restaurant licenses and permits

Permissions and regulations for your restaurant

Before you can open your restaurant, there are many administrative and legal requirements to fulfill. This process can be very overwhelming, as it involves numerous passages through different authorities and offices. We at METRO want to give you an extensive overview of everything you need to know and have, to be set for opening your restaurant.

Licenses Needed to Run a Restaurant

1. licenses and certificates required for your restaurant 

First and foremost, there are several licenses and certificates you need to own and hold before you can open your restaurant to the public. Two requirements are always mandatory: a health certificate and a restaurant permit. Other requirements might be needed in certain situations, like building permits and an application for outside hospitality.

Licenses Needed to Run a Restaurant

1.1 Health certificate

The health certificate is usually required by your local health authority and can be applied for online. A health certificate certifies that you and all your staff have been officially informed in writing and orally about your duties according to the German Infection Protection Act. Therefore, to acquire the needed health certificate, you need proof of this information, which must not be older than three months. You will also need to renew this proof every two years. In addition, every staff member must sign a document that proves that they do not carry any diseases that may deem them unsuitable for working with food items.


1.2 Restaurant Permit

The second mandatory license that you need is a restaurant permit. Every business that sells food and beverages that are to be consumed at the location of the business need such a permit. This permit is issued by your local restaurant authority and can also be applied for online. To obtain such a permit, you need to submit several documents. This typically includes:

  • your rental or purchase contract for your restaurant location,
  • your criminal record certificate, 
  • health certificates, 
  • a financial clearance certificate.

However, this may vary regionally. We recommend looking up all the information on your local authority’s website and adhering to those requirements.


1.3 Building permit

If you must conduct any renovation work to adhere to security (or other types of) guidelines, you might need to obtain a building permit. Please note that not every type of construction or renovation requires a building permit. You need to gather information from your local building authority and check if a permit is mandatory. You need to apply for the permit at your local building authority. If you do need a building permit, don’t conduct any construction before receiving said permit to avoid fines.


1.4 Application for outside hospitality

If your restaurant is located on the side of a street, you might want to use the sidewalk in front of your restaurant as an outdoor seating area in the summer. Or maybe you just want to use a patio area or a garden space that already belongs to your restaurant. In both cases, however, you need to apply for a permit for outside hospitality. For this, the application goes to your local restaurant authority.
Types of Insurance for Restaurants

2. insurance for your restaurant

In order to avoid severe financial trouble and to safeguard your restaurant in the best way possible, it is crucial to obtain different types of insurance for your restaurant. We recommend a liability insurance for businesses, an inventory insurance and a legal protection insurance for businesses.

Liability insurance for businesses

2.1 Liability insurance for businesses

The liability insurance for businesses covers any damages to a third party or their property that were caused by you or your employees whilst working in your restaurant. It also covers the financial consequential damages of your or your employees’ actions. This type of insurance is crucial for most businesses.

In the event of damage, the liability insurance for business covers both the compensation as well as passive legal protection. The premiums are calculated according to your restaurant’s profit, your number of employees, and your personal financial contribution. Research different insurance companies and figure out what benefits they offer at what price point.

Inventory insurance

2.2 Inventory insurance

An inventory insurance comes into action if your restaurant’s inventory, including your furnishing and your stock, are destroyed. Causes for the destruction can be fire, water, burglary, and other natural environmental causes.

In the event of damage, the inventory insurance covers the costs for any repairs or replacements, clearing work, and safety measures. Depending on your insurance company and your insurance plan, you can add additional services to your inventory insurance. Here, the premiums are calculated according to the value of your current inventory, with factors like your location and your personal financial contribution also playing a role. Just like with the previous insurance, we recommend researching different options.

Legal protection insurance

2.3 Legal protection insurance 

The legal protection insurance for businesses protects you in the case of a lawsuit arising for your restaurant. Their main use is to cover any legal fees and the costs for an attorney. This insurance comes into effect in both cases of legal issues: when your restaurant is being accused of legal misconduct and when your restaurant wants to act against somebody else.

