Checklist for starting a restaurant, cafe, or hotel

Published by:
Netherlands Chamber of Commerce, KVK
Netherlands Chamber of Commerce, KVK
Statistics Netherlands, CBS
Statistics Netherlands, CBS

How do you start a restaurant, cafe, or hotel in the Netherlands? There are several steps. Read this checklist for all the steps on your road to starting your Dutch horeca establishment.

How to start a restaurant, cafe, or hotel?

There are several things to consider. You need to follow the rules, find the right location, get the right permits, take fire safety measures, and draw up a hygiene code. Also, check the rules in your municipality, for example, regarding opening hours and a terrace permit.

Check if you meet the conditions for staying in the Netherlands

Entrepreneurs who intend to stay in the Netherlands must fulfil several conditions. You will sometimes also require a residence permit. Our interactive tool Coming to the Netherlands as an entrepreneur can help you find out quickly if this is true for you, and tell you what other obligations you have to fulfil.

If you plan to start doing business in the Netherlands, you will also need to have or apply for a business bank account (IBAN). The Nederlandse Vereniging van Banken (Dutch Banking Association) has created a Quick Scan to help you find out if you are eligible. Read how it works.

Before you start your hospitality business

The article How to start a business in the Netherlands - a checklist shows you the most important steps for starting any business. For example, you need to choose a legal structure for your business. Writing a business plan will help you if you need financial backing from banks or investors. Follow the step-by-step plan before starting a hospitality business. Then get started with the steps on this page.

1. Register your hospitality business with KVK

New businesses must register with the Dutch Business Register (Handelsregister) at the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce KVK. KVK will pass on your details to the Dutch Tax Administration (Belastingdienst), who will issue you with a VAT identification number (BTW-id), to use for correspondence and invoices to your customers, and a VAT number (BTW-nummer), to use for your dealings with the Tax Administration. You will receive these numbers from the Tax Administration by post. You will need to register separately with the Tax Administration if you have chosen a private limited company (bv) or public limited company (nv) as your legal structure. In that case, your registration at both the KVK and the Tax Administration will be handled by a civil-law notary.

2. Check the environment plan

Your business premises must be in line with the environment plan (omgevingsplan) for that specific area. If this is not the case, however, you can apply for an exemption. You can also ask the local council to change the environment plan.

Your plans must also fit with the environment plan if you want to run a catering business from home. You must also inform your municipality of your plans to start a business from home.

3. Apply for a catering establishment operating permit

You need a catering establishment operating permit (horecavergunning). if customers eat and drink in your restaurant or café. Or if you want to open a discotheque. Sometimes no catering establishment operating licence is required. For example, for a takeaway restaurant, food truck, or company canteen. This differs per municipality. Contact your municipality for more information.

4. Apply for an alcohol licence

An operating licence alone does not yet allow you to serve alcohol. If alcoholic beverages are sold and consumed in your catering business, you must have an alcohol licence from your local municipality. You must be 21 years or older to apply for an alcohol licence. You must also have a diploma or certificate in Social Hygiene. This applies to all the owners.

5. Make sure your business complies with fire safety requirements

If you need to apply for an alcohol licence, you will also need to comply with certain requirements for furnishing your hospitality establishment (in Dutch). You must also take measures to prevent hazardous situations. For example, use inflammable or flame-retardant materials.

Read more about ensuring fire safety.

6. Check which permits and licences you need

There are a number of different permits or licences you may need to run a business in the hospitality sector.

To build, rebuild or renovate, you usually need an environment and planning permit (omgevingsvergunning). Are you going to demolish? Then you often need to submit a demolition notification (sloopmelding). Different rules apply to monuments. If you want to place advertising on or outside your premises, you usually need an environment and planning permit. You have to pay a precario tax for advertising on public land.

Every catering establishment must comply with environmental regulations. For example in the field of noise, energy and waste. In some cases, you need to apply for a permit or make a notification. Take the permit check in the online service counter Omgevingsloket (in Dutch) to see which permits you need.

You are not allowed to offer your guests their food and drink in disposable plastic cups, containers, and cutlery. This applies to food and drink consumed in your business as well as takeaways. Read more about the ban on plastic cups and containers.

Depending on what kind of catering business you are starting, you may need additional permits or licences. If you want to trade from a stall or a food truck, on or along a public road or public space, you need a market trader's licence (standplaatsvergunning). You need a private security licence if you employ your own security staff or bouncers for your hospitality business. There are special rules and regulations applying to coffeeshops where hash or cannabis is sold. Different municipalities have different rules with regard to the sale of cannabis. Many city councils do not allow coffeeshops at all.

If you install gaming machines, you must pay gaming tax (in Dutch).

For further information, contact your municipality, KVK, and the Royal Dutch Hotel and Catering Association (Koninklijke Horeca Nederland, KHN).

7. Register your food business with NVWA

If your company manufactures, processes, or sells food products, you must register your business with the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA). The NVWA checks that food is produced, processed, and sold according to the rules. These rules are in place so that food is safe for consumers.

8. Draw up a hygiene code or use an approved one

If you prepare food and drink, you must work according to a hygiene code. You can draw up one yourself or comply with a certified hygiene code (such as the code of the Hotel and Catering Industry Board). All hygiene codes must be based on the European HACCP principles. If you work in accordance with an approved hygiene code for your sector, you automatically fulfil the legal requirements.

9. Draw up a risk inventory and evaluation

If you employ staff, you must draw up a risk assessment and evaluation (RI&E) before you open your catering business. You can use the hotel and catering RI&E (Horeca RI&E, in Dutch). To sell spirits, your staff must be 16 years of age or older. There must always be a manager in the establishment who is at least 21 years old. The manager must have an SVH Diploma in Social Hygiene (in Dutch) or a declaration of professional competence. You need this catering diploma or declaration to register in the Social Hygiene Register (in Dutch).

10. Check permitted opening hours

Permitted opening and closing hours vary from one municipality to another. Do you want to be open outside the valid closing hours? Then you must apply for an exemption in many municipalities. You must have a drink and catering licence or be a hotel and catering entrepreneur.

11. Ask permission to use music

Do you play music in your catering business? For example, background music in the bar or restaurant? Then you need permission from the lyricist, composer, and music publisher. You arrange this by applying for a licence and paying a fee. You do that at Buma/Stemra or Sena. They ensure that your payment reaches the makers.

Statistics: turnover development accommodation and food serving

Accommodation and food serving includes businesses in accommodation, restaurants and bars. The turnover development is shown as an index number. It reflects how the turnover has changed compared to the base year (2015). For example, an index number of 120 means that the turnover is 1.2 times as large as in the base year 2015. Or, 20% has been added compared to 2015.

Questions relating to this article?

Please contact the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce, KVK