Opening a restaurant or starting a food business is a common dream for many. We often encounter foreigners who would love to bring their food culture into Singapore.

The process involve in starting a food business in Singapore is not complicated but there are controls in place whereby licenses are required before the business can operate.

This article aims to give you a guide on the initial steps required to get your food business operational.

 

1. Incorporating a Singapore company

Yes, your first step is to set up a Singapore private limited company. You will also need to specify your primary business activity for this new company. This is determined by the SSIC code that you select during the incorporation of the company. For food and beverage business, you will be selecting from the following:

56111RESTAURANTS
56122FOOD COURTS, COFFEE SHOPS, AND EATING HOUSES (WITH MAINLY FOOD AND BEVERAGE INCOME)
56112CAFES AND COFFEE HOUSES
56129OTHER FOOD AND BEVERAGE SERVING PREMISES N.E.C.
56140STALLS SELLING COOKED FOOD AND PREPARED DRINKS (INCLUDING STALLS AT FOOD COURTS AND MOBILE FOOD HAWKERS)
56201FOOD CATERERS
47219RETAIL SALE OF FOOD N.E.C.
47112MINI-MARTS, CONVENIENCE STORES AND PROVISION SHOPS
68104LETTING AND OPERATING OF FOOD COURTS, COFFEE SHOPS AND EATING HOUSES (WITH MAINLY RENTAL INCOME)

 

2. Determine The Place Of Operation

After the company is set up, the next thing you need to do is to decide on the place to operate your food business. It can be a hawker stall, in a coffeeshop, within a shopping mall or one of the many retail fronts under a shophouse.

Most landlords will advertise on the major newspapers or via an online property portal such as PropertyGuru.com.sg.

The only word of caution here is that if it is a retail shopfront, to ensure the premise you intend to rent is allowed to be operated as an F&B outlet. If the original intended use is not for a restaurant, you may need to apply for change of use permission for the property. 

In such instances, you should offer the property landlord an Intent To Rent offer letter subjected to change of use approval.

In Singapore, most commercial leases are signed for a period between 2 to 5 years. Besides monthly rent payable, you need to place a security deposit with the landlord. This security deposit typically commensurate with the number of years signed in the tenancy agreement, i.e. 2 years lease = 2 months security deposit.

This security deposit will be refunded at the end of lease, less any cost required to restore the property back to it’s original condition.

It is also common practise for the tenant to request from the landlord a reasonable period of time to fix up the premise before the lease officially beings. This is know n as rent-free period.

 

3. Obtaining The Required Licenses To Operate

You need to obtain a food shop license before operation can commence. The total time taken for the application ranges from a week to a few months. Not meeting the requirements set out below will result in a delay of the license approval:

  1. Approval from the land agency e.g. URA and HDB (referred to as planning permission from land agencies)*
  2. Tenancy agreement#
  3. Details of applicant – one of the following (where applicable):
    i. Individual – Both sides of NRIC
    ii. Company – Information Business Profile from Accounting & Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA)
    iii. Society – Certificate of Registration from Registrar of Societie
  4. Basic food hygiene certificate/Refresher food hygiene certificate of foodhandlers
  5. Food hygiene officer certificate (for Food caterers, Restaurants, Foodcourts and Canteens only)
  6. Cleaning program
  7. Layout plan of premises (in scaled metric units)
  8. Letter of authorisation (when submission of application is not done by intended licensee/director of company holding the licence)
  9. Pest control contract covering the control of rodents, cockroaches and flies during the year-long licensing period. The inspection frequency of the food shop premises covered in the contract shall be at least once a month to detect any sign of pest infestation.
  10. Supplementary Information form to capture business name, type of food sold, business operating hours, etc.
  11. Food Safety Management Plan (with critical control points identified) or proof of registration for the “WSQ Apply FSMS for Food Service Establishments” course. (For Food Caterers & premises with permission to cater only). Refer to the following link for more details.
  12. Photos showing the interior and exterior of the catering vehicle
  13. Vehicle log card or tenancy agreement for rental vehicle to prove ownership of catering vehicle
  14. Cleaning program for catering vehicle

*Please note that this is potential pitfall for applicant. Applicant should ensure the relevant planning permission is obtained, prior to signing any tenancy agreement and investing in renovations/equipment for the premises.

#Please notes that the submission of a tenancy agreement is not required during the initial stage of application for a licence. The tenancy agreement will only be required at the final stage, before SFA approves and issues the licence. You are advised not to sign any tenancy agreement, until the land agency concerned has approved the relevant use for the premises, and you are reasonably confident you can meet with the licensing conditions by also verifying with the owner/landlord on the necessary renovations like installation of exhaust system, pipings for sinks etc.

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You must also decide if your food establishment will be selling liquor. If you intend to do so, you will first need to apply for a Liquor Licence. There are several class of Liquor Licence. The type of Liquor Licence you will be applying for will depend on

  1. The type of alcohol sold (beer, wine, etc)
  2. The time period (operating hours)
  3. Type of business establishment (restaurant, bar, convenient store, etc)

The licenses are generally valid for 1 year and you can apply for renewal. There are also conditions attached to holding a Liquor Licence, such as not permitting any drunkenness, disorderly conduct or gambling in your premise. Failure to comply with the conditions or selling alcohol without a valid licence is a punishable offence with a fine of up to S$10,000.

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Being a cosmopolitan city with diverse culture, we do have a significant number of Muslims living in Singapore. In order to get a slice of this market, you can apply to be a Halal certified establishment.  

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Serving specialty food may require you having to import special ingredients from outside of Singapore. In order to ensure the safety of food entering Singapore, you will need to obtain a license for importing food ingredients. This is done by registering with the Singapore Food Agency.

 

4. Relocation and Hiring Manpower

If you are a foreigner looking to establish your food brand in Singapore. This will most likely require you to be physically working here. Applying for an Entrepass will give you the work visa required to stay and work in Singapore.

At the same time, you may also need to employ people to operate in the restaurant. It is recommended you first consider hiring locally for your staffing needs before you apply to sponsor a foreign worker. In the event you really need to hire a foreigner, their skill level and salary demand will determined if you need to applying for an Employment Pass, S Pass or work permit. S-Pass and work permit holders will be subjected to quota and levy.

 

Are you ready to start a food business or restaurant in Singapore? Here at Easily, we have a team ready to assist you through the entire process to get you operating successfully in Singapore. Incorporation, sourcing for rental, applying for licences, relocation and work passes. Talk to us today!