Complete Guide to Restaurant Registration & Licensing in Hong Kong

February 26th, 2021 by

Hong Kong is one of the most extravagant cities in the world and is home to a plethora of incredible cuisines and dishes.

Any person who has ever visited or lived in the country would agree that Hong Kong is a definite contender for being the “Food Capital of the World”.

Although Hong Kong is famous for its local dishes such as wontons, dumplings, roast goose, sweet and sour pork, steamed rice rolls, rickshaws, and beef brisket noodles to name a few, the city is also home to amazing western cuisine as well.

So it’s really up to you to decide whether you want to compete against the local restaurants or bring something new from abroad.

Eating out is considered a common hobby in the city of Hong Kong as a whopping 92% of the Citizens who were surveyed by ‘TimeOut’ had mentioned they had eaten out at least once in the past week.

So there is definitely a clear demand and market for great food in Hong Kong.

According to this Statista survey the number of licensed general restaurants in Hong Kong reached 11.5 thousand in 2019, and with over 50 of them holding a Michelin star, there is a clear standard when it comes to cuisine. 

Think you have what it takes to compete in the competitive but rewarding restaurant market in Hong Kong?

Looking to register your restaurant in Hong Kong but not sure about the process?

Look no further, we will have you covered through the following 4 step guide. 

Step 1: Incorporating your Company

This is the first step that you will need to take after your set on opening a restaurant in Hong Kong.

To do this you must register your company under the Hong Kong Companies Registry and obtain a certificate of incorporation.

During this stage, you will also have to choose an available name for your company, prepare certain legal documents such as the Articles of Association, and lastly open a bank account.

For a more in-depth guide on setting up a company in Hong Kong have a read on our previous blog post here.

Step 2: Location/Premises requirements

Finding a suitable premise for your restaurant may be considered the most important part of opening a restaurant as the amount of activity or liveliness of the area could be an impacting factor for the success of your business.

Not only this, but the premises must also comply with the following requirements:

Step 3: General Restaurant License Application

Once you have found a suitable premise for your restaurant you must then apply for the general restaurant license. 

This is obtained from the Food and environmental hygiene department for the government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region or FEHD.

The application procedure itself has 8 different steps.

Submitting the application along with the following required documents.

The required documents needed alongside your complete application is as follows:

  • Certified true copies of the Certificate of Incorporation, Business Registration Certificate, and Articles of Association for your company.
  • Certified true copies of your Notice of Situation of Registered Office
  • Certified true copies of your company’s recent annual returns
  • 3 certified true copies of the scaled metric layout plan of the restaurant premises. The layout plan must include the kitchen, refreshment area, preparation area, toilet, and stores for the premises and must be met with the FEHD minimum statutory requirements.
  • A Certified true copy of the stamped tenancy agreement or record of ownership for the premises of your restaurant.
  • A Copy of the Board of Resolution confirming the appointment of the applicant as an authorized individual to represent the company.

Screening of Premises

As mentioned in the first step the layout plan for the premises will need to meet the minimum requirements set out by the FEHD.

Thus the FEHD will perform a preliminary screening of the layout plan to ensure this.

Further inspections

The premises will also be inspected by both the Fire Services and Building department as well as the FEHD as separate inspections.

Application Vettel panel meeting

After the inspections have been completed the officers of the three departments will hold a meeting via the application vetting panel in which they will discuss any proposed problems brought up through inspection and their remedial plans.

Additional Licensing Requirements

The FEHD will issue the application with licensing requirements needed after receiving feedback from the other departments.

This criterion must be fulfilled within 6 months and a compliance report must then be submitted to the FEHD.

Final verifications and License issuance 

Once the additional licensing criteria have been met and the report has been sent the FEHD will conduct a final verification for the premises and if satisfactory, the General Restaurant Licence will be issued within 7 days after the payment of the license fee has been settled.

Step 4: Additional Licenses 

Congratulations on obtaining your general restaurant license!

However, you have not reached the end just yet. Depending on what your restaurant specializes in you may need additional licenses provided by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) such as the following:

Liquor Licence 

If you intend to serve liquor to your customers you will need this license which is obtained from the Liquor Licensing Board.

Before this license can be issued the premises of the restaurant must already be registered under a general restaurant license.

Included in the application is also an interview with the Liquor Licensing Board.

For information on the application procedure for a Liquor license/ Club liquor license check the official liquor licensing board website.

Bakery Licence  

This license will not be needed if your general restaurant bakes bread and other bakery products and is only required if your restaurant operates over-the-counter retail sales of bread and other bakery products.

You can find the full guide on how to apply for a bakery license here.

Import Licence

This license is required if your restaurant business intends to import frozen meat and poultry.

In addition to this, your restaurant will also need to be registered to the Centre of Food safety.

