Obtaining licenses is one of the most important you need to do when opening and operating a restaurant in Hong Kong. Understanding the various licenses required for a restaurant business may be challenging if you’re new to the concept.

To make this easier, we’ve put together an easy-to-understand guide detailing all the essential licenses you’ll need to successfully run a restaurant in Hong Kong.

Why is it important to obtain a restaurant license in Hong Kong?

The requirement to obtain a license for a restaurant in Hong Kong is rooted in the city’s commitment to public health, safety, and regulatory control.

The Hong Kong government imposes licensing requirements on restaurants to ensure that food establishments operate in a sanitary and safe manner, maintain certain hygiene standards, and comply with various regulations.

In Hong Kong, restaurant licenses are primarily governed and regulated by the Food Business Regulation enforced under the Food Safety Ordinance (Cap. 612).

The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) is the government department responsible for administering and enforcing these regulations. The Food Business Regulation sets out the licensing requirements and standards that restaurants and food establishments must adhere to in order to operate legally.

What licenses to obtain for restaurants in Hong Kong?

To establish a restaurant that serves food and beverages, securing a ‘General Restaurant License’ from the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) is a fundamental requirement.

Additionally, depending on your business plans, you may also need additional licenses for activities like selling alcohol on the premises, takeaway food, or bakery products, among others.

General Restaurant License

Obtaining a General Restaurant License is typically sufficient for many traditional restaurants in Hong Kong. This type of license covers a wide range of cuisines and dining styles, including sit-down dining with table service.

The General Restaurant License is divided into two parts: Part I and Part II.

  • General Restaurant License – Part I: These licenses are suitable for traditional indoor dining restaurants where customers are provided with table service.
  • General Restaurant License – Part II: Specifically for restaurants that have outdoor seating areas, including terraces, patios, or sidewalk seating.

If you wish to offer outdoor dining you must apply for Part II of the license to cover both indoor and outdoor areas.

Additional license for specific services

Depending on the services or features of your restaurant, you may require additional licenses or permits. For example:

Liquor license

If you serve alcoholic beverages in your restaurant such as wines, beers, and cocktails, you are required to obtain a liquor license.

Liquor licenses are typically issued by the Liquor Licensing Board and the Department of Food and Environmental Hygiene.

It’s essential to understand that liquor licenses often come with specific regulations and responsibilities, including restrictions on serving minors, hours of operation, and adherence to alcohol consumption laws. Violating these regulations can lead to fines, penalties, or the suspension or revocation of the liquor license.

Entertainment license

If you intend to host live entertainment or performance activities that go beyond the ordinary scope of dining or socializing, you must have an entertainment license.

An entertainment license covers a wide range of activities, including live music performances, DJ sets, dancing, karaoke, live theater, and other forms of public entertainment that may take place on the premises of the licensed establishment.

To obtain an entertainment license, you must comply with safety and security requirements, including fire safety measures, crowd control, and noise control, to ensure the safety and well-being of patrons and performers.

Bakery license

If you operate a bakery within your restaurant, you must get a separate bakery license, which is issued by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) in Hong Kong.

To obtain and maintain a bakery license, you should adhere to strict food safety and hygiene standards. These standards govern various aspects of bakery operations, such as ingredient handling, food storage, preparation processes, cleanliness of equipment and premises, and pest control.

Food factory license

In the case that you offer a takeout or delivery service, a food factory license is required. This license covers a wide range of food-related activities, including the preparation, processing, packaging, storage, and distribution of various food products. These products can encompass a variety of items, from packaged foods to fresh produce, bakery products, and more.

Additionally, for short-term food factory operations or temporary setups, you can also apply for a temporary food factory license to meet specific regulatory requirements.

