Restaurateurs who are keen to set their table in Singapore will find this article informative published in two parts. This Part (Part I) will clear some clouds regarding the primary legalities to get going with starting your restaurant venture in Singapore. The start up phase involves the following important aspects:
Food Shop License
Halal Eating Establishment Scheme
Registration to import processed Food products and Appliances
Now that you have decided that Singapore is the ideal location for opening your restaurant, the first order of business is to setup a Singapore company.
Relocation for Foreign Owners
Whether you are the chef de’ founder or the founding manager injecting finance and managing the restaurant enterprise, either way, the business in its infantile phase requires you to nurture at least until it breaks even and stabilizes. Successful opening of a restaurant in Singapore will likely require your presence especially in the early years. Under the Singapore Immigration Regulations, foreign entrepreneurs who wish to setup a restaurant in Singapore will be required to apply for an Entrepass if they wish to relocate to Singapore to operate their business.
Food Shop License for Restaurant
After you have settled your company registration and relocation visa matters, you will need to identify a space that is ideally suited for the menu you serve and your target market. Under the Environmental Public Health Act, it is mandatory to secure a Food Shop License issued by the National Environment Agency (NEA) for retailing food and/or drinks. Finalizing the place for restaurant operations should precede the application for Food shop License because the authorities will inspect the premises before granting an approval for the license.
The application for the Food Shop License must be accompanied by the following supporting documents:
Compliance with the Code of Practice of Environmental Health (COPEH) and operational requirements for foodshops, which covers areas like minimum kitchen size, refuse management, noise and cooking fumes control etc. Please study the requirements appended. They will be verified through a pre-licensing check of the premises upon the completion of renovations and installation of equipment. Approval from the land agency e.g. URA and HDB (referred to as planning permission from land agencies)
Details of applicant – one of the following (where applicable):
Individual – Both sides of NRIC
Company – Information Business Profile from Accounting & Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA)
Society – Certificate of Registration from Registrar of Societies
Basic food hygiene certificate/Refresher food hygiene certificate of foodhandlers
Food hygiene officer certificate (for Food caterers, Restaurants, Foodcourts and Canteens only)
A scaled metric layout plan of the premises showing the layout in the kitchen, preparation area, refreshment area, toilets, stores, etc.
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.
Supplementary Information form to capture business name, type of food sold, business operating hours, etc.
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 only).
Photos showing the interior and exterior of the catering vehicle.
Vehicle log card or tenancy agreement for rental vehicle to prove ownership of catering vehicle.
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 note 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 NEA 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 COPEH requirements by also verifying with the owner/landlord on the necessary renovations like installation of exhaust system, piping for sinks etc.
Application for the Food Shop License for your Singapore restaurant is made online and the processing time is approximately 1-2 weeks. There will be a pre-licensing inspection of the premises where you plan to open your restaurant and depending on the outcome of the inspection, the processing time may be affected. If the application and supporting documents are in order, an in-principle approval and a list of hygiene requirements for compliance will be given to the applicant. You may commence the set up or renovation of the premises for your Singapore restaurant according to the layout plan submitted in your Food Shop License application. Once set up or renovation of the premises is complete, you will need to inform the NEA to arrange for a site inspection to verify the compliance of all the hygiene requirements. Upon verification of the hygiene requirements, the license will be issued. The license has to be renewed every year.
Starting a restaurant means you will need to hire local and perhaps foreign workers as well. Staff in most restaurants in Singapore consists of both local and foreign workers due to the fact that most Singaporeans don’t like to work in this industry. For foreign staff, you will need to apply for a relevant work pass which is subject to approval by manpower authorities. These are the most preliminary yet primary legalities while opening a restaurant in Singapore. This can be accomplished easily with the help of professional firms who provide company incorporation and related business services. Having completed the initial phase, your restaurant can head start the operations and as you progress, the other miscellaneous formalities will need to be completed, some of which is within your discretionary purview.
To seize a slice of the market when opening a restaurant in Singapore, where Muslims constitute a significant proportion (13.3% of the population), it pays to be a Halal certified establishment provided that you restaurant can keep up with the rigorous stipulations laid by the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) – the authority for Halal certification in Singapore. The fee for Halal certification for restaurants varies from S$705 to S$990 (excluding GST) depending on the floor area. All new applications for Halal certification are to be made online.
If before or after starting your restaurant business in Singapore, you wish to add an extra zing to your service by serving liquor in your restaurant, you would require a Liquor License. Retail of liquor including beer in restaurants would require a Liquor License from the Liquor Licensing Board. Applications can be submitted online and the license will be issued for a period of 2 years. For liquors served in the premises of the restaurant, the license is of 2 types namely, public house license and Beer house license. Depending on the retail hours the public house license is classified into first and second class license. The fee for the license varies from S$520 to S$1600 for a period of two years. An application with all the required supporting documents submitted can be processed within 14 days.
License for Importing Food Ingredients
As a restaurant serving specialty food, you may have to bring in some indigenous ingredients from other country. If you intend to import processed food products and food appliances, you need to apply for a Registration Number with the Food Control Division (FCD) of Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA). Processed food products includes raw spices, raw or semi processed food ingredients, flour, bottled water, liquors, wines, confectioneries, noodles & pasta, beverages, etc. The objective behind this license is to ensure the safety of food entering Singapore. Note that you must first obtain the general import/export licence (called Central Registration (CR) Number) from Singapore Customs before applying for the Registration Number with FCD.
Goods and Services Tax (GST) Registration
The government of Singapore levies a tax on consumption of goods and services called GST (Goods and Services Tax) and the tax is paid when money is spent on goods or services, including imports. Any business that has annual revenue of S$1million or more must register for GST. If at anytime after starting your Singapore restaurant, you determine that you will be exceeding the annual turnover of S$1 million, you are required to register for GST and you must apply within 30 days of becoming liable. If you estimate that your annual restaurant revenue will be less than S$1 million then it is left to your discretion to register for GST.
Currently the GST is charged at the rate of 7% on the price of the goods or services sold. Once your Singapore restaurant is registered with GST, you will have to charge the GST to your clients. At the time of filing the GST returns, such GST charged is deducted from the GST your restaurant has paid towards the supplies purchased. The difference is the GST payable by your restaurant to IRAS or the amount to be refunded by the IRAS to you. With the information covered in this two-part guide, you are well on your way to a dream journey of starting your restaurant business in Singapore. You can take the business in full gear and serve mouth watering food to your clientele and win their hearts. Singapore is a foodie’s paradise and good food is sure to get the patronage it deserves