How to Open a Restaurant in Canada

Operating your own restaurant in Canada can be a rewarding and profitable venture, but it is not without its challenges. Members of the Canadian restaurant industry must meet a variety of legal requirements as prescribed by the federal Canadian government. Learn how to adhere to these rules and open your own restaurant.

Choose the type of restaurant to open. Examples range from small coffee shops or cafes to large ethnic cuisine restaurants. Your choice will depend on your experience running a business, your present location, your financial situation and the current market saturation (for example, opening a coffee shop in a neighborhood with five coffee shops may not be a good idea).

Select a location for your restaurant. You may commission a third-party statistical research company to find a location or you may have a spot in mind after looking around the city. Consider the unique needs of your company (if you are opening a coffee shop, you may want to be situated near your supplies or shipping points). Also consider where your customers are located and the environment (for example, a boutique coffee shop may do better in an affluent neighborhood than in an outlet mall).

Contact your provincial government (see Resources). Each Canadian province has different laws and regulations that govern opening a restaurant. Request a zoning map to ascertain whether the location you chose in Step 2 is appropriate; if not, select another spot and continue to Step 4.

Request a municipal business license and a food establishment license. Your municipal government's contact information is found in the front of your local telephone book. You may also obtain the appropriate forms for these licenses from your provincial government (see Resources). Where appropriate, you may also wish to obtain a liquor license.

Obtain additional registration and licensing from your provincial government. Consult with a small business official to determine which forms and licenses you need, as there are few nationwide requirements and all provinces differ in their specific requirements. Example of licenses that you may need to acquire before opening your restaurant include fire safety licensing, provincial sales tax licenses, and an inspection approving your restaurant in the city's current zoning area.

Apply for approval from Restaurant and Food Service Inspection Canada (see Resources). When you apply, a regional health official will inspect your restaurant to ensure that you are following all Canadian health regulations.

Open your restaurant after receiving appropriate approval from both federal and provincial governments, as noted in Steps 3 through 6.