Other licenses

  • Cold store license: If you store food in refrigerated warehouses.
  • Factory canteen license: Needed for operating a canteen that sells or provides meals and non-alcoholic drinks (except Chinese herbal tea) within a factory setting.
  • Fresh provision shop license: Needed for businesses selling fresh provisions like meat, poultry, or fish.
  • Frozen confection factory license: Required for manufacturing frozen desserts like ice cream.
  • Milk factory license: Necessary for businesses involved in producing and processing milk and milk products.
  • Siu mei and lo mei shop license: This license is for restaurants specializing in Siu Mei (roasted meat) and Lo Mei (marinated cooked meat).
  • Composite food shop license: Required for shops selling a combination of different food types, such as cooked food, siu mei, lo mei, and seafood.
  • Restricted food permits: Required for selling certain types of food that are considered ‘restricted’ due to health concerns, such as raw or undercooked meats, sashimi, or sushi.
  • Transferring food license: This allows the transfer of an existing food license or permit to a new operator or owner.
  • Karaoke establishment permit: Required for restaurants that wish to include karaoke facilities.

The process of application for a General restaurant license

The General Restaurant License, essential and widely sought-after by most restaurants, provides comprehensive coverage and sets a standard for operation. The steps to acquire this license are outlined below. Additionally, this process serves as a general guide for obtaining other types of licenses too.

Step 1: Register your restaurant with IRD

Before applying for a food license, you should first register your restaurant as a business entity with the Inland Revenue Department (IRD) or the Companies Registry, depending on your business structure (e.g., sole proprietorship, partnership, limited company).

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Step 2: Assess your restaurant location

This involves choosing a suitable location for your restaurant in Hong Kong while ensuring strict compliance with regulations. Key considerations include:

  • Fire Safety Compliance: Ensure that the chosen location meets the Fire Services Department’s fire safety standards, which encompass having essential fire safety equipment such as extinguishers and alarms, clearly marked evacuation routes, and accessible emergency exits.
  • Building Safety Regulations: Adhere to building safety regulations, covering structural integrity, appropriate space utilization, and compliance with established building codes.
  • Zoning and land use: Different zones in Hong Kong may impose specific restrictions on the types of businesses allowed to operate within them. It’s crucial to confirm that your chosen location falls within a zone designated for restaurant use.

Step 3: Determine your license types

You must decide on the most suitable license type for your establishment. The two primary options are the General Restaurant License – Part I (for indoor dining) or Part II (for indoor and outdoor seating).

Additionally, you need to assess other aspects of your restaurant to determine if additional licenses or permits are necessary, such as liquor or bakery licenses.

Step 4: Prepare and submit the license application

Make sure you collect the required documents for your application:

  • Proof of business registration which may include the Certificate of Incorporation for a company or the Business Registration Certificate
  • Detailed description of the floor plan and layout of restaurant premises such as seating arrangements, kitchen area, restrooms, and any outdoor seating areas if applicable.
  • A comprehensive menu description that accurately reflects the cuisine and style of your restaurant.
  • Other relevant information required by the FEHD

You can typically submit your application and the required documents to the FEHD either online or in person at the FEHD’s Licensing Office. Pay attention to application deadlines, fees, and any specific guidelines.

Step 5: Wait for approval

Upon receiving your license application, the FEHD will conduct a detailed review and inspection of your restaurant to ensure that it meets the necessary standards. The duration of this process may vary due to the complexity of your application or the FEHD’s current workload.

If your restaurant passes the inspection and meets all regulatory requirements, the FEHD will issue your General Restaurant License.


Understanding the licenses required for your restaurant is crucial for legal operation and adherence to hygiene and safety standards. This knowledge forms the cornerstone for your business in Hong Kong, enabling it to flourish in the bustling Harbour City. With this foundation, your restaurant can focus on delivering high-quality food to customers, setting the stage for success and growth.

If you have problems with incorporating a business and obtaining licenses in Hong Kong, feel free to contact us at service@bbcincorp.com

Disclaimer: While BBCIncorp strives to make the information on this website as timely and accurate as possible, the information itself is for reference purposes only. You should not substitute the information provided in this article for competent legal advice. Feel free to contact BBCIncorp’s customer services for advice on your specific cases.

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