Do you know what are the requirements to open a restaurant in Colombia?
Colombia is an incredible country, full of cultural and natural beauties. It also has one of the highest entrepreneurship rates in Latam. If you want to start a restaurant abroad, Colombia might be the right place to start.
In this article, I’ll tell you about:
- The different requirements you must meet to open a restaurant in Bogotá.
- The different rules, practices, and recommendations that you should follow to open it.
- And more information that will help you on your journey to opening a restaurant in Bogotá.
This guide will use Bogotá as an example. Still, the requirements to open a restaurant in Colombia don't vary much between cities. Also, this whole process shouldn’t take over 20 days with the right strategy.
Note: This guide contains very few specific recommendations. The recommendations you must follow must come from local professionals. Find experienced mentors or consultants in each area to improve your chances. If you don’t know how to open a restaurant, then you better not improvise!
Basic Requirements for Opening a Restaurant in Colombia
The first requirements you must meet to start a business are simple. If you are a resident or have Colombian nationality, you meet some of them:
- Identity Card.
- Or a valid and current passport
- You should also verify that the name you want to use for your company is not already in use.
You can verify if the name you have in mind is in use or not in the portal of the RUES (Registro Único Empresarial y Social – Unique Social and Business Registry). There you will find a search engine. Follow the guidance on the page to search for the name you want for your business or variations.
Study the Current ISIC Code to Find Out Which One Is for Your Business
Colombia implemented a system of standardization and classification of economic activities called ISIC (called CIIU in Spanish). These are the current codes used in Colombia when writing this article.
In any case, you can find out what the latest revision is on the website of the DANE (Departamento Administrativo Nacional de Estadística – National Administrative Department of Statistics). This way you will know if the code you are using in your procedures is the most recent.
Declarations of Financial Statements – Get an Accountant!
Other requirements you must meet before establishing your company are:
- Make financial statements that show the current situation of your company’s capital.
- A public accountant must endorse this information.
A local accountant and a restaurant consultant can help you meet all the requirements.
Obtaining the Pre-RUT
The pre-RUT (pre-Registro Único Tributario – pre-Tax Unique Registry) is a document that will help you complete the procedures between the DIAN and the Chamber of Commerce. To get this document you must have:
- The ISIC code of your business.
- You must that it is marked for a procedure with the Chamber of Commerce.
- And to fill the application with updated data. They can call you to inform you of things along the process.
You can start this procedure on the official website of the DIAN (Dirección de Impuestos y Aduanas Nacionales – National Directorate of Taxes and Customs), in the guide section to obtain the pre-RUT.
You Must Choose the Type of Company That You Are Going to Incorporate – Lawyer Up!
You must know the differences between a natural person and a legal person in Colombia.
- A natural person uses their name to conduct business and is the same person. The main issue with this approach is that you are liable for your business's debts, legal issues, and more. If you have debts, your assets might be in danger!
- A legal person is a legal entity – there are several types of legal incorporations to adjust to your entrepreneurial needs. Incorporating gives you more strategic advantages, even if you choose the simplest form.
Types of Incorporation in Colombia
There are several types of legal societies or enterprises. Some of them are:
- Simple Partnership
- Limited Liability Partnership
- Unipersonal Company
- Collective Company
- Limited Partnerships
- Simplified Shares Company
- Mixed Economy Company
The most common types of company are SAS (Sociedad por Acciones Simplificadas – Simplified Shares Company), yet, you must also seek advice on this matter.
Start Drafting the Statutes
Now comes the creation of the document called Statutes. This document establishes rules, capital use, the powers of each shareholder, and more. It is an important document, especially if you have several associates. Legal counsel will help you iron out the imperfections of the Statutes by writing a good set of bylaws.
Establishment of the Company in the Chamber of Commerce
Now, you can start setting up a company virtually. That’s what the VUE (Ventanilla Única Empresarial – Single Business Window) is for. It will guide you through the process of setting up your company. You must have all the requirements mentioned so far ready to upload.
On this page, you can also:
- Verify the ISIC code of your business
- The land use of a commercial location for your business
- Get information about the procedures and other requirements.
- Register your company as a natural person or SAS.
- You can affiliate your employees to social security.
- And more procedures for entrepreneurs.
In any case, the VUE will not be useful for all procedures. It’s a way of simplifying the most common procedures entrepreneurs use in Colombia.
If you don’t get the procedures you are looking for, you should explore the Bogotá Chamber of Commerce page. You’ll find their access to virtual advice and more free resources to set up your business.
At the end of the procedures, you will receive a certificate of registration or commercial registration.
Establishment of Economic and Tax Tools and Monitoring of Regulations – Call Your Accountant Again!
Now comes the part of economic control – this is one of the most important parts of opening a restaurant in Bogotá and all of Colombia. You’ll have to set up many appointments for procedures such as
- Opening a bank account for the business. Here’s a list of the top banks in Colombia.
