Many people dream of moving to France and opening a small cafe or adding a café or tea shop to a gite and chambre d'hotes site. There are a few things that you will need to consider to open a café in France, which I have covered in this article.
Getting a drinks licence for your cafe
The first thing to consider when opening a café or tea shop in France is the drinks licence, if you plan to serve alcoholic drinks or serve alcohol with food. Serving alcoholic drinks is a way to increase your turnover and margin, so it is worth considering. Many small cafés create a small community around their shop with wine tasting events, beer tasting, tapas evening, happy hours, morning breakfast for entrepreneurs, English speaking evenings, etc. These are opportunities to boost sales, talk about your café in the local press and on social networks.
If creating a café from scratch, you will have to buy a drinks licence, while if buying an existing café with fonds de commerce the owner’s licence will be transferred to you. You need to contact your Mairie to request a licence, as they will have a list of licences available in the département and région. A licence can be transferred from one town to another.
Prices for a drinks licence vary from one region to another and can reach 5,000€ for a licence IV, enabling you to sell all types of alcohol with or without food. A licence petite restauration will cost far less, but will only enable you to serve drinks with food. On the long run it is worth the investment, as you will be able to resell this licence when you close your business.
Compulsory training for food and drinks
To sell alcoholic drinks, you must take a compulsory training with Union des Métiers et des Industries de l’Hôtelellerie (UMIH) to get a permit called Permis d’Exploitation. This training lasts two and a half days and costs 498€ HT.
If you plan to serve food, you must take a training called Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) for hygiene standards for professionals. This training lasts two days and costs about 350€. A company called Permis Exploitation France has regular special offers all across France for both training. You can also enquire about local training with your local Chambre de Commerce.
You will also need to check that the kitchen is up to professional standards. Someone from Direction Départementale de Protection de la Population (DDPP) will give you the guidelines or come and check your kitchen. Again, your local Chambre de Commerce can help guide you with this process.
Authorisation and help from your Mairie
Many cafés in France have a terrace, enabling them to add extra tables and increase their turnover for the summer season. This requires specific authorisation from the Mairie, specifying how much space you can use and whether it is seasonal. When buying an existing business, check that the Mairie will maintain the authorisation, as they sometimes take this opportunity to reduce or suppress a terrace.
A visit to your Mairie is useful, as many towns have small subventions to help shop owners renew their front window or acquire new outdoor furniture. Some of your suppliers may also help you with your investments. Drinks and ice cream scream suppliers for instance often help small shop owners by lending them outdoor furniture or print menu sets if working with them.