2020 was the year of the COVID-19, the year in which one of the sectors most affected by the measures put in place by the government to contain the spread of the contagion was the restaurant sector, with around 80,000 operators lowering their shutters in 2020 and not raising them again.
Nonetheless, the Italian restaurant sector ranks among the top places globally for the quality of the processing and raw materials used.
It is not a coincidence that there are a large number of food and beverage businesses in Italy.
However, in order to maintain the high Italian quality standard, the Italian regulations governing the opening of restaurants and cafeterias are articulated and complex, and provide for a series of moral and professional requirements that the aspiring restaurateur must meet before starting his business.
The aspiring restaurateur must meet the following professional requirements before starting his/her business:
- being of legal age and capable of understanding;
- having attended the course and obtained the SAB certificate, i.e. the certification required for the serving of food and drink;
- as an alternative to the SAB certificate, the aspiring restaurateur must demonstrate that he/she works or has worked for at least two years in the last five years in the restaurant sector, even as an employee;
- holding a high school diploma in hotel management that has provided him with knowledge of trade and/or food preparation.
From a tax point of view, you need a VAT number to work as a restaurant.
It will also be necessary to decide in advance the legal nature of your business: if you decide to carry out the activity individually, a VAT number for the individual entrepreneur will be sufficient, but if you decide to carry it out in conjunction with other subjects, it will be necessary to set up a special company.
However, our legal system, in order to promote Italian entrepreneurship, has provided for legal forms that guarantee limited liability and relieve the parties concerned from certain obligations, as it is the case with the S.r.l. in simplified form (S.r.l.s.).
Other authorisations and notifications will also be required, concerning:
- registration with the National Institute for Social Security (INPS) and the National Insurance Institute for Industrial Accidents (INAIL);
- the request for the Certified Declaration of Commencement of Activities (SCIA), i.e. a communication needed to regularly carry out demolition, renovation or extension work on buildings, to be submitted to the municipality in which you intend to open your business;
- the Single Communication to be sent to the Chamber of Commerce of the province;
- communication to the Customs Agency for the sale or administration of alcohol;
- authorisation issued by the municipality to display your own sign;
- SIAE (Italian Society of Authors and Publishers) rights if you intend to play music within your business;
- registration with CONAI, a private non-profit consortium which is the instrument through which producers and users of packaging in Italy guarantee the achievement of the objectives of recycling and recovery of packaging waste laid down by law.
Of course, in addition to the above-mentioned requirements, public establishments must meet specific characteristics in order to be used as restaurants.
The requirements may vary at regional level but, at national level, each establishment must have:
- town planning and building requirements, through certification that the premises identified respect landscape and historical constraints, have a suitable size for the intended use, external surveillance for reasons of security and public order, acoustic conditions, etc;
- Haccp certification, which attests to the knowledge of the procedures that must be followed when preparing, handling and administering food and beverages, necessary for the owner and for those inside the restaurant who are directly involved in the administration of the food.
As far as accessibility is concerned, the premises, in addition to an entrance free of architectural barriers, must have at least one area dedicated to parking for customers that is also accessible to people in wheelchairs (Ministerial Decree 236/1989, art. 5).
It will also be necessary to have an accessible toilet but, since the regulations do not provide for a room dedicated exclusively to be used by disabled customers, in smaller activities, with a single toilet, it will be sufficient that this allows to be used also by people in wheelchairs.
The place identified for the performance of the activity is usually composed of the following rooms:
- dining room(s);
- pantry and storage room;
- staff toilet and changing room;
- toilet for the public.
The dining room(s)
The dining room(s) should have cleanable walls and smooth material floors and are usually located on the same floor as the kitchen but, if this is not the case, service is facilitated by a lift, also made of washable material.
In addition, there may be display counters for the preservation and presentation of certain foodstuffs, provided that they are equipped with appropriate tools to prevent accidental contamination of the same.
This room, with a minimum area of 5 mq, is used for washing dishes and utensils if the kitchen does not have an area for this purpose.
No food processing, if any, is allowed inside this room.
This is the room used for preparing meals and must have a minimum surface area of 20 mq.
Goods for the pantry and soiled crockery may not pass through it as they could cause dirt; if there is a washing area in the kitchen, passageways must be provided which do not interact with meal preparation activities.
From a constructional point of view, the location of the kitchen must ensure perfect hygiene and the walls and floor must be made of durable, smooth and washable material, as must any work surface in contact with foodstuffs to facilitate cleaning.
It will be necessary to have an extraction system for fumes, with hoods equipped with filters on each cooking fire.
Inside the kitchen, the processing sectors and their respective tools must be clearly separated, and each food item must be labelled and stored in special packaging on the outside of which the type, origin and date must be indicated.
Pantry and storage room
The pantry is the room for storing food that is immediately necessary and must be located in a separate, ventilated room that communicates directly with the kitchen.
The storeroom is a room for storing foodstuffs and may not be adjacent to the kitchen, provided that access to it does not require a route outside the building.
Both rooms must have walls and floors made of durable, smooth and washable materials and are not accessible to the public as they are not suitable for any kind of food processing but only for cold storage.
Staff toilet and changing room
The staff toilets must be located on the same floor and adjacent to the kitchen, but not directly communicating with it.
They must be tiled with smooth, washable materials and have a sink with a non-manual dispensing control.
There must be one toilet for every 10 employees.
In the changing room, on the other hand, there will be individual lockers for storing staff items and clothing
Toilet for the public
There should be at least two public toilets on the premises, divided by gender, one of which should be accessible to the disabled.
They should be located so as not to interfere with staff routes to the kitchen or pantry and should be fully lined with washable and waterproof material with natural or “forced” ventilation.