How to Open a Restaurant in Hong Kong

How to Open a Restaurant in Hong Kong

Launching a restaurant in Hong Kong involves meticulous planning, regulatory compliance, and a focus on delivering a memorable dining experience. Whether you're a culinary entrepreneur or a seasoned restaurateur, this article will provide you with a step-by-step guide on what to do to create your organisation structure, leaving you free to focus on your cuisine concept and business plan:

Step 1: Business Structure and Name

The first step is to create the legal structure of your company.
Decide, whether it's a sole proprietorship, partnership, or limited company. Here a quick refresh of the difference between these structures:

  • Sole Proprietorship: A business structure where a single individual owns and operates the business. The owner is personally responsible for all business debts and liabilities.

  • Limited Company: A business entity that is legally separate from its owners (shareholders). It limits the liability of the shareholders to the amount they have invested in the company and provides various tax advantages.

  • Partnership: A business structure where two or more individuals or entities join together to manage and operate a business. Partners share the profits, losses, and responsibilities, and their personal assets may be at risk for business debts.

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Once you have decided which structure suits your business best, is time to choose a catchy and appropriate name that reflects your restaurant's identity and adheres to naming regulations.

Remember that the name should be available at the company registry and compel with the local regulations.

Step 2: Lease Premises and Licensing

Once you have successfully incorporated the company, it’s time to find a suitable premises.

This is important not only for a business strategy point, but also because the chosen premises must adhere to the general restaurant license.  Some key points about this license

  • License Types: There are several types of restaurant licenses, including "General Restaurant License," "Light Refreshment Restaurant License," and "Factory Canteen License," each with specific regulations.
  • Operating Hours: Restaurants must comply with prescribed operating hours, which may vary depending on the specific license type and location.
  • Hygiene and Safety: Premises must adhere to strict hygiene and safety standards set by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD).
  • Fire Safety: Compliance with fire safety regulations, including the installation of fire safety equipment, is mandatory.
  • Noise Control: Compliance with noise control regulations to minimize disturbances to neighbours.

It's important to consult the relevant government department or agency in Hong Kong for detailed and up-to-date information on restaurant licensing and compliance requirements.

How to apply for the General restaurant License:

The application procedure for a General Restaurant License entails the following stages:

  1. To initiate the process, applicants are required to submit the following documents to the Hong Kong FEHD:
    • A General Restaurant License Application
    • Three authenticated copies of a scaled layout plan of the premises, illustrating the kitchen, preparation area, refreshment area, restrooms, storage spaces, etc., meeting the minimum statutory standards outlined by the FEHD
    • Certified true copies of the Business Registration Certificate, Certificate of Incorporation, and Articles of Association of the company
    • An authenticated copy of the Registered Office's Notice of Situation
    • The company's most recent Annual Returns, certified as true copies
    • A Board Resolution copy, confirming the appointment of an authorized representative for license application
    • An authenticated copy of the tenancy agreement with appropriate stamps or evidence of property ownership
    • Upon receipt of the application, the FEHD will forward the completed form and proposed layout plan to the Buildings Department and Fire Services Department for approval.
  1. After the documents submission, the FEHD conducts an initial review of the layout plan to ensure its compliance with the FEHD's fundamental requirements. Applicants will be notified of the outcome within ten working days.

  2. Separate site inspections are conducted by the FEHD, Buildings Department, and Fire Services Department to assess the suitability of the proposed premises for the restaurant.

  3. An Application Vetting Panel meeting involving officers from the three departments and the applicant is scheduled within ten days following the site inspections. This meeting addresses any issues, necessary improvements, and the applicant's proposed construction or decoration plans.

  4. Following input from the Buildings Department and Fire Services Department, the FEHD issues a letter outlining licensing requirements to the applicant.

  5. Within six months of receiving the licensing requirements letter, the applicant must fulfil all stipulated criteria and report compliance to the FEHD for verification.

  6. Within ten days of receiving the compliance report from the applicant, the FEHD carries out a final assessment of the premises.

  7. If the premises meet the FEHD's satisfaction, the General Restaurant License is granted upon payment of the designated license fee by the applicant, within seven days of the final verification. 

Apart from the General Restaurant License, you may require the following additional licenses or permits:

  • Liquor License: If your restaurant serves alcoholic beverages, you will need a Liquor License. This license regulates the sale and consumption of alcoholic drinks on your premises.
  • Import License: If you plan to import food products, especially those of animal origin, into Hong Kong for use in your restaurant, you may need an Import License. This ensures compliance with safety and health standards for imported food items.

