How to open a restaurant in Germany: Your step-by-step guide

Want to open a restaurant in Germany in the shortest time possible? Here is your guide to the most important steps and tips for getting started in the German hospitality industry.


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Checklist: How to open a restaurant in Germany

Step 1: Develop your business concept and planning

First, create a business plan, determine your target group and find your niche. You should also consider what kind of company you want to set up and which legal form best suits your goals.

Step 2: Start a business from scratch or open a franchise

Whether you’re establishing a brand new business or finalising a franchise agreement, this step is where you make it official. Brace yourself for a lot of formalities, paperwork and official procedures. Kick-start things by registering with the Gewerbeamt (trade office) to get your Gewerbeschein (trade license).

Step 3: Authorisations

If you’re planning on serving alcoholic beverages, it’s time to get your Gaststättenkonzession (premises/liquor licence). Most importantly, apply for a Gesundheitszeugnis (health certificate) for you and your team.

Step 4: Find a business location

Let’s find the ideal spot for your business! Conduct a location analysis, considering factors like infrastructure, your target audience and purchasing power.

Step 5: Marketing

Discover the perfect marketing strategy for your restaurant by running experiments. Whether it’s flyers or advertising in local media, effective promotion is key to attracting customers. Franchisees have an advantage here as they’re only responsible for local advertising and can benefit from the larger campaigns run by the franchisor.

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Andreas Munck

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Got questions about setting up a business in Germany?

  • Startup expert
  • 10+ years experience

Hi, I’m Andreas and I’ve been advising businesses in Germany for over a decade. I’d be happy to call you and answer any questions you have in a one-on-one consultation.


How to open a restaurant in Germany: Preconditions & authorisations

Gaststättenkonzession and other permits

The Gaststättenkonzession, also known as the “Gaststättenerlaubnis” or “Schankerlaubnis,” is a crucial requirement for opening your new restaurant. However, if you’re only serving prepared food and non-alcoholic beverages, you may not need this licence.

To apply for a Gaststättenkonzession, you’ll need a completed application form (available from your local licensing authority), a copy of the Gewerbezentralregisterauszug (extract from the central trade register) and a Führungszeugnis (certificate of good conduct). For more information, contact your local IHK. Note that regulations may vary from state to state.

As well as a Gewerbeschein (trading licence) and possibly a Gaststättenkonzession (premises licence), you’ll also need a Gesundheitsamt (health certificate) as a restaurateur or chef. The health department will issue this after training in food and hygiene laws.

Can I open a restaurant without any formal culinary training?

While creating gourmet dishes without formal culinary training may be difficult, not every successful restaurant owner is a trained chef. However, if you don’t plan to have one on staff, it’s important to have a good grasp of culinary skills. After all, the quality of your food is crucial to attracting customers and keeping them coming back. Legally, you don’t need to have any formal culinary training. All you need is a Gesundheitszeugnis (health certificate) and all the abovementioned requirements. Contact your local IHK (chamber of commerce) for more information.

How to open a pizzeria in Germany

You don’t need any more special knowledge to open a pizzeria than you do to open a simple restaurant. Training as a chef is desirable but not essential. However, you should have some knowledge of Italian cuisine. One thing that no Italian restaurant should be without is a good-quality coffee machine!

How to create a business plan for a restaurant

A well-prepared business plan is essential when starting out in the food service industry, especially if you want to raise capital. The main points to cover in a business plan are:

  • Market analysis: What is the competition like?
  • Target group: Who do you want to attract?
  • Range of services: Adapted to the target group, e.g. students will expect a reasonably priced offer, while exclusive meals may be more expensive. In addition to the price range, you should also consider which dishes you want to focus on.
  • Additional offers: For example, do you want to offer a delivery service?
  • Location: What is your location analysis?
  • Marketing: What is your marketing strategy and what tactics will you use?

Let’s unpack these points below.

SWOT analysis: determining strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats

Harness the power of SWOT analysis to anticipate and potentially eliminate threats and risks before you launch your restaurant venture. SWOT, which stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats, provides a comprehensive overview for your business planning. Through this analysis, you can create a strategy for success by asking yourself key questions about your business:

  • What makes you different from the competition?
  • What is your unique selling point (USP)?
  • What are the emerging trends in your industry?
  • What moves are your competitors making?

By addressing these questions, you can strategically pave the way for your success as a restaurateur.

GmbH, UG, GbR or sole proprietorship: Choosing the right legal form for your restaurant

The first step in making your dream restaurant a reality is to choose the right legal structure. Whether it’s a GmbH, UG, GbR, or sole proprietorship, each option comes with its own set of perks and pitfalls, especially when it comes to taxes. Explore which legal form best suits your restaurant venture.


There are, of course, other legal forms at your disposal, but they are not as common as the four listed above.

Which legal structure is my perfect match?


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Franchising as an alternative to starting a restaurant from scratch?

In the hospitality industry, franchising offers an alternative route. As a franchisee, you set up your business under an existing brand. You’ll receive support from the franchisor, both during the launch and afterwards. By joining an established group, you can tap into their expertise and enjoy various benefits, such as attracting external funding with a proven concept. The franchisor can also advise you on legal structures and other important matters, drawing on its wealth of experience and best practices.


Opening your restaurant: Where do I need to register?

Ready to start your restaurant business? Before you fire up the stoves, you’ll need to navigate some red tape. Your first order of business? Registering with the necessary authorities. Let’s examine the administrative side of becoming a restaurateur.