Food factory license

A food factory license must be obtained if your restaurant intends to prepare, further process, manufacture, or pack food for the sale of human consumption off the premises.

This would include take-away and catering services as well.

You can find the full guide on how to apply for a Food factory license here.

Karaoke establishment permit

Operating a karaoke facility within your restaurant business has the potential to bring in customers and would require a Karaoke establishment permit.

The permit will only be issued to premises that are licensed as a restaurant.

Non-bottled Drinks/Frozen Confections/Milk Permit 

This permit is required for the retail sale of non-bottled drinks, frozen confections, or milk.

Non-bottled drinks: Drinks that are sold for immediate consumption that are not stored in containers, cans, bottles, etc.

Frozen confections: Foods such as cakes, ice cream, ice pops/lollies, and frozen yogurt are some examples of frozen confections.

The full guide on this application can be found here.

Vending Machine Permit

Selling food or drinks at your restaurant through a vending machine would require this specific permit.

Restricted Food Permit

What is classified as a restricted food in Hong Kong?

The sale of foods such as cut fruit as well as sashimi, oyster, meat, and sushi in their raw form would require a restricted food permit.

Outdoor Eating/Seating Accommodation Permit 

For open area outdoor dining also known as al fresco dining your restaurant will require an accommodation permit. 

For more information on this permit please view the information provided by the FEHD here.

Staff Hiring for Restaurants

Now that all the required licenses and permits have been obtained the last step of starting a restaurant in Hong Kong is to hire your staff.

It is up to you whether you would like to hire either local staff or foreign staff to work at your restaurant.

However foreign staff will need to be employed under either one of the two following work pass schemes: the Supplementary Labour Scheme or the Employment Visa Scheme depending on their skill level.

A Supplementary Labour Scheme would be required for low to mid-skilled foreign workers and the Employment Visa Scheme for highly skilled professionals.

To Wrap Things Up

Setting up a restaurant is not as easy as it would seem and as we’ve addressed when operating in an industry dealing with food the health and safety departments must be cautious and as a result have imposed several legal requirements for registering a restaurant.

But of course, the important part now is how this restaurant business will grow and hopefully become a successful Michelin starred restaurant in the future.


Looking to register a restaurant? Get your restaurant incorporated with Air Corporate today and get your business off the ground in under 48 hours.

10 FAQs About Nominee Directors in Hong Kong

February 17th, 2021 by

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A nominee director is one of the most critical appointments for companies in Hong Kong. 

For companies set up in Hong Kong, the appointment of at least one director is mandatory.

Many investors, especially those involved with offshore companies, prefer to keep their identity confidential, and that’s where a nominee director can come in handy.

Nominee directors are third-party directors that are appointed to conceal the identity of the actual director.

They can be a replacement for an investor or financial institution.

This article will look at ten FAQs about nominee directors in Hong Kong.

1 – What is the legal requirement of appointing a nominee director?

Given that Hong Kong ranks high on the list of ease of doing business and lives up to the moniker of the world’s freest financial hub, many investors hold shares in various Hong Kong Companies.

However, some investors may be unwilling to publicize the details of investment and their beneficial ownership in these companies. 

On the other hand, the Companies Ordinance makes it mandatory for company owners to disclose their identities.

So the law allows for the appointment of nominee directors to protect the identity of the actual investor.

Appointing such a third-party director can also help foreign investors avoid a hefty tax slip. 

It is also possible to appoint a nominee shareholder through a nominee shareholder service who can perform similar functions as a third-party director. 

2 – What is the procedure for appointing a nominee director?

Since appointing such a director is to conceal the real investor’s identity, the process involves a few steps and the execution of certain documents.

These documents ensure that the nominee always acts on the directions received from the beneficial owner. 

Here’s an overview of the documents executed for the appointment of a nominee director:

  • Nominee director statement: this refers to a service agreement executed between the beneficial owner and nominee. This agreement states that the appointed nominee director has agreed to represent the company and act based on the instructions received from the beneficial owner.
  •  Power of attorney:  This document is executed by the beneficial owner and evidences the transfer of power to the director. The rights to perform transactions, open bank accounts, execute documents, and other activities necessary for the proper functioning of the company are provided in this document.
  • Resignation letter: This undated by signed letter is used for re-transferring the rights when such director is no longer required.
  • Declaration of Trust: The appointment is based on trust between the beneficial owner and the director. The declaration of trust is in the nature of a confidentiality agreement that ensures the identity of the beneficial owner remains protected at all times.   

Please note that these directors are not nominee shareholders.

However, in certain exceptional cases, even such directors may hold shares in the company for a limited period of time.

3 – What are the duties of such a director?

The primary duty is to protect the identity of the beneficial owner and act in their interest.

