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Complete Guide to Restaurant Registration & Licensing in Hong Kong

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Restaurant Registration & Licensing in Hong Kong

Step 1: Incorporating Your Company

Step 2: Location/Premises Requirements

Step 3: General Restaurant License Application

Step 4: Additional Licenses and Regulations

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,” all thanks to its exciting food and beverage industry.

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. There was a time even a time when a whopping 92% of the citizens who were surveyed 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 you decide to open 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, read our previous blog post here.

Step 2: Location/Premises Requirements

Finding suitable premises 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:

It is easier to comply with this in Hong Kong. In the U.S., they also need to have a Building Health Permit. It shows that a restaurant building and its practices comply with sanitation regulations.

Step 3: General Restaurant Licenses Application

Once you have found a suitable premise for your restaurant, you must then apply for the general restaurant license (food service license).

This is obtained from the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department of the government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region or FEHD.

Applying Along With the Following Required Documents

The required documents needed alongside your complete application are 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
  • Three 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 meet 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 the 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. If satisfactory, the General Restaurant License will be issued within 7 days after the payment of the license fee has been settled.

register your restaurant in Hong Kong

Step 4: Additional Licenses and Regulations

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 regulations, licenses, and permits provided by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD), such as the following:

Liquor License 

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 License  

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 License

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

In addition to this, your restaurant will also need to be registered with 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.

Waste Disposal Ordinance

While not required to obtain a license, restaurants in Hong Kong must follow the Waste Disposal Ordinance (Cap. 354), which promotes waste reduction.

It's recommended to have proper waste disposal practices, including using designated dumpsters for food waste and general trash.

In the U.S., having dumpsters often requires a dumpster placement permit.

Employees' Health

While Hong Kong doesn't have an employee health permit like the U.S. (sometimes called “food handler’s permit”), the FEHD likely has employee health and hygiene guidelines.

  • Encourage or require your food handlers to take a food safety course. This training teaches employees about proper food storage and handling to prevent contamination.
  • Implement a voluntary or mandatory health screening program for staff, especially those handling food directly.
  • Ensure staff know proper handwashing procedures and enforce regular handwashing throughout the workday. Provide sanitation supplies and require proper uniform protocols.

Also, in the U.S., the city or county health department issues food service licenses. The health department visits an establishment in person to ensure it follows all restaurant food safety regulations.

The restaurants there can obtain a food vendor's license application from your local health department, either online or in person. They can apply for a temporary, fixed, or mobile food service license. The food service license cost ranges from $100 to $1000 (depending on the number of employees and location).

Meanwhile, an employee health permit cost varies from state to state but can range from $100 to $500.

Staff Hiring for Restaurants

Now that all the required restaurant permits and licenses have been obtained, the last step in 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 would be required for highly skilled professionals.

To Wrap Things Up

Setting up a restaurant is not as easy as it would seem. 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.


Vivian Au

For many years, I worked at big accounting and company secretary firms in Hong Kong. I started Air Corporate to make the life of entrepreneurs and SMEs easy.

Vivian Au


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