How do you start a hotel, restaurant or cafe 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.
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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).
1. Check whether you fulfil the conditions for staying in the Netherlands
Entrepreneurs who intend to stay in the Netherlands must fulfil a number of 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.
Tool for choosing a Dutch legal structure
If you want to set up a business, but you are in two minds about which legal structure to choose, use our Tool for choosing a Dutch legal structure. It will guide you through some of the main considerations, such as liability, staff and taxes, and give you advice suited to your needs and wishes.
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 building permit
If you want to build, make alterations to or renovate a building, you will normally need an All-in-one Permit for Physical Aspects (Omgevingsvergunning). This used to be called a building permit.
4. Consider Dutch fire safety requirements
In order to ensure fire safety in your catering establishment, you often need an occupancy permit (part of the All-in-one Permit for Physical Aspects, omgevingsvergunning). In some cases, a notification of occupancy will suffice.
5. Consider Dutch environmental rules
Catering business owners must contend with a range of environmental guidelines. In most cases it is not necessary to apply for an All-in-one Permit for Physical Aspects (Omgevingsvergunning). Registering your company with your local municipality is sufficient.
6. Apply for an operating permit for a catering business
In certain municipalities you may need an operating permit for a catering establishment. The conditions address public order, safety and decency.
7. Register your food business with NVWA
If your company manufactures, processes or sells food products, you must register your business with NVWA: the Nederlandse Voedsel- en Waren Autoriteit or Dutch Food- and Consumer Products Safety Authority.
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 (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.
9. Apply for a licence to serve alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverages
If alcoholic beverages are sold and consumed in your catering business, you must have an alcohol licence from your local municipality (Licensing and Catering Act). To sell non-alcoholic beverages, you need a food and drink permit.
10. Apply for a terrace permit
If you intend to run a terrace on your private property or in a public space, you often need a terrace permit from the municipality. In the Netherlands, a terrace is only permitted as part of an existing hotel and catering establishment.
11. Apply for a gaming machine permit
In the Netherlands, strict rules apply to gaming machines (speelautomaten). You need a gaming machine permit from your local municipality to install a game-of-chance machine in your catering establishment.
12. Apply for music performance licences
You need permission to play music in a public place. Dutch music copyright authority Buma and Stemra regulate this permission by issuing licences.
13. 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.
14. Register with the Dutch Commercial Register and Dutch Tax Administration
New businesses must register with the Dutch Commercial Register (Handelsregister) at the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce KVK. The 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.
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.