Open bistro | Step by step to your own catering trade

Opening your own bistro – for many people this is a long-cherished dream that is at the same time close enough to touch and yet infinitely far away. Anyone who wants to start their own business in the catering industry should definitely know that there will be a lot of bureaucratic hurdles to face. Unfortunately, simply registering a business and opening a bistro is not enough. In this article you will find out what else you have to consider and how you can open your own catering business step by step.


Step # 1: come up with a concept

Anyone who is thinking of opening a bistro usually already has more or less specific ideas about what will make it stand out later on. Just renting a shop space, equipping it with furniture and offering food indiscriminately does not of course work.

Anyone who wants to be successful with a bistro (or a café, snack bar or restaurant) needs a coherent concept right from the start that gives the facility that certain something and gives the guest the feeling of being in a special place.

Of course, you have a lot of freedom when creating your individual concept. What you like and what perhaps also reflects your personality is allowed. Many founders who want to open their own bistro deliberately incorporate personal preferences and habits in order to create a place that corresponds to their nature.

Examples of bistro concepts:

  • Focus on a special country cuisine (e.g. French, Italian or Spanish)
  • sustainable orientation in the procurement of food, electricity, furnishings, etc.
  • The bistro is furnished in a certain style, for example vintage, Mediterranean or industrial style

Step # 2: Choose a legal form for the bistro

When the concept is in place and at best you know whether you are setting up a business alone or in a team, the next thing you should think about is a suitable legal form for your bistro. In the case of this business model, you have several options to choose from. In order to make the right decision, it is of the utmost importance to comprehensively deal with all legal forms and to carefully weigh the pros and cons. Here you will find an initial overview of the most common legal forms for bistros and other catering businesses.

  • Sole proprietorship : As a sole proprietor, you do not have to show any share capital and can look forward to an unbureaucratic start-up process. The disadvantage of this legal form is the unlimited liability in the event of failure.
  • GbR : The GbR is very similar to the sole proprietorship, but is founded by several shareholders.
  • GmbH : Many catering companies make a conscious decision in favor of the limited liability company (in short: GmbH). Your greatest advantage can be derived from the name: If your business fails, you have only
  • limited liability. Specifically, this means: Your private property remains untouched. To do this, however, you must have a share capital of 25,000 euros at the time of formation.
  • UG (limited liability) : The UG is also one of the legal forms with limited liability. It is often referred to as the little sister of the GmbH. The reason for this is that you do not have to raise 25,000 euros of share capital, just one euro.

Step # 3: Analyze the market, competition, and location

Anyone who has already gained experience in gastronomy knows that opening a bistro is a big step. The industry is highly competitive and closings are not uncommon. For this reason, it is all the more important to take a very close look beforehand to see what conditions you will encounter, how strong the competition is and where the strategically most favorable location for your bistro is.

Such a comprehensive analysis obviously takes up a lot of time, but it should not be underestimated. It not only provides you with valuable insights, but can also form the basis for a business plan. This, in turn, is required if you want to apply for funding and grants.

Step # 4: Find a suitable property

The search for a suitable restaurant is grossly underestimated by many budding restaurateurs. What at first seems like child’s play is a tough test of patience for many. Finding an empty bar that meets all requirements is anything but easy in many areas of Germany.

When looking for a property, you should always keep your previous analyzes as well as the concept for your bistro in mind. For example, ask yourself where your preferred customers are and which area would best suit your concept. A location in the city center is not always the best choice.

Step # 5: Obtain the restaurant permit

Restaurants and hotels fall under the so-called licensing trades. This means that you must obtain a restaurant permit before registering a business – unless you do not intend to serve alcoholic beverages. The restaurant permit – also known as a license – is only granted if you meet certain requirements. These include:

personal suitability (proof of a police clearance certificate, a health certificate and a clearance certificate from the tax office)
professional suitability (proof of participation in an instruction in accordance with Section 4 of the Catering Act)
Suitability of the premises (proof of rental, lease or purchase contract, acceptance by the building authority)

Step # 6: Register the Business

Regardless of the legal form you have chosen, you must register your bistro with the trade office. This step is feared by most budding restaurateurs, but it is basically not a bad thing. One of the most important things to keep in mind is this: Registering a company (of any kind) costs money. In addition to the usual registration fees, which vary from place to place between 20 and 40 euros, there may be costs for lawyer, notary and other posts.

  • Note : This article shows that the business can only be registered after the restaurant permit has been granted. For permission, in turn, restaurateurs usually have to provide evidence of a specific property. If you haven’t found this yet, but still want to register a business, it is helpful to talk to the responsible authorities. Often special regulations and the subsequent submission of documents are possible. In any case, be prepared for a bureaucratic hurdle race.

Step # 7: Open Your Bistro
When all permits have been obtained, you have received the green light from the Health and Veterinary Office and your bistro is fully furnished, you can finally start operations and serve your first guests. When you open a bistro, it is important, especially at the beginning, to raise the drum and draw people’s attention to the new restaurant. The possibilities are diverse:

  • Ads on local and social media
  • Social media activities
  • Opening promotions (discounts, “buy two, pay one”)
  • Flyer
  • Posters

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