How to Open a Restaurant in Germany
How to Open a Restaurant in GermanyUpdated on Monday 07th December 2020
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Opening a restaurant can be an attractive business idea for entrepreneurs in Germany. The food service industry is a developed one, which yields important revenue. The sales in this field are mainly lead by full-service restaurants with international chains maintaining a strong presence in the fast food sector.
The commercial foodservice market is influenced by German consumers but also by the evolution of the client dynamics: the increasing foreign population and the number of tourists visiting German cities all year round. This means that the market includes restaurants specialized in a number of cuisines, with a generally large accent on regional produce, retail catering as well as Asian cuisine. If you are interested in starting a business in Germany as a restaurant, our lawyers can help you.
Opening a restaurant will include a number of steps that take place both before the business starts and afterward. Below, our attorneys in Germany describe some of the most important decisions entrepreneurs have to take when starting a restaurant:
- Choosing a clear concept and working on the restaurant brand: this is the primary step for entrepreneurs who wish to start this type of business. The type of food served and the style and design of the restaurant will be important factors that will help the business position itself on the market and engage in adequate brand and marketing strategies.
- Decide on the menu: another one of the defining decision when opening a food business will be the menu; during the initial stage, investors can decide only on the basic categories of items offered by the restaurant.
- Prepare the business plan: once the decisions regarding the actual restaurant profile are made, investors should start working on a business plan; this is the time to prepare a market analysis in the city or region when the investor intends to open the restaurant; a financial projection, as well as the marketing strategies, can be taken into consideration during this stage.
- Choose the location: where the restaurant will be based can have a significant impact on its overall success; it needs to be visible and accessible as well as take into consideration the existing competition in the same area; moreover, investors should ensure that the targeted clients match the demographics of the area in which the restaurant will be based.
- Incorporate: investors will need to open a company in Germany and for this purpose, the most commonly used business form is the private limited liability company (GmbH); the minimum share capital for this business form is 25,000 euros which can also include in-kind contributions; the founders are only liable up to the extent of the capital invested in the business; at least one managing director needs to be appointed for the company and one of our lawyers in Germany can give you more details about the business requirements.
- Obtain the licenses: the food sector is one that is regulated in Germany and while there are no requirements for the qualifications of the restaurant owners, the business itself and the premises should be compliant with the ongoing regulations; some of the permits needed will be for hygiene and public health issues, fire protection, and others.
Foreign investors who intend to open a restaurant in Germany can employ our law firm in Germany in order to speed up the business registration procedure with the local authorities. The procedure of setting up a food business in Germany requires as well the obtaining of specific licenses and authorizations in compliance with hygiene and food safety provisions.
Our lawyers can help you become accustomed to the German legislation concerning food processing and sale so that you can confidently operate your restaurant in this country.
Legal framework concerning food safety in Germany
The food safety regulations in Germany are contained in the Lebensmittel-, Bedarfsgegenstände- und Futtermittelgesetzbuch (LFBG) which is the main act dealing with food and feed in this country. This act is based on and harmonized with the European regulations concerning food production and commercialization through restaurants and other food business forms. Some of the provisions covered by the LFBG concern the following:
- bans of food additives;
- authorizations on food additives;
- authorization for the protection of health;
- special regulations for protection against ionizing radiation;
- penalties and fines (including penal provisions, administrative fines and confiscation), etc.
A foreign investor who opens a restaurant in Germany needs to make sure that his/her enterprise respects the storage as well as the preparation norms stipulated in the LFBG in order to be able to legally operate in Germany. Our lawyers can provide those interested with more information on the Code for food and consumer goods and the standards that are to be met by companies dealing with food production.
Consumer protection laws in Germany are implemented at a federal level, however, the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture is the one responsible for the food safety policy.
If you want to invest in Germany in the food sector, our German lawyers can help you obtain the necessary licenses for the good functioning of a restaurant in Germany.
