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Checklist for starting a restaurant, cafe, or hotel

This information is provided by:Netherlands Chamber of Commerce, KVKNetherlands Chamber of Commerce, KVKStatistics Netherlands, CBSStatistics Netherlands, CBSNederlandse versie

How do you start a restaurant, cafe, or hotel in the Netherlands? There are several steps. You need to follow the rules, find the right location, get the right permits, take fire safety measures and draw up a hygiene code. Read this checklist for all the steps on your road to starting your Dutch horeca establishment.

If you intend to start a hotel, restaurant or cafe (collectively called 'horeca') in the Netherlands, there are various government rules and regulations to take into account. You may need to fulfil other obligations as well, for instance, legal requirements and local permits you need from the municipality where you start your business. For further information, contact your local council, the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce (KVK) and the Royal Dutch Hotel and Catering Association (Koninklijke Horeca Nederland, KHN).

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

A successful business needs good planning. Any hospitality business, be it a small restaurant or a large hotel, needs financial investment. And you must be certain that your investments will be well spent. Key parts of starting a business include:

The costs of starting a business are different for every situation. When you are starting a restaurant, cafe, or hotel, essential costs to consider include:

Find out more about financing your new business.

1. Register your catering company 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 and Customs 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 and Customs Administration by post. You will need to register separately with the Tax and Customs 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 Dutch Tax and Customs Administration will be handled by a civil-law notary.

2. Choose your business premises and inspect the local zoning plan

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

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 or company canteen. This differs per municipality. Contact your municipality for more information.

4. Apply for a licence to serve alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverages

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. Consider Dutch fire safety requirements

To ensure fire safety in your catering establishment, you often need an occupancy permit (part of the All-in-one Permit for Physical Aspects). In some cases, a notification of occupancy will suffice.

Note: Smoking is not allowed in catering establishments. Read more about the smoking ban in the hospitality industry.

6. Consider Dutch environmental rules

To build, rebuild or renovate, you usually need an All-in-one Permit for Physical Aspects (Omgevingsvergunning). Are you going to demolish? Then you often need to submit a demolition notification (sloopvergunning). Different rules apply to monuments. If you want to place advertising on or outside your premises, you usually need an environmental permit. You have to pay a precario tax for advertising on public land.

7. See what other permits you need

Depending on what kind of catering business you are starting, you may need additional permits. Such as:

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

8. 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.

9. 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 (e.g. 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.

10. Draw up a risk inventory and evaluation

If you employ staff, you must draw up a risk inventory and evaluation (RI&E) before you open your catering business. You can use the hotel and catering RI&E (Horeca RI&E) model for this purpose. 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 or a declaration of professional competence. You need this catering diploma or declaration to register in the Social Hygiene Register.

Note: Employees under 18 may sell alcohol but may not drink any.

11. 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.

12. Check the environmental regulations

If you start a catering establishment, you will have to comply with environmental regulations. For example in the field of noise, energy and waste. It is usually not necessary to apply for an environmental permit. Reporting your business to the municipality is often sufficient. Contact the municipality where you want to establish your establishment.

13. 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.

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