Advice for new businesses

Information and advice you need to start a new food business.

Starting a food business

If you're thinking about starting or taking over a food business, there are several steps you need to follow to make sure you're doing this safely and in accordance with the law.

For the purposes of this guidance and within food legislation ‘food’ refers to both food and drink.


All food businesses must register with the environmental health service at their Local Authority at least 28 days before opening.  If you have more than one premises you will need to register all of them. Registration of food businesses is free.

Registration applies to all types of food businesses, including those that:

  • grow food
  • produce food
  • cook food
  • sell food
  • store or handle food
  • distribute food - business involved with distribution or food supply should also register as food businesses, even if no food is kept at the premises.

If you are already trading and have not registered, you need to do so as soon as possible.  Contact your Local Authority to find out how to register your business.

Exceptions to registration

Approved premises

Food businesses that make, prepare or handle meat, fish, egg or dairy products for supply to other businesses may require approval and not registration.

Whether or not you need approval will depend on the type of business and whether foods are handled or processed. If you are unsure whether you need approval refer to the flow chart below or contact your Local Authority. 


If you are planning to start or have started a childminding business in a domestic premises that provides food you may need to register as a food business with your Local Authority, depending on the food services you provide. 

The following guidance should help you understand whether you need to register as a food business.

Registration or approval - which does your business require?

*Businesses which redistribute surplus foodstuffs (e.g. out of date bakery products) as animal feed must register with Food Standards Scotland.

Legal requirements

Once you have established whether you need to register, or apply for approval, you should work with your Local Authority to ensure you are able to comply with the legal requirements and prepare safe food.

All food businesses, regardless of size, location or type of food must be aware of the food law that is relevant to their food business. Ultimately, you are responsible for ensuring the food you produce is safe as it is illegal to place unsafe food on the market.

You may wish to consider the following legislation when setting up your business:

Legislation Description Sources
Retained Regulation (EC) 178/2002 & Food Safety Act 1990

Legal requirements covering food safety including:

  • ensuring food businesses do not include in or remove anything from food, treat food in any way which would harm consumers
  • ensuring food served or sold by businesses is of the nature, substance or quality which consumers would expect.
  • ensuring that food is labelled properly and is not misleading
  • ensuring traceability through the food chain
Retained Regulation (EC) 852/2004 & Food Hygiene (Scotland) Regulations 2006

Legal Requirements covering food safety including:-

  • The requirement to have a documented HACCP system (food safety management system)
  • Details on general requirements of the food premises  
  • Detailed specific requirements for rooms where food is prepared, treated or processed
  • Training requirements
Retained Regulation (EC) 1169/2011 & Food Information (Scotland) Regulations 2014

Contains legal requirements on what information you must provide to customers when you sell foods including:

Retained Regulation (EC) 853/2004 & Retained Regulation (EC) 854/2004

*Approved Premises handling POAO (product of animal origin) only*

Details specific requirements for establishments handling POAO.

Other considerations

Before opening your business, or beginning operations, you may also wish to consider the criteria below.  By reviewing these suggested topics you may be better prepared for future conversations about your business with the relevant registration/approval authority.

Topic Things to consider

Are you and your staff suitably qualified to operate your business?

Refer to Food safety advice for caterers and retailers for training and access to guidance that may help you.


Are your food preparation areas clean?

Do you have a waste management contract in place?

Have you considered how to clean food storage (fridges/freezers)?

Premises structure and maintenance

Do you have appropriate ventilation, lighting, drainage, sinks and wash hand basins? 

Do you have procedures in place for pest control?

Food safety management procedures

Do you have written rules and procedures in place to ensure your food is safe?

The following guides are food safety management systems based on HACCP which have been tailored to different sectors of the food industry:

Record keeping

Do you have template sheets to record suppliers, ingredients, recipes and temperatures?

MenuCal is a free resource to allow you to record recipes and will help with Allergen management and calculating calories.

Health and safety

As a business operator you must consider the health and safety of yourself, your staff and anyone entering the premises.

HSE: Information about health and safety at work is free guidance for new business set up to help with health and safety considerations.


Do you need to apply for a license to:

  • sell alcohol
  • provide entertainment
  • late hours catering, or
  • mobile sales?

Check with your Local Authority licensing department.

Planning Does your premises have the correct planning permission to be operating as a food business? Check with your Local Authority planning department.
Covid-19 You must have measures in place to reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission. The Scottish Government Guidance may help.
Allergens Food allergies can be life threatening and as a business you have a responsibility to prepare safe food for your consumers.  To learn more about food allergens take a look at our allergen pages and our free online allergen training.