Requirements for opening a restaurant in Germany
The opening of a restaurant in Germany must follow the company formation procedures stipulated in the Company Law in this country. You will need to choose a legal form in which to organize your enterprise and to apply as well for a license proving that the spot and equipment are adequate for hosting a food business. Your employees will need to obtain certifications called Frittenabitur, which can demonstrate their competence in this sector. Investors who wish to invest in the food business but open a food truck instead of a restaurant will need to obtain a different type of permit, one issued for what is referred to as a traveling business. One of our lawyers in Germany can help you with additional information about the permits required by the authorities. The entrepreneur who starts a restaurant or a food truck business is not required to have relevant personal qualifications. This means that he does not need to be a chef or have any formal qualification.
Restaurants need to observe the general taxation, accounting and financial reporting principles. The main taxes for companies are listed below by our tax lawyers in Germany:
- 30-33%: the corporate income tax rate, including the solidarity surcharge and the trade tax;
- 25%: the usual withholding tax on dividends, to which a surcharge will also apply;
- 19%: the standard value-added tax rate, with two other possible rates of 0% and 7% applicable to certain types of transactions.
- 0.35%: the real property tax implemented by the municipality in which real estate is located, which is then multiplied by a municipal coefficient.
Restaurants will need to be registered for VAT purposes, depending on their annual threshold. When the turnover does not exceed 17,500 EUR in the previous calendar tear and it is estimated to not exceed 50,000 EUR in the current one, the company can opt for the small businesses scheme and in this case no value-added tax is imposed.
Companies in Germany are expected to comply with the requirements for filing tax returns, in general by 31 July the year following the one for which the assessment is made; these are filed electronically and penalties apply to those companies that do not observe the deadline.
Our lawyers in Germany can offer more information on taxation if you wish to fully understand the principles before opening a restaurant in one of the federal states (Länder).
Company formation in Germany
Investors who wish to open a restaurant in Germany will often do so in the form of a German Limited Liability Company, GmbH. This is the most widely-used business form for establishing a corporation and it provides investors with high flexibility and the important advantage of having limited liability.
This type of company is subject to the corporate income tax listed above, along with other taxes. The initial investment will include the minimum share capital required to open this business form, which is 25,000 EUR (with investors also having the option to make the contributions in kind). Upon registration, at least half of this minimum capital, 12,500 EUR must be deposited into a corporate bank account opened especially for the purpose of company formation.
The main steps needed to open a GmbH in Germany in order to start a restaurant are listed below by our lawyers:
- Documents: this type of company is based on executing a deed of formation and the company’s Articles of Association, all in the presence of a notary; standard models can be used, however, our lawyers in Germany can provide personalized assistance during this step;
- Registration: the company enters into existence and it is a valid one once it is entered into the Commercial Register; for this step, the company managing directors sign the registration application in person;
- Trade office requirements: once it is entered into the commercial register, the company is then registered with the local trade office.
- Post-registration steps: once the registration phase is complete, the founders can follow through with the other steps required for specific fields, such as obtaining the relevant licenses for the restaurant.
The business plan for opening a restaurant in Germany should account for all the company formation costs, in addition to the industry-specific equipment and facilities. We recommend that investors budget the investment in an adequate manner and for this purpose we highlight the fact that the incorporation-related costs refer not only to the actual share capital mentioned above but also the notary and registration costs. The latter can vary and a current minimum is around 400 EUR for the GmbH. The costs can change and are not arbitrary as they depend on the company particulars, such as the number of partners or the share capital.
The management of the company is ensured by the managing directors (at least one and he does not have to be a shareholder). There are no residency requirements for the director.
Foreign investors who wish to open a restaurant in Germany will generally need to do so as a self-employed individual. This means that they will need to apply for a permit for self-employed individuals once they are in the country or, if they are not yet in Germany, non-EU/EEA nationals will need to apply for a proper visa in order to be able to travel to the country and then apply for a residence permit based on their type of activity. Our German lawyers can assist foreign investors during this process and can also handle part of the steps for company formation in your absence, based on a power of attorney. This is one way in which foreign investors do not need to be present in the country during the entire company formation phase.
Apart from handling the general company formation process, once the company is opened, investors who open a restaurant will also need to hire qualified employees in Germany. The quality of the services offered by the restaurant will largely depend on the staff, the chef and sous chef, the cooks but also the general manager of the restaurant.
Please feel free to contact our German law firm in order to find out more details concerning the company registration requirements in this country. Our consultants can help you prepare the documentation and file it with the authorities so that you can set up your restaurant in Germany as soon as possible.