example yourself, or a manager) to oversee the sale of alcohol
- in Northern Ireland - an alcohol licence from the county court. You can read more about alcohol licensing in Northern Ireland on the NI Direct website
- in Scotland - a premises alcohol licence from the local Licensing Board. You can read more about alcohol licensing in Scotland on the Scottish Government website
- in Scotland - a personal licence from the local Licensing Board. All licensed premises in Scotland require alcohol sales to be made by - or under the authorisation of - a personal licence holder
- licences from PRS for Music and Phonographic Performance Ltd (PPL) for background music (although you may well decide to use music that's not controlled by these organisations and may be royalty free)
- a 'first sale' fish buyer's registration covering the purchase of fresh fish direct from fishermen. Registration is available from the Fisheries Department in each of the countries in the UK. You can get more information on the Seafish website
If you plan to have some tables outside on the pavement you should obtain permission from your local highways department.
Premises - planning usage classes
When choosing premises, note that you may need to find some with the appropriate planning usage classification. It may be possible to change the classification of a premises, but this will require planning consent. It is easier to change to some classifications than to others - for example it can be difficult to change from a cafe or restaurant serving food for consumption on the premises to a hot food takeaway.
Planning usage classes covering cafe and restaurant activities are as follows:
- A3 - restaurants, snack bars and cafes (food and drink for consumption on the premises)
- A4 - drinking establishments (pubs and wine bars, but not night clubs)
- A5 - hot food takeaways (hot food for consumption off the premises)
Your restaurant may well have a bar, but so long as this is ancillary to the main restaurant business then it should normally be covered under your A3 classification. Similarly, ancillary take-away hot food business doesn't generally require a change of use from A3 to A5, particularly if take-away food is normally to be eaten at the customer's home rather than in the street.