How to Open a Food Business in Canada

Learn what is required to safely and legally open a food business in your province.
May 28, 2020

Opening a food business in Canada is an exciting endeavour for any aspiring business owner. In order to open a food business properly, food businesses must comply with federal, provincial and municipal laws. Also, there are essential steps that must be followed in order to ensure a legal and lawful operation within Canada. These steps vary from province to province, however, there are key steps that are the same across the country.

Key steps to opening a food business in Canada

Create A Business Plan 

Before you do anything else, prepare your business plan. Preparing your business plan will help you to focus on how to operate your new business and give it the best chance for success. It will help you set realistic and timely goals, secure external funding, measure your success, specify operational requirements and establish reasonable financial forecasts.

Choose A Business Structure

There are three types of business structures to choose from: sole proprietorship, partnership or incorporation. It is important to recognize that depending on what type of business structure you choose, there are different legal and financial requirements.

Research Permits And Licences 

It is imperative to conduct research into the permits and licences that your food business will need based on your province and municipality. These can vary greatly depending on where you plan to operate your business.

For example, all food businesses in Alberta — such as those in Calgary and Edmonton — must obtain a Food Handling permit in order to operate within the province.

Decide On A Location

Choosing a location for your food business is an essential step and can affect the success of your business. It is vital to consider municipal zoning restrictions as different zoning requirements may exist for different types of food businesses. Take the time to confirm zoning for any location you’re considering, even if the space was a restaurant previously. You will also need to consider any renovations that you may need to undertake in order to bring the location up to code.

Choose A Business Name

Before you can register your business, you will need to decide on a name for your food business. Depending on your province, there will be different requirements and restrictions for choosing your business name.

For example, in Montreal, Quebec — and all throughout the province — you must meet the compliance requirements of the Charter of the French Language. The name of a company must be in French; however, the Charter allows (under certain conditions) versions of a business name in another language.

Register Your Business

You must register your food business with the following:

  • The province the food business will be operating in
  • The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)

Depending on your province, there may be additional governing bodies that you must register with. For example, in cities like Vancouver, British Columbia, most food businesses will also need to register with WorkSafeBC and the Ministry of Finance.

Schedule Inspections

Depending on your province and municipality, you may be required to have a health inspection conducted before you are permitted to open to the public. You may also be required to have other inspections of the premises arranged and completed.

For example, in Toronto, Ontario (and across the province) you must arrange for a final inspection so that a Health Inspector can confirm that the building and your kitchen complies with Ontario Food Premises Regulations.

Hire Employees

Employees are the lifeblood of any food business, and hiring them must be taken very seriously. Depending on your province and municipality, as well as the type of food business you are operating, your employees will be required to have different certifications. Most importantly, in most provinces in Canada it is a legal requirement that all Food Handlers have a valid Food Handler Certification.

Guides to opening a food business

The above steps are not inclusive of all of the actions that need to be taken when opening a food business. There are other specific requirements that must be undertaken within different provinces throughout Canada. In order to understand how to properly open a food business in your province, visit the CIFS Resource Library for helpful guides to opening a food business in specific provinces.