- Obtaining the RUT (Registro Único Tributario – Tax Unique Registry). Remember that up to this point, you only have the pre-RUT, which is necessary to start the procedures with the Chamber of Commerce.
- You will also get the NIT (Número de Identificación Tributaria – Tax Identification Number).
- It is also a good idea to create your electronic signature. It is necessary to be able to pay taxes online.
- You must verify you registered with the District Secretary of the Treasury. Some procedures do the registration automatically – make sure it is on this portal.
- And finally, you must establish a digital billing system. The DIAN has very effective resources to teach you what it means.
Make sure to set up appointments with enough time and schedule your time as best as you can to fit at least two per day. Otherwise, this can become an unnecessarily long process.
Note: The digital billing system can be provided directly by the DIAN. But, digital billing providers have also been approved and certified by the ONAC (Organismo Nacional de Acreditación de Colombia – National Accreditation Agency of Colombia).
Establishment of a Commercial Location – Find a Realtor!
Acquiring a venue, whether through rental or purchase, also has a few requirements that you must meet. Make sure that the place you are going to rent complies with all of them because this can save you from having your restaurant fined or closed – after so much effort up to this point, it is better to make sure. That’s why finding a certified realtor is a good idea!
You must find a venue that has:
- Land use certificate: These certificates are what tell you that the venues are located in a part of the city where you can carry out the activities of your restaurant legally. Choosing the location of your restaurant is also vital to its success, so pay attention to this step!
- Fire Department Safety Certificate: You can ask for the fire certificate at the nearest fire department or through the website of Bogota’s fire department.
- Notification of Opening of Business to the Police Department: The police notice is simply to notify the commander or deputy commander of the police department closest to your business premises of the opening of the business. The VUE notifies police departments directly based on the information you provide of your business location.
- Work Hours and Noise Pollution: Read all the information on noise levels and work hours on the official website of the Ministry of Health and Social Protection of Colombia.
These are easy to get, but finding the right venue to buy or rent can facilitate them even more.
Other Permits to Display in Your Restaurant
There are other permits you’ll likely need:
- Using signs or billboards requires a permit: In the case of Bogotá, the portal of the Government of Bogotá has everything you need to get it.
- Food handling certificates: obtaining food handling certificates is similar to the method used in the United States. There are several organizations authorized to teach the courses and certify the students so that they are fit for work. In our research, we came across this guide to getting food handling certificates in Colombia – it's a great resource!
All these permits are vital to operating a business based on service and increasing your restaurant’s profits!
Affiliation to Social Security, Pension, and Occupational Risk Entities
After you have fulfilled everything up to this point, you must begin to hire personnel. There are various rules about staff, regulations, practices, and recommendations.
As an employer, you must take care of the:
- Registering each of your employees to social security. You can get all the information on the website of the Ministry of Labor.
- You must choose one of the many health-promoting entities or EPS for your restaurant. Your employees also have the right to choose the one that seems most beneficial to them.
- Another important affiliation is ARLs (Administradora de Riesgos Laborales – Administrators of Labor Risks). These are insurers authorized to offer labor insurance to your employees. You can get started with ARL SURA, which is one of the most used across the country and has offices in Bogotá.
- Finally, you must choose a family compensation fund. These are in charge of administering social security benefits, which can mean that your workers receive benefits, credits, subsidies, and more.
A restaurant or insurance consultant can help you figure out all of this. You can start by checking this article, which lists several providers, meanings, and more.
2 Recommendations to Open a Restaurant in Colombia
Now I will give you two quick recommendations so that you can move faster through all these procedures. Although they may seem like a lot, in less than twenty days you can have your company incorporated. By then you'll be ready to start operating your restaurant legally.
1. Get Legitimate Consultants in Different Matters
The first recommendations are for you to seek legal, accounting, and tax counsel. What’s not obvious about this is that they should be individuals or firms with experience, businesses, and that have many references locally. The bigger their network the better, because a lot of business success in Colombia and Latam requires some connections. It’s also a countermeasure to avoid falling victim to scams. That can make you spend lots of money!
2. Do Not Open Businesses Near the End of the Year
Some entrepreneurs make the mistake of rushing to open a business near the end of the fiscal year. It finishes on December 31st. That forces entrepreneurs to register their companies and immediately pay taxes. It can be a harsh blow, especially considering some startups don't make money for a few months.
Patience Is One of the Requirements to Open a Restaurant in Colombia
You probably already know that, yes, opening a restaurant in Colombia requires a lot of patience. It is because of the numerous requirements, procedures, and more – all to establish a company. But, opening a restaurant in Bogotá and other Colombian cities will be worth your while. When compared to other countries, the permits required to open a restaurant in Colombia are not complex. Do you think it's worth it? We hope so!
If it isn’t for you, check out our other articles about restaurant permits:
And the list keeps on growing. Where do you think success is waiting for you?