Other specific duties are as per the instructions received from the beneficial owner.

Typically, these directors are responsible for carrying out transactions, opening bank accounts, operating such accounts, executing legally binding agreements on behalf of the company, collecting rents, etc. 

4 – Are beneficial owners completely protected after appointing a nominee?

Such a director’s job is to prevent personal information about beneficial owners from becoming part of public records.

In case the beneficial owner breaches the law, leading to investigations by tax and legal authorities, the director can hand over the Power of Attorney to establish the identity of the true owner. 

5 – How is a shadow director different from a nominee director?

A shadow director has the power to provide instructions within the company.

However, such directors do not have any authority to enter into binding legal obligations on behalf of the company.

They do not enjoy any statutory protection available to other directors. 

Shadow directors don’t participate in corporate governance decisions as they are not real directors of the company.

In fact, most shadow directors are unaware of their rights and obligations. Liability insurance for directors and officers of the company does not cover shadow directors.

As a result, any mistake can result in the personal liability of a shadow director.

6 – Are there any disadvantages of appointing these directors?

Appointment incurs a significant amount of costs.

Since this is a service provided by a company engaged in nominee services, it is taxed as per the usual tax regulations.

If the beneficial owners act as the company directors, these costs can be avoided. 

You may also encounter some directors who refuse to execute certain agreements, especially if there are serious consequences attached.

For example, a company that undertakes speculative trade may find it challenging to get the nominee to sign.  

7 – Is a third-party director responsible for making active business decisions for the company? 

No, all decisions are taken in consultation with the beneficial owner and the terms of the documents executed.

A power of attorney only makes it easier for the third-party director to act as the agent of the beneficial owner and take those decisions it has been empowered to. 

8 – Should I involve the nominee director in the management of my company?

You may consider allowing such a director to be involved with the management of the company.

This will ensure that the director performs all the essential duties of a company director while maintaining strict confidentiality about the owner’s identity.

9 – Who is eligible to receive the dividend income?

The dividend income is the right of the beneficial owner.

The documents executed for the third-party director’s appointment must ensure adequate safeguards to prevent the director from siphoning the funds. 

10 – Can I open a bank account for my company with such appointments?

Over the years, banks have been cautious about opening accounts for those companies that have a nominee structure in place.

Most outrightly reject such proposals.

The astronomical cost of compliance is often cited as the reason.

Moreover, banks also fear if these accounts are used for illegal activities such as money laundering and tax evasion. 

Wrapping up

If you plan to solicit the services of a nominee director service and appoint a nominee, it must be done right when the company is in a formative stage.

Since the names of the third-party directors are included in the articles of association, you must know who they are.

Struggling to appoint the right nominee for your company?

Get in touch with our specialized team, who can guide you through the process of company formation and clarify your doubts about appointing a third-party director. 

With Air Corporate by your side, you can focus on your business while we take care of the rest. Set up a consultation with us today and get started.

8 Different Types of Hong Kong Business License

February 4th, 2021 by

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To have smooth business operations in Hong Kong, it’s necessary to obtain the relevant business licenses. The city offers a diverse range of licenses to cater to various industries, such as restaurants, construction, and retail.

If you’re planning to sell food and drinks, a Food Business License is required, while selling alcoholic beverages will require a Liquor License. A General Business License is needed for opening a retail store, covering a broad spectrum of retail activities.

Let’s take a look at the 8 different types of licenses you can look out for in Hong Kong.

1. Education Business License

You will need a ‘Certificate of Registration of a School’ to operate an education business in Hong Kong.

The certificate of registration is issued by the Education Bureau of Hong Kong. 

After being issued a certificate, you will be able to set up the following institutions that provide certification or a diploma:

  • Kindergartens
  • Vocational centres
  • Academic institutions
  • Language schools
  • Enrichment centres

2. Employment Agency License

You will need a ‘License to Operate an Employment Agency’ to provide placement and recruitment services to other employers or organisations.

The Hong Kong Labour Department issues the license under the Employment Ordinance.

It is valid for one year once it is issued and must be renewed before it expires.

A license is required by all employment agencies, which include the following:

  • Executive search companies
  • Headhunting companies
  • Foreign domestic worker agencies
  • Local and foreign staffing companies

3. Event Management Company License

The type of license required by an event management company depends upon the nature of the event that is being organised.

Event management companies are generally described as those which host community events, outdoor events, sporting events, concerts, exhibitions, conferences, and conventions.

A ‘Place of Public Entertainment License’ issued by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department is required to organise events that are open to the public. 

This includes both free and paid ticketed events.

If the event is temporary, then a ‘Temporary Place of Public Entertainment License’ is required.

Public entertainment events include musical stage performance events, cinemas, lectures, exhibitions, amusement rides, contests or even a circus.

