Restaurant Concessions: A Comprehensive Guide

Restaurant Concessions: A Comprehensive Guide

What permits are necessary to operate a restaurant in Germany? A simple guide!

Posted by Abhi Jee on February 19, 2024

Opening a restaurant requires thorough preparation and an understanding of the legal framework. The concession in the catering industry and specific permits play a particularly important role. These approvals form the foundation for legally compliant operations and compliance with legal regulations.

In addition to the restaurant license, which allows the serving of alcohol and operating a legitimized restaurant, other important aspects such as hygiene regulations and safety requirements must be taken into account.

This guide provides an overview of the application process, important requirements, and practical tips to make the path to opening your restaurant easier. This also applies if you take over existing restaurants because the concession is personal, not object-related!

Table with required permits and papers in a quick overview


Necessary for

Short description

Restaurant concession

Serving alcohol

Permission to serve alcohol and operate the restaurant

Business registration

All commercial establishments

Official registration of the business with the city/municipal administration

Hygiene training

Gastronomy concession

Proof of training in food hygiene

Health certificate

All employees

Proof of health suitability for handling food;

Special use permit

Use of public spaces

Permission to use public areas for restaurant operations

Building permit

Structural changes

Necessary for renovations or changes of use of the business premises

This overview provides a basic insight into the permits and documents required to operate a restaurant. The exact requirements should be clarified with the responsible authorities, as regional differences may exist.

Types of restaurants and influence on the restaurant license

There are a variety of operating modes in the catering industry, from restaurants to cafes to bars, and each has its own permit requirements. Restaurants that offer a full menu and serve alcohol require comprehensive permits that cover both food hygiene and alcohol service.

Coffee shops, or cafés, which primarily serve coffee and light snacks, often have lower requirements but still require permits to sell food. Companies that focus on selling alcohol must meet specific requirements. When it comes to permits, operating a restaurant is typically the most extensive. Here, you have to comply with a wider range of regulations, while a café or ice cream parlor that does not serve alcohol usually has to go through less complex approval processes.

Necessary permits for the license of a catering establishment

The most important permit is probably the restaurant license, which is granted by the respective city or municipal administration. In the past, extensive attachments had to be submitted, such as the floor plan.

Fortunately, today the process has been greatly simplified. However, it is required in any case if alcohol is served or food is offered for consumption on-site. Requirements may vary depending on the state and type of restaurant.

Business registration

Business registration is a mandatory step for anyone who wants to open a restaurant (or a business in general), regardless of whether it serves alcohol or not.

This formal act with the responsible city or municipal administration (trade office) serves as the basis for the company's tax registration and is a prerequisite for further approvals and permits.

What documents are required?

Where do you get these?

ID card

Local registration authority

Current police clearance certificate

Federal Office of Justice

extract from the Central Register of Trade and Commerce

Federal Office of Justice

Tax clearance certificate

Tax office

Restaurant concession

Obtaining a restaurant license is a multi-stage process that includes checking personal reliability, professional suitability, and the suitability of the business premises.

Applicants must prove their reliability with documents such as a police clearance certificate and a clearance certificate from the tax office. Professional suitability is proven through participation in IHK seminars (if you can prove that you have completed vocational training in the hospitality profession, this is usually not necessary.) and initial instruction from the health department.

In addition, the premises must meet certain requirements, such as having suitable sanitary facilities (separate, including for employees).

It is essential to check with the relevant authorities about the specific requirements in your city or municipality to ensure that all relevant permits and requirements are met, including hygiene regulations and child protection.

What documents are required?

Where do you get these?

ID card

Local registration authority

Business registration

commercial office

Proof of hygiene training

various places, e.g. IHK

sometimes: current police clearance certificate

Federal Office of Justice

sometimes: information from the central trade register

Federal Office of Justice

sometimes: a tax clearance certificate

Tax office

Hygiene training and health certificate

Hygiene training and health certificates are required by law for all hospitality employees who work directly with food. These requirements are intended to ensure that everyone involved has basic knowledge of food safety and hygiene standards.

Training covers topics such as proper food storage, cross-contamination, and personal hygiene. After completing the training, participants receive a certificate confirming their knowledge.

The health certificate, often issued after a medical examination, proves the employee's suitability for handling food. These measures help to minimize the risk of foodborne illnesses and ensure a high level of hygiene in the catering industry.

In addition, regular checks and documentation of hygiene practices are required (HACCP concept). These measures help ensure the safety and quality of the food and minimize health risks for guests.

Special use permit

A special use permit is necessary if the outdoor area of a restaurant is to be set up in public areas. This permission is granted by the city or municipal administration and is required to ensure that the use of the public space complies with local regulations and safety requirements.

The application typically involves submitting a concept showing how the outdoor area will be designed and operated, taking into account pedestrian traffic, accessibility, and other public interests.

Building permit

Planning permission is required if you plan to make structural changes to your restaurant business or change the use of your premises. This ensures that any conversions or changes of use comply with local building regulations and safety standards. The process typically involves submitting detailed construction plans and specifications to the relevant building control authority. Approval is an important step in ensuring the safety and well-being of your guests as well as compliance with urban planning regulations.

Differences depending on the federal state and type of restaurant

The specific requirements for issuing a restaurant license and all other permits can vary greatly depending on the federal state. In addition, cities and municipalities can issue their own regulations. Here are some examples of links to regional authorities and information:



IHK information

NRW / Cologne

City Cologne

IHK Cologne

Bayern Munich

City of Munich

IHK Munich

Berlin / Berlin

City of Berlin

IHK Berlin

Hesse / Frankfurt

town Frankfurt am Main

IHK Frankfurt

Step by step: Procedure for applying for a license in the catering industry

To apply for the necessary permits to operate a restaurant, follow these step-by-step instructions:

  1. Find out about the specific requirements and necessary documents from the relevant city or municipal administration.
  2. If necessary, take a recognized course to gain professional qualifications.
  3. Collect all necessary documents, including business registration, proof of personal reliability, and professional suitability.
  4. Apply for a restaurant license at the trade office, including all required documents.
  5. If necessary, apply for a special use permit to use public areas as an outdoor area for your restaurant.
  6. If structural changes are necessary, apply for a building permit from the building inspector.
  7. Wait for your applications to be processed and be available for questions or additional information. In most cases, you should expect a processing time of up to 2 weeks.

Each step requires careful preparation and strict adherence to requirements to avoid delays or rejections.

Tips for a successful application process for your restaurant license

Mastering a successful hospitality permit application process requires organization and preparation. Here are some tips:

  • Thoroughly research the specific requirements of your city or town.
  • Start collecting all the necessary documents early.
  • Contact the relevant authorities to resolve any confusion.
  • Use advisory services, e.g., from the IHK or DEHOGA, to find out about the latest regulations.
  • Prepare a detailed business plan that also includes hygiene and safety concepts.
  • Be patient and expect questions. Please have all documents ready for any subsequent requests.
  • While you wait, you can relax with all the operating equipment and an efficient cash register system for your new gastronomy.

Extra tip: If you want to open your restaurant at short notice, you can also apply for a temporary license for the restaurant.

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