It is recommended to acquire such a legal protection insurance for your restaurant, as there are certain risks of legal issues arising. One of these factors is the relationship between you as an employer and your employees. Legal issues in the field of employment law could arise in the case of termination. Moreover, as the owner of a restaurant, you could be subject to legal issues regarding your location and your lease, taxes, and vendors. Whilst we hope you won’t be drawn into lawsuits, we strongly advise you to plan ahead and insure your restaurant.

The premiums are generally calculated according to the same factors as the other insurances: number of employees, the sum insured, and your personal financial contribution.

Regulations for Your Restaurant

3. rules and regulations for your restaurant

Your restaurant needs to follow certain rules and regulations to avoid fines and bans. We at METRO want to introduce you the most important rules and regulations you need to adhere to if you want to open a restaurant in Germany.

3.1 Hygiene regulations

In a gastronomical business, it is crucial to follow hygiene regulations. Generally, these rules are found in the European food hygiene regulation and in the national food hygiene regulation. These regulations contain rules for:

  • the storage of your food items,
  • the structural and technical aspects of your restaurant (e.g., air filters, temperature control etc.),
  • the storage and make of any utensils that encounter food items,
  • the hygiene of employees,
  • the handling of food waste.

The compliance with these rules initially needs to be recorded and controlled by yourself with a system specially created for this process. You then need to verify your hygiene standards with your local health authority.

3.2 Cut-off times and Music Licence

Legal cut-off times. Depending on the state your restaurant is in, there can be legal cut-off times, meaning times of day when your restaurant needs to be closed. However, the laws are different in the various states of Germany. But to give you an example, in Baden-Württemberg, restaurants and bars need to be closed by 3 am on nights before weekdays. Before Saturday and Sunday, however, this cut-off time is extended to 5 am. On any day, your restaurant may reopen by 6 am. Different cut-off times come into effect on public holidays.

GEMA - Music Licence. If you want to play music in your restaurant, you need to register with the GEMA. Depending on the amount of music you want to play, you will need to pay a fee with the GEMA.

3.3 Labeling and Pricing requirements

Labeling requirements. As a restaurant owner, you are required to label certain ingredients, specifically additives, on your menu. This requirement is derived from a European regulation on additives in food items.

Substances you are legally required to label are preservatives, colorants, sweeteners, flavor enhancers, phosphate, sulfur, quinine, and caffeine. Usually, restaurant label these substances by giving them numbers, adding the numbers to the food items, and then having a register on the last page of the menu. Also, you need to inform your customers about allergens as well. Allergens that need to be mentioned on your menu are gluten, crustaceans, eggs, fish, peanuts, soy, milk, legumes, celery, mustard, sesame, sulfur dioxide and sulfate, mollusks, and lupins.

Price indication regulation. The price indication regulation regulates how you need to display the prices of your menu items to your customers. In general, the price needs to be the end price that the customer will pay, including all taxes.

3.4 Youth and Non-smokers laws

Youth protection laws. There are many rules for restaurants that can be found in youth protections laws. Firstly, in any establishment that serves alcohol, which includes most restaurants, children under the age of 16 are only allowed to be there from 5 am to 12 am, if they are not accompanied by their parent or guardian. However, if they are accompanied by their parent or guardian, there are no limits in that sense. Secondly, no alcohol is allowed to be served to children under the age of 16. Under the age of 18, only drinks with a lower alcohol content, such as wine, beer, and sparkling wine, are allowed to be served and consumed.

Non-smokers protection laws. In Germany, there is a general ban on smoking in restaurants. However, there are exceptions, for instance if your restaurant has a separate room for smoking or if your restaurant only allows adults over the age of 18 to enter.

We recommend looking into these laws and regulations, as there are many guidelines to follow.

To Sum Up

5. Summary – permissions and regulations for your restaurant

Restaurant paperwork permissions

All the mentioned licenses, certificates, rules, and regulations are very important for your restaurant. However, the health certificate and the restaurant permit build the groundwork for your restaurant and are the most crucial requirements. We at METRO recommend working your way through this overview, contacting offices, acquiring more information that is specific to your personal restaurant plans, and making sure that every permit and certificate is applied for weeks or months ahead of your planned opening date.

The requirements can be overwhelming but stay calm, every restaurant has gone through this process, so you can do it too. Just take your time and have help by your side to coordinate everything.

Frequently Asked Questions


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