Handelsregister: Enter your restaurant into the commercial register

As a public register, the Handelsregister (commercial register) holds entries about registered merchants in the area of a local (district) Registergericht (register court). The company forms GmbH and UG (haftungsbeschränkt) require an entry in the commercial register.

Gewerbeamt: Register your restaurant with the trade office

Opening a restaurant is starting a so-called stehendes Gewerbe (standing business or fixed business). Your initial move is to register with the Gewerbeamt (trade office) responsible for your business location. Once you have registered, you will automatically be contacted by the Finanzamt (tax office) regarding the steuerliche Erfassung (tax registration). Once they’ve checked your paperwork and given you the go-ahead, you’ll be issued your business’s Steuernummer (tax number) and can start sending out invoices.

What is a Stehendes Gewerbe?

These are spaces designed for permanent (ongoing) use, such as shops, apartments, and offices, which serve as the primary location for business activities.

IHK: Become a member of the chamber of commerce and industry

The IHK (chamber of commerce and industry) will be informed of your new business by the Gewerbeamt (trade office). The IHK will then reach out to you directly. Membership in the relevant chamber is compulsory when you start a business.

Berufsgenossenschaft: Register with an employer liability insurance association

Next up is the registration with a Berufsgenossenschaft (employer liability insurance association), or BG. They’re there to protect both businesses and their employees in the event of work-related accidents. For the food industry, in particular, there’s one called the Berufsgenossenschaft Nahrung und Gaststätten (food and catering employer liability insurance association). It’s important for everyone, including small business owners with no employees, to register with the relevant BG. So make sure you register directly with the right association (they won’t contact you first).

DEHOGA: National associations of the hotel and catering industry

The DEHOGA (German hotel and gastronomy association) is responsible for the hotel and restaurant industry. Voluntary membership in a relevant national association is recommended. Associations represent the interests of their members and the industry in dealings with the public, politicians, etc.


What are the costs involved in opening a restaurant?

Before you spend any money, make a solid financial plan. Here’s what you need to bear in mind:

  1. Starting capital: Funds required for initial stages such as renovations and targeted advertising, as well as to support your living expenses.
  2. Consultancy and administration costs: Expenses associated with setting up the business.
  3. Procurement costs: Capital to purchase goods, carry out surveys and obtain certificates.
  4. Operational costs: Rent, storage, utilities, IT infrastructure etc.
  5. Taxes and insurance: Compulsory financial obligations.
  6. Emergency reserves: Funds set aside for unexpected events.

The specific costs will vary depending on the type of company you choose. In addition, different legal forms require different amounts of initial capital:

  • GmbH (limited liability company): It requires €25,000 in share capital, with a minimum deposit of €12,500 before incorporation.
  • GbR (partnership) and UG (mini-GmbH): No or low minimum capital requirements.
  • AG (stock corporation): Requires €50,000 share capital.

Franchisees also incur fees, including an entry fee to the franchisor. This gives access to products, brands and designs. There is also an investment fee, which varies depending on the size of the franchise. Typically, smaller hospitality businesses require around €40,000, while larger ones may require over €100,000. This investment often covers furniture, inventory and equipment. Various franchise opportunities can be explored through platforms such as the German business exchange website.


How to find the perfect location for your eatery

Choosing the right location is vital to the success of your restaurant or franchise. It can really make or break your business. That’s why it’s important to carry out a thorough location analysis. This process will help you understand the competitive landscape and avoid common mistakes, such as underestimating the competition. When scouting for a location, consider factors such as accessibility for your target market. Check the local infrastructure, including parking and public transport, to ensure convenience for your customers. You’ll also need to assess whether there’s a demand for your services in the area and estimate the spending power of potential customers. If you feel you have a lot of competition in one area, look elsewhere.


Infografik Umfrage Restaurantbesuch
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Create your restaurant’s menu

With franchising, everything is pretty much laid out for you: each location follows the same rules. But if you’re starting a non-franchised restaurant, you’ll need to tailor your menu to your target market. Depending on the type of customer you are trying to attract, choose the right décor for the food and drink you serve. Whether you’re following the latest trends with vegan options or showcasing a regional speciality not found elsewhere, find your niche and stick to it.

Niches, competition and target customers: Marketing your restaurant

The first thing to think about is what niche you want to fill in the market. For example, a café or a cosy bistro are alternatives to the classic restaurant. However, if you offer a non-specific cuisine, such as “German”, you may lose the younger demographic. If, on the other hand, you find a trendy niche that is not being served, you should seize the opportunity and stick to it rather than mixing sushi with steaks, for example.

But even with the best niche, marketing should not be neglected: For example, you can attract customers cheaply by using social media to spread the word about your restaurant. Flyers for openings are also popular in the restaurant industry, perhaps with a coupon or discount attached. Advertising in newspapers and other media is also a great way to reach people who are visiting to try your restaurant.

As a franchisee, you can use the franchisor’s marketing resources. You’ll benefit from the franchisor’s marketing efforts, so you don’t have to invest your own money in marketing (except for location-specific promotions for your store).


[BEGIN: Insert an Image between this tag]

Andreas Munck

[END insert Image]

Got questions about setting up a business in Germany?

  • Startup expert
  • 10+ years experience

Hi, I’m Andreas, and I’ve been advising businesses in Germany for over a decade. I’d be happy to call you and answer any questions you have in a one-on-one consultation.


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