Setting Up a Restaurant in Hong Kong

6 min read|Last Updated: September 13, 2021|

Status of the Restaurant Industry in Hong Kong 

Hong Kong is home to one of the most vibrant and diverse restaurant scenes in the world. This fact should not come as a surprise because many of the people living there today have begun to develop tastes for foods of all types from all over the world. Hong Kong’s restaurants can be separated into five broad categories: Chinese food, non-Chinese food, fast food, bars, and other establishments. Hong Kong is one of the world’s leading locations for restaurant patrons. It is a place with one of the world’s highest numbers of restaurants per capita; in Hong Kong, there is approximately one restaurant for every 600 residents.  

The revenue of Hong Kong’s restaurant industry which was driven by restaurant food and beverage purchases has been increasing over recent years. This shows that Hong Kong’s restaurant industry is currently enjoying very positive circumstances. Hong Kong’s restaurants are expected to continue along the path of financial growth in coming years 

Restaurant operators have been taking advantage of the current favorable economic climate to expand to strategic locations while at the same time updating menu options for Hong Kong’s eager consumers who are interested in an increased variety of cuisines. 

Restaurant owners have also been gradually increasing the number of healthy and nutritious options in their restaurants. The efforts of the Hong Kong government in promoting the “Eat Smart campaign have served to encourage restaurant owners to take into consider nutritional aspects when developing their menus.
Today, most consumers are more aware of the origins of their food and the type of impact which it will have on the environment. There have been an increased number of discussions on sustainability as it relates to food in the media and by government officials. Therefore, several organizations have been providing assistance to restaurant owners in Hong Kong to make their menus more environmentally friendly. For example, the World Wildlife Fund has provide some restaurants in Hong Kong with a sustainable seafood guide. It has also published a list of hotels, restaurants, and clubs in Hong Kong that offer menus deemed to be environmentally friendly. 


Licensing Requirements for Restaurant Setup in Hong Kong 

There are several licensing requirements that must be followed before setting up a restaurant or food and beverage establishment in Hong Kong. To open a restaurant where food and drinks are sold, a prospective owner is required to obtain a General Restaurant License from the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD). Additionally, anyone who plans to set up a restaurant in Hong Kong may require other licenses if they intend to sell liquor on the premises, reserve a part of the restaurant’s area for alfresco dining, prepare bakery products, or do anything else for which a specific license is required. Other than the General Restaurant License, some of the licenses and permits which are required are the Liquor LicenseImport LicenseBakery LicenseFood Factory LicenseKaraoke Establishment PermitNon-bottled Drinks PermitRestricted Food PermitPermit to Sell Food by Means of Vending Machine, and the Permission for Outside Seating Accommodation. Owning any of these licenses or permits allows the restaurant owner to conduct the associated activities on the restaurant premises.

Want to Start business in Singapore
Want to Start business in Singapore

Process of Setting Up a Restaurant in Hong Kong 

The first step in the process of setting up a restaurant in Hong Kong is that of company incorporation. There is a requirement for everyone who does so to obtain a Certificate of Incorporation from the Hong Kong Companies Registry. Once the company incorporation has been completed, the restaurant owner is to select a location in which suitable premises could be located. This location is to be chosen before an application for the General Restaurant License is to be made. However, not all premises may be selected for the purposes of restaurant operations. Only premises which are found to be in compliance with the Building Safety Requirements of the Buildings Department, the Fire Safety Requirements of the Fire Services Department, and the Health Requirements of the FEHD may be used. 

When applying for the General Restaurant License from the FEHD in order to commence the business operations of the restaurant, the restaurant owner must first submit several important documents. 

Most restaurant operators in Hong Kong are required to obtain a General Restaurant License from the Hong Kong Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) before commencing business operations. These include a General Restaurant License application; three certified true copies of the scaled metric layout plan of the premises which display the entire interior layout of every portion of the restaurant as well as proof that the FEHD’s minimum statutory requirements are being followed; certified true copies of the Business Registration Certificate, Certificate of Incorporation, and Articles of Association of the company; a certified true copy of the company’s most recent annual returns; a copy of the Board Resolution which will be used to confirm the appointment of an authorized person who will represent the company during the application for the license; and a certified true copy of the stamped tenancy agreement or record of ownership of the premises to be used for the restaurant. 

Once the FEHD has received the application, the FEHD will send a copy of the completed application form as well as a copy of the proposed layout plan to the Buildings Department and the Fire Services Department for approval. The FEHD will then conduct a preliminary screening of the layout plan to ensure that it conforms to all of the FEHD’s requirements before any further processing of the application. Applicants will be informed of the outcome within 10 working days. After this step has been completed, the FEHD, Fire Services Department, and Buildings Department will conduct separate site inspections to determine if the proposed premises for the restaurant are suitable for use. Within 10 days of the last of the site inspections, aApplication Vetting Panel meeting between the officers of the three departments and the applicant will be held within 10 days after the site inspections. Areas deemed to be problematic or faulty, proposals for remedial works, and the applicants proposed construction and decoration programs are discussed during the meeting. After the meeting, the Buildings Department and Fire Services Department will provide the FEHD with feedback. The FEHD will subsequently send a letter of licensing requirements to the applicant based on the feedback. Within six months of receiving the letter of licensing requirements, the applicant must satisfy all of the criteria listed in the letter and then report compliance to the FEHD for verification. 

Within 10 days of receiving the applicant’s report of compliance, the FEHD will conduct another verification of the premises to be used. Should the FEHD deem the premises to be fit for use, it will issue the General Restaurant License to the applicant after the applicant pays a prescribed license fee. The payment is to be made within seven days of the final verification. If all additional licenses required have been obtained, the business operations of the restaurant may begin.

Setting Up a Restaurant in Hong Kong FAQs

Are foreigners who open a restaurant in Hong Kong subject to additional regulations?2020-02-18T09:37:47+00:00

Anyone who plans to set up a restaurant in Hong Kong must comply with the business registration and licensing criteria, especially those related to the food sector. This is true of locals and foreigners alike. Therefore, it can be concluded that foreigners who open a restaurant in Hong Kong are not subject to additional regulations pertaining to the process of setting up a restaurant there. 

What difficulties do restaurant owners in Hong Kong face?2020-02-18T09:36:48+00:00

Restaurant owners in Hong Kong face many challenges. Some of these are internal challenges while others are external challenges. Among these challenges include monetary difficulties, lack of labor, and high levels of competition. These have imposed certain burdens on those who run restaurants in Hong Kong; however, those who run their restaurant in the optimal manner will understand that there will always be suitable solutions to address any problems faced. 

Is anyone allowed to sell food which they have made themselves?2020-02-18T09:35:40+00:00

Those who plan to sell self-made food in Hong Kong will usually need a license to do so. The type of license to be used depends on the location in which the food is to be consumed, whether on the premises or off them. 

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