Administrative procedures and formalities for opening a restaurant

Are you planning on opening a restaurant? To ensure no vital step is skipped, the following is a comprehensive overview of the administrative formalities you will have to complete before you can open to the public.

What administrative formalities are necessary to open a restaurant?

To open your restaurant, you must complete the following administrative formalities:

  1. Choose a legal status
  2. Create your restaurant company
  3. Make the mandatory declarations
  4. Obtain a licence and operating permit 
  5. Take out compulsory insurance.

Choosing a legal status for your restaurant

The first step is to choose a legal status for your restaurant business (commercial company, micro-enterprise, sole proprietorship, etc.). 

Restaurant owners often opt for the limited liability company model (SARL or EURL), a sole proprietorship, or an SAS.

A SARL (Société à responsabilité limitée) must have at least two partners. With this type of company, the liability of the partners is limited to the amount they have each contributed (i.e. their personal assets cannot be seized). No minimum share capital is required. 

The principle is the same for an EURL (Entreprise unipersonnelle à responsabilité limitée), but this type of company comprises one partner only. 

A sole proprietorship (EI – Entreprise individuelle or EIRL – Entreprise individuelle à responsabilité limitée) is, as its name suggests, managed by a single person. The main advantage of this structure is how simple it is to set up and operate. The company manager is solely liable: in the event of bankruptcy, losses are covered by his or her personal assets. 

A sole proprietor is subject to income tax (IR - Impôt sur le Revenu), while a commercial company is subject to corporation tax (IS - Impôt sur les sociétés).

Lastly, with an SAS (Société par actions simplifiées), share capital is freely determined, as is the distribution of powers within the company. This business structure is particularly appreciated for its flexibility. In addition, the manager of an SAS benefits from employee status.  

Take the time to study the different options to select the best one for your needs. Your choice will have an impact on your liability, the number of authorised partners, the initial share capital required, the applicable social and tax regime, accounting and legal obligations, revenue limits, and so on. 

It is strongly recommended that you seek advice from a solicitor when choosing your restaurant’s legal status. 

Creating your restaurant company

The administrative steps to be taken to set up a business depend on the type of company created.

In general, the various administrative formalities include:

  • Registering your business on the Trade and Companies Register (RCS) and with the Commercial Court
  • Publishing a legal announcement in an official gazette
  • Drafting the articles of association
  • Filing the articles of association with the CFE (Centre de Formalités des Entreprises) in your region.
  • Opening a business bank account and depositing your company's share capital.

Making the mandatory declarations

Before opening your restaurant, remember to make the following mandatory declarations: 

  • Declaration of restaurant opening
    If you plan to serve alcohol in your restaurant, you must make the administrative declaration at least 15 days before the official opening of your restaurant. This declaration must be made in writing to the town hall of the town where your restaurant is located, or to the Police headquarters if your restaurant is located in Paris.
    You will need to complete the CERFA n°11542*04 form and attach proof of identity, as well as a certificate of completion of the operating permit training course.  
  • Declaration to SACEM for the broadcasting of music
    If you plan to play music in your restaurant, you must obtain authorisation from SACEM (Société des auteurs, compositeurs et éditeurs de musique).
  • Declaration for the sale of animal-origin foodstuffs
    Any business that sells animal or animal-origin foodstuffs must make a declaration to the DDPP (departmental directorate for the protection of populations). This declaration must be completed online on the official website of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, before your restaurant opens.
  • Authorisation for the installation of a terrace
    If you plan to install a terrace in your restaurant, you will need to obtain prior authorisation from the town hall. 

Obtaining a licence and operating permit

All establishments that serve alcoholic beverages must hold a licence. The category of licence to be obtained (Petite licence restaurant , Licence restaurant, etc.) depends on the type of drinks sold and whether their consumption is a primary or secondary activity. To obtain a licence, you must first complete an operating permit training course.

To find out more, see our article on the licence and operating permit.

Taking out compulsory insurance

Another formality to be carried out before opening or taking over a restaurant is to take out insurance for the premises and equipment, as well as professional liability insurance.

Other steps necessary before opening a restaurant

In addition to these various administrative formalities, remember all the other essential steps you will need to take before opening your restaurant:

  • Carry out a market study to analyse supply, demand and restaurant industry trends
  • Draw up a business plan and financial forecasts to define your business model and financial strategy
  • Take the necessary steps to purchase or rent your premises
  • Enrol on the training courses required to set up your restaurant (operating permit, HACCP, etc.)
  • Make the necessary adjustments to bring your premises in line with hygiene, safety and accessibility standards
  • Work on your financing and seek financial aid
  • Find out about taxation, taxes and VAT in the restaurant sector
  • Find out about the rules on mandatory signage in a restaurant.

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