How to Start a Food Business in Singapore

by Palmer Owyoung; Updated September 26, 2017
Singapore River Waterfront Skyline at Sunset

Singapore has a rich and vibrant multicultural society, reflected in the variety of cuisines from all parts of the globe. The food and beverage industry in Singapore is a melting pot of restaurants, bistros, cafes, hawker stalls, pubs and bars. Setting up a food business in Singapore is not complicated, thanks in part to government support for entrepreneurs. As long as you prepare everything you need and stick to all the rules and regulations, your business can be operational with minimal delays.

Step 1

Incorporate your business. The majority of Singaporean companies are registered as private limited liability or private limited businesses. Only Singaporeans or Singapore permanent residents are allowed to register a company, so if you are not one, you must hire a third-party firm or Singaporean individual to register one in the firm's or that person's name.

Step 2

Find a location for the business. This is required before you can apply for operating licenses because the licensing agencies will need to carry out site inspections of the property prior to issuing any permits. Obtain layouts and plans of the property or premises, tenancy agreements and approvals from whichever agency is responsible for the area, such as the Housing Development Board, the Urban Redevelopment Authority, or the Building and Construction Authority. In some cases, more than one approval may be required.

Step 3

Obtain a food shop license and other permits. The government's Environmental Public Health Act requires all establishments wishing to retail food and/or beverages to hold a such a license, which can be obtained from the National Environment Agency. This can be done online and will take up to two weeks to complete. If you wish to offer food for Muslims, you must obtain a Halal certificate from the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore, and you must also satisfy their very strict requirements. To offer liquor, get a liquor license from the Liquor Licensing Board; and to buy ingredients or food products from international suppliers, you must also obtain an import license from the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore.

Step 4

Find employees to run the restaurant. Note that you may be allowed to hire both local as well as foreign workers, but all staff must possess valid employment visas (such as a work permit or S Pass).

Step 5

Register for the Goods and Services Tax (GST). All restaurant businesses which make profits over S$1 million will need to obtain GST registration and pay taxes on their revenue. This is about 7 percent of the cost of the product and must be paid annually to the taxation authorities (Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore).

About the Author

Palmer Owyoung holds a Master of Arts in international business from the University of California at San Diego and a Bachelor of Arts in sociology from the University of California at Santa Barbara and is a trained molecular biologist. He has been a freelance writer since 2006. In addition to writing, he is a full-time Forex trader and Internet marketer.

Photo Credits

  • JPLDesigns/iStock/Getty Images