Paperwork to open a restaurant of your own

Paperwork to open a restaurant of your own

Sometimes, the nine-to-five job is no longer attractive then you are looking for something else more exciting. Opening a cafe or a restaurant seems like an excellent alternative. Like, you can run a yoga cafe, meet new people every day and read books during quiet time. Or you can open a restaurant selling your authentic food and start making new dishes with fresh ingredients every day. Seem like a tempting plan, right? Of course, you know that running a business is not that simple. Especially, running a food business in Finland, you have to follow many rules and regulations. You probably like to make it great right at the beginning. In this blog post, we will walk you through the fundamental steps to achieve if you plan to operate a restaurant.

Registering as an entrepreneur

When operating a restaurant, you first need to register your business. You can do the business registration online. With this single form, you can use for other purposes such as registration of a VAT liable business, registration as an employer, and registration in the tax prepayment register. The site content is in English as well, but the registration form needs to be filled in Finnish or in Swedish. You may need a local assistant for filling the form. If you intend to apply for startup-grant from TE-Services, you have to apply for the grant before registering your company. The TE-Services will check whether the company you are planning to set up has existed or not.

You can run a restaurant by yourself or in a shared agreement. There are different types of doing business in Finland, the most popular forms of business for a restaurant are Tmi (sole trader; the easiest option) and Oy (limited company). For solo trader, you can do business alone or together with your spouse. You will take all the profits from your business, at the same time be responsible for all the business’s losses. Because of that, the administration and operation cost of solo trader is rather light compared to limited company. There is no need for the board of directors or audits. This type of business is recommended for companies with an estimated turnover under 30.000 euro per year. Usually, people starting register as solo trader when first open their restaurant and then they change to limited company when sales increases. For limited company, it can be established by one or more persons. At least one of the founders must be a permanent resident in Finland. For limited company, your personal account and company account are separated. Your company has to pay many different taxes and insurances according to law. The minimum of 80.000 share capital is required for public limited company, and zero share capital is required for private limited company (since 1 July 2019).

Setting up the premises

Making a place to become a cafe or restaurant has to follow specific rules. Commonly, people buy an already set up premise. The buying fee includes all facilities and the brand name (if you like to continue the same business model). The rental agreement can be transferred from the previous restaurant owner to the new one. The premise has to be large enough with the required equipment to function as a restaurant. When you purchase a restaurant, remember to check the rental agreement with details regarding the purpose of use, restrictions, maintenance charges, or rental terms such as how and when the rent can be raised.

  • Some of the premise requirements need to be checked, such as:
  • Food processing, production and storage facilities ե
  • Cooking and cooling equipment and utensils
  • Cold storage facilities
  • Water fixtures and plumbing
  • Non-toxic, easy-to-clean and smooth surface materials
  • Customer area
  • Toilet facilities for customers and personnel
  • Staff dressing rooms
  • Smoking areas
  • Waste storage facilities
  • Facilities for the storage and maintenance of cleaning equipment
  • Space for the cleaning and storage of dishes
  • Floor drains in facilities whose cleaning requires washing
  • Other necessary storage spaces, such as for delivery boxes and roller cages, if these are stored in the restaurant’s premises

Some restaurants are fully functioned while some can only be a cafe or processing food without frying or stirring with oil. This feature may affect what type of food you can include in your menu.

Registering for licenses

Now we move to really “paperwork” for setting up a restaurant. There are several registration and licenses needed for operating a restaurant. Let’s check one by one!

1. Food premises notification

When setting up a restaurant, you need to notify the Environment Centre if your restaurant is in the Helsinki region for inspection before the restaurant opens. The restaurant or cafe will be inspected based on a risk assessment within 1-3 months since it opened. After that, the food control authorities will regularly inspect to make sure that your restaurant is operated complying with food safety instruction of Oiva report.

2. Alcohol licenses (if applicable)

Selling alcoholic beverages requires a separate license regulated by Valvira. To be granted this license, the premises have to adapt certain requirements such as catering establishment, facilitate sufficient control, and qualified personnel. The responsible staff needs to have alcohol passport to handle alcohol selling. If the obtained restaurant used to have an alcohol license, the new owner has to get their own new license. The alcohol license does not transfer along when the business is sold.

3. Music licenses

If you like to play music for your restaurant or cafe, you need to get a license for it. The music license is required for playing music from any public sources like radio, television, records or live performance. Teosto and Gramex are two representatives in Finland for distributing music licenses. They act as umbrella organizations to deal with musicians, singers, producers on selling licenses and collects royalties for both recorded and live music.

4. Personnel stuff

Employees working at the restaurant or cafe need to understand specific rules and regulations. The hygiene passport is compulsory for all employees dealing with food. The alcohol passport is necessary for those who deal with alcoholic beverages. Besides, when signing the employment contract, you should follow the general binding collective agreement for the hospitality sector. Some of the famous service unions are PAM, Mara.


Coming to this end, you already have a closer look at what needs to be done for setting up a restaurant. Does it seem complicated or a lot of work? Yes, it seems so. Follow your dream is not always easy, isn’t it? However, if opening a restaurant is important to you, we are pretty sure that you are excited enough to get started, don’t you?