How to Start a Restaurant Business in Thailand

Tourism is a significant part of Thailand’s GDP. Every year, Thailand welcomes around 35 million visitors. These visitors look forward to experiencing Thai food in all its incarnations, so restaurants and food outlets are always busy.

There are companies in Thailand that can help you come up with a unique food and beverage concept, so if you have plans to open a high-end eatery, it is worth consulting with the experts in the restaurant concept development business. But before you reach that stage, it is a good idea to fully understand the steps needed to open a restaurant in Thailand.

Foreign Investors

Ex-pats can open a restaurant business in Thailand, but they are subject to different rules. All foreigners are governed by the Foreign Business Act, whereas locals are subject to the Commercial Code.

Since starting a business of any description can be a minefield, it is worth consulting with a local attorney. They will guide you through the various procedures that you need to navigate. This will ensure your business is a legal entity and you don’t have to worry about being shut down by the authorities within a month of opening your doors.

Apply for Operating Licenses

Both foreign and local investors must apply for various licenses before they open a restaurant in Thailand. These include a food license, a liquor license, an import license (if you plan in importing raw ingredients or supplies from overseas), and a manufacturing license. If you plan on developing labeled products to sell in your restaurants, such as a bespoke sauce, then approval must be sought. You even need a permit to play music in a Thai restaurant!

Health and hygiene are also an issue. All restaurants and eateries must be certified as hygienic and sanitary. Permits are required relating to the preparation and handling of food, so make sure you don’t fall foul of the law by omitting to apply for appropriate permits.

Pick a Location

Restaurants depend on plenty of footfall, so a busy tourist-friendly location is more suitable than a quiet backwater spot. However, do bear in mind that prime locations will always be more expensive, so stick to your budget.

If you are new to the restaurant business, you are better off buying an existing business with an established clientele, rather than setting one up from scratch. Spend some time looking for a suitable business and if you spot an opportunity, don’t waste any time approaching the current owner.

Target Clientele

Think carefully about who your target clientele is. Ex-pats often do better when targeting tourists, especially if they provide a service that tourists might appreciate, such as authentic British cuisine. Foreign tourists don’t all fall in love with spicy Thai food, so a Full English Breakfast may be most welcome after a night spent drinking local beer.

Do some market research. Ask people what they would like to eat and drink, and then build a restaurant business that meets their requirements. Keep the menu simple and try to do everything to the highest standard possible.

That’s always a recipe for success!


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