  • Bakery License: For establishments that primarily focus on baking and selling bakery products, a Bakery License is required. It covers businesses specializing in bread, cakes, pastries, and related items.

  • Food Factory License: If your restaurant involves significant food production activities, such as manufacturing packaged food products on-site for sale, you may need a Food Factory License. This license ensures compliance with food safety regulations.

  • Restricted Food Permit: A Restricted Food Permit is necessary if you intend to handle specific types of high-risk or restricted food items. It ensures that these items are prepared, stored, and handled safely.

  • Permission for Outside Seating Accommodation: If you plan to offer outdoor dining, you may need permission for outside seating accommodation. This permits the use of public space for your restaurant's seating area, such as sidewalks or public terraces.

Step3: Staffing and Training

You are almost ready to open your restaurant. Now is time to think about the heart of your business, your staff.

Hire skilled staff members, including chefs, servers, kitchen staff, and managers, based on your restaurant's needs is essential. Here a quick guide in how to properly recruit employees in Hong Kong

  • Understanding Employment Laws: Begin by familiarizing yourself with Hong Kong's labor laws, including minimum wage, employment contracts, and working hours, to ensure compliance.

  • Recruitment Channels: Utilize various recruitment channels, such as job boards, recruitment agencies, and social networks, to attract a diverse pool of candidates.

  • Work Visas: For non-resident employees, secure the necessary work visas, like the Employment Visa, to ensure legal employment in Hong Kong.

  • Interviewing and Screening: Conduct thorough interviews and background checks to assess candidates' qualifications and suitability for the position.

  • Employment Contracts: Draft clear and comprehensive employment contracts outlining job responsibilities, compensation, and benefits to avoid future disputes.

  • Onboarding Process: Create an effective onboarding process to help new employees acclimate to the company culture and their roles swiftly.

  • Probation Period: Consider a probationary period for new hires to assess their performance and fit within the organization.

  • Employee Benefits: Provide competitive benefits, including Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF) contributions and Employee's Compensation insurance (ECI), to attract and retain talent.

  • Termination Procedures: Be aware of the legal requirements for terminating employment contracts and follow due process if necessary.

  • Employee Handbook: Develop an employee handbook that outlines company policies, procedures, and expectations.

  • Training and Development: Invest in ongoing training and development programs to enhance employees' skills and job satisfaction.

  • Health and Safety: Ensure a safe and healthy workplace by adhering to occupational safety regulations.

  • Employee Relations: Foster positive employee relations through open communication and addressing concerns promptly.

  • Payroll and Taxes: Properly manage payroll and fulfill tax obligations to avoid legal complications.

Seek legal counsel or HR experts if needed, especially when dealing with complex labor issues or disputes.

Step 4: Marketing and Launch

Once you are ready to start, is time to develop a marketing strategy that includes digital marketing, social media, promotions, and collaborations to generate buzz.

Developing a marketing strategy for a restaurant in Hong Kong involves:

  • Understanding Your Audience: Identify your target audience, their preferences, and dining habits.

  • Competitor Analysis: Research local competitors and identify gaps in the market.

  • Unique Selling Proposition: Define what sets your restaurant apart and craft a compelling message.

  • Online Presence: Create a strong online presence with a user-friendly website and active social media accounts.

  • Localized Marketing: Tailor marketing efforts to Hong Kong's cultural nuances and trends.

  • Promotions: Offer special promotions, discounts, or loyalty programs to attract and retain customers.

  • Customer Reviews: Encourage and manage online reviews to build trust and reputation.

  • Local Partnerships: Collaborate with local influencers, food bloggers, or nearby businesses for cross-promotions.

  • Visual Appeal: Invest in high-quality food photography and visually appealing menus.

  • Feedback Loop: Continuously gather feedback from customers and adapt your strategy accordingly.

  • By following these steps, your restaurant can create a robust marketing strategy tailored to the Hong Kong market.

Step 5: Operations and Compliance

The last step is ensuring that you can maintain adherence to health and safety regulations, labor laws, and other legal requirements throughout operations. Be compliant is essential to avoid unnecessary penalty or risks.


Launching a restaurant in Hong Kong requires meticulous planning, creativity, and a commitment to delivering exceptional dining experiences. By following this step-by-step guide, you can navigate the process effectively, from conceptualizing your restaurant's identity to serving your first guests.

Contact our expert today, and start to build-up your dream.

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