Regulations for Opening a Restaurant

Updated July 05, 2018

Opening a restaurant involves complying with a variety of regulations, both local and federal. Because the food service industry can place customer health at risk if food is not handled safely, local health departments strictly regulate restaurant operations. In addition, cooking involves the use of fire, which creates the necessity for additional safety regulations.

Health Regulations

New restaurants must comply with a variety of health regulations which stipulate how you set up your kitchen as well as how you process and serve your food. Your restaurant will likely require a stainless steel sink for prepping vegetables, a three compartment sink or dishwasher for washing dishes, a separate sink for handwashing and another for cleaning your mop. Your refrigeration must be capable of cooling food quickly and holding it at 5 degrees Celsius or colder. In addition, all of your prep surfaces must be made of material that is easy to clean and sanitise, preferably stainless steel.

Zoning Regulations

In most areas there are streets and blocks suitable for restaurants, and other locations that are not. Local zoning regulations control the type of activities any area might receive, and restaurant establishments are often subject to special zoning restrictions because they require extra parking and create additional noise, especially if you serve alcohol. In addition, restaurant zoning is regulated because restaurant ventilation systems release food odours. Your local zoning office can provide you with information about whether the location you have chosen is suitable for a restaurant establishment.

Construction Regulations

Your new restaurant will be required to comply with a variety of construction related regulations as you complete your leasehold upgrades. These included permitting and building a ventilation system compliant with local codes, with a fire suppression system if you will be doing any type of cooking that involves oil or grease. In addition, your contractors must comply with environmental regulations when installing your refrigeration system as well as plumbing regulations when installing your sinks and gas lines.

Tax Regulations

Your restaurant will be required to collect sales tax from customers and then remit it to state and local revenue agencies. Some localities charge a higher sales tax rate on restaurant sales than on most other retail sales. In addition, you must withhold payroll taxes for employees on tip income as well as wage income. This involves requiring employees to report the amounts they have earned in tips, and then subtracting the taxes on these tips from the hourly wages you compensate them for on their paychecks.

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About the Author

Devra Gartenstein is an omnivore who has published several vegan cookbooks. She has owned and run small food businesses for 30 years.