Additionally, you will need the following licenses depending on the nature of the event:

  • Amusement with Prizes License, Lottery License, Certificate for Advertising Materials and Certificate of Approval issued by the Television and Entertainment Licensing Authority.
  • A Food Factory License issued by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department.
  • A Liquor License is issued by the Liquor Licensing Board.

In fact, the restaurant license in Hong Kong is one of the most regulated, here is a full list of what that entails.

4. Financial Services Company License

You will need a financial services company license depending upon the nature of the financial services you offer. 

The following types of licenses may be required:

  • An Authorised Insurance Brokers License and an Authorised Insurance Business License issued by The Office of the Commissioner of Insurance to operate as an insurance broker and insurance business in Hong Kong.
  • A Money Lenders License is issued by the Companies Registry if your company offers money lending services in Hong Kong.
  • A Pawnbrokers License issued by the Hong Kong Police Force is required to operate as a pawnbroker.
  • A Representative License, Authorized Institution License, and Corporate License are issued by the Securities and Futures Commission if your company provides investment advice. This type of service includes fund investment, foreign exchange trading, commodity futures, security and overseas stock.
  • The Registration of Insurance Agents issued by the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance is required to work as an insurance agent.
  • The Registration of Deposit-Taking Company to Carry issued by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority is required to operate a banking business that takes deposits.

5. Restaurant License

A ‘General Restaurant License’ issued by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department is required to open a restaurant in Hong Kong.

You will also first need to establish a place of retail operation before applying for the license.

As a food and beverage business, you may need the following additional licenses depending on the nature of your restaurant and the type of products you provide:

  • A Bakery License is required to bake bakery products for sale at the restaurant.
  • A Food Factory License is required to manufacture, prepare, and process, store and pack food for consumption from the restaurant.
  • An Import License is required to import frozen meat and poultry.
  • A Karaoke Establishment Permit is required to host karaoke in the restaurant.
  • A License for Storage or Manufacture of Dangerous Goods to store liquor that is not meant for immediate consumption at the restaurant.
  • An Outside Seating Accommodation Permit is required to use an open area as a restaurant.
  • A Restricted Food Permit is required to sell restricted foods such as sushi, oyster, sashimi and other raw meat.
  • A Vending Machine Permit is required to sell drinks and food from a vending machine.

6. Retail Shop License

You will need a license if you own and operate a retail shop in Hong Kong.

Depending on the nature of your retail business, more than one license may be required.

This is usually the case if you sell different goods and services.

The following licenses are required for a retail business in Hong Kong:

  • An Animal Boarding Establishment License issued by the Agriculture, Fisheries, and Conservation Department is required to operate a pet retail shop.
  • A Retailer License in Chinese Herbal Medicines issued by the Department of Health is required to operate as a Chinese herbs retail shop.
  • A Listing Certificate of Class II/III Medical Devices and Certificate of Registration of Premises of an Authorized Seller of Poisons issued by the Department of Health is required to operate a medicinal, cosmetics, and pharmaceutical drugs retail shop.

7. Trading Company License

You will need a trading company license if your business involves importing and exporting products.

If your business trades controlled goods such as cigarettes and tobacco products, petrochemicals, drugs, animals, and food products, you would need a trading license.

Depending on the type of products you import and export, you may require the following licenses:

  • An Import/Export License for dutiable goods and controlled chemicals issued by the Customs and Excise Department (alcoholic liquors, tobacco products, oils, etc.)
  • An Import/Export License for animals and birds issued by the Import and Export Division, Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department.
  • An Import/Export License for foodstuffs issued by the Centre of Food Safety, Food, and Environmental Hygiene Department
  • An Import/Export License for textiles issued by the Trade and Industry Department
  • An Import/Export License for pharmaceutical products, medicines, and dangerous drugs issued by the Pharmaceuticals Import/Export Control Unit, Pharmaceutical Service, Department of Health.
  • An Import/Export License for pesticides issued by the Plant and Pesticides Regulatory Division, Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department.

8. Travel Agency License

You will need a ‘Travel Agent’s License’ issued by the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau to operate as a travel agency that provides travel services and packages.

A Travel Agent’s License enables you to provide tour offers, travel packages, and transportation services.

Moreover, the license allows you to sell tickets for tours and transportation, arrange hotel accommodations and provide other related services.

Final Words

Here is what you should always have in mind:

  • Before you apply for a business license, you must register business your business with the Companies Registry.
  • Understanding your business’ nature and its activities is extremely important to identify the type of license you need.

Looking to navigate all the HK licenses when registering your business?

Register your company with Air Corporate today and we’ll help you get the business licenses you need to get to work.

Focus on your business. We take care of the rest.