Licence To Start Food Service In South Africa

If you’re planning to start a business you’ll probably need a business licence. If your business needs a licence to operate you may not start trading until a licence has been issued.  Trading without a valid licence is a punishable offense. 

To operate your business, you’ll need to comply with certain health and safety regulations. Certain businesses require only a business trading licence to operate, and some may need to comply with additional regulations.

A business licence is generally required for businesses that need to comply with health and safety regulations. You’ll have to apply for the licence if you want to start one of the following businesses:

Food provision

If your business sells or supplies meals or perishable food to eat on the premises or to take away, you’ll need a licence to do so.

Where do I apply for a business licence?

Your local municipality handles business licences and you can contact them for details on licensing procedures and the various health and safety regulations required for different kinds of business.

Depending on the type of business, you may need to comply with the following requirements:


Zoning regulations are laws defining how you can use your property. Check your title deed to see whether or not your property qualifies for the relevant business rights.

Once you have determined the zoning of your property your next step is to visit the Town Planner responsible for your area. The Town Planner will let you know whether you need to apply for consent use or the re-zoning of your property.

Common land-use or zoning categories include:

  • Residential zones: Such as single residential dwellings, group housing schemes or blocks of flats
  • Open space zones: These include public open spaces, parks, sports fields, cemeteries or private open spaces
  • Business and commercial zones: Such as shops or office blocks
  • Industrial zones: Factories, motor repair garages or warehouses
  • Government zones: Areas reserved for government buildings
  • Agricultural zones: Farms
  • Special use zones: For example petrol stations


If your business serves food or drink to the public you will have to comply with laws that make sure your food is safe for consumption.

Regulations generally differ from area to area so to find out exactly what you need to do for your business, contact your local municipality and enquire about how to comply.

A certificate of acceptability

If your business is involved in the provision of food then you are required to have a ‘Certificate of Acceptability’. Until such time as you have the necessary certificate no person on your premises may handle food.  If you are found to be preparing and selling food without the certificate then you may be liable to a fine.

The Certificate of Acceptability must be in the name of a natural person who is responsible for the food premises, or the owner of the food premises. The Certificate of Acceptability is not transferable from one person to another or from one premises to another.

If you comply with all the requirements, you’ll be issued with a licence. If not, you can apply for a 14-day grace period, during which you can make changes to your premises so that they meet the requirements.