Rules and Regulations of Coffee Shops

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Rules and Regulations of Coffee Shops

The last couple of decades have seen a move towards a more established café culture in the UK. While the high street is still dominated by big chains like Costa and Starbucks, there’s been a steady but significant increase in independent artisan coffee shops that are popular with customers looking for a less homogenous experience.

According to the Local Data Company, there was an increase of more than 30 percent in the number of coffee shops in the five years up to 2016, and it’s a trend that seems set to continue, with circa 16,000 outlets in the UK, turning over around £6bn per annum (Allegra). For independents, quality is key, with customers taking an interest in the type of beans used, where – and how ethically – they are sourced, and how they are roasted.

If you’re considering buying a coffee shop, experience will help, so think about spending some time working in a café that’s similar to the type you’d like to own or set aside time for visiting as wide a range of shops as you can to get a sense of the business from a customer’s perspective. You’ll also need to be clued up on all the rules and regulations that will apply to running your own café.

Food Business Registration

If you will be cooking and selling food in your coffee shop – even if it’s just brownies and tray bakes – you’ll need to obtain a food licence. Make sure you register your food business with your local authority at least 28 days before trading; it’s free and only requires basic details of your food business including the address and the type of food offered. The authority will need to be kept informed if you’re planning to make any big changes to your business.


No law states you must undertake formal training to open a café or coffee shop but you will be required to have training on food safety and hygiene if you’re the one responsible for developing your café’s food safety management procedures – it’s good practice to undertake this training even if you don’t intend to have any hands-on involvement. Your local authority will provide you with information about food hygiene courses.


You will need to apply for a licence if you want to sell alcohol or hot food between 11 pm and 5 am, but you’ll also need a licence for any entertainment such as live music performances. If you want to play music in your coffee shop, you can buy an off-the-shelf entertainment licence to cover this.

Health and Safety

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is a government-appointed body responsible for all food safety standards in the UK – its comprehensive ‘Safer Food Better Business’ publication includes details of how to comply with the law on all key areas of serving food including cooking, chilling and cleaning. The FSA may need to inspect your cafe premises and will give you a food hygiene rating certificate.


All food safety management procedures follow the principles of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP). HACCP is a system that helps you look at how to handle food and how to ensure your procedures are producing food that is safe to eat. You must keep up-to-date documents and records relating to your procedures and review them if you change what you produce or how you work.


Traceability rules help keep track of food in the supply chain so that everyone can act quickly in the event of a food safety issue being flagged. The record should include details of your suppliers, together with delivery dates and batch numbers, where available. Your records are an important link in the supply chain and should be available for inspection at all times.


Local authorities are responsible for enforcing food hygiene laws and may send authorised officers to your premises to check if your business is producing food that is safe to eat. They’ll want to see how you work and check your food safety management system, as well as the types of food you prepare. Be aware that they have a right to inspect your premises at any reasonable time and will usually arrive without making an appointment.


Like any business operating in the public sphere, you are likely to be required to have some forms of insurance – including public liability, employer’s liability and contents cover – in place before opening, depending on your business’s circumstances. If in doubt, your local council will be able to inform you of any regulations you must comply with, and you will also be able to apply for most licences through them. You can find contact details for your local council here.

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