CIFS Guide to

Opening a Food Business in Manitoba

Each municipality in Manitoba has specific requirements for opening a restaurant. Learn more about what's required.
Opening a Food Business in Manitoba

Each municipality in Manitoba has specific requirements for opening a restaurant. To confirm the requirements in your area, we highly recommend that you contact your local municipality.

The restaurant industry is dynamic, fast-paced and requires careful planning. Not only does this demonstrate to potential investors that you understand every aspect of your business and its ability to generate profit, it’s also just common sense. So, before you do anything else, make sure that you:

  • create a business plan
  • choose a business structure
  • contact your local municipal office
  • review food safety legislation

In This Resource


Introduction

Each municipality in Manitoba has specific requirements for opening a restaurant. To confirm the requirements in your area, we highly recommend that you contact your local municipality.

The restaurant industry is dynamic, fast-paced and requires careful planning. Not only does this demonstrate to potential investors that you understand every aspect of your business and its ability to generate profit, it’s also just common sense. So, before you do anything else, make sure that you:

  • create a business plan 
  • choose a business structure 
  • contact your local municipal office
  • review food safety legislation

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.

Find out more about business plans and why you need one

Download an example business plan and free business plan template.

CHOOSE A BUSINESS STRUCTURE

The three common types of business structure are:

  • sole proprietorship
  • partnership
  • incorporation

Each structure has different legal and financial implications. Find out which business structure is right for you

CONTACT YOUR LOCAL MUNICIPAL OFFICE

One of the first steps in starting your new business should be contacting the municipal office your food business will be located in for information on building code requirements and local zoning ordinances.

Your local municipal office will also be able to assist you in determining what permits you will need and the most suitable business licence for your business. You can also use BizPaL to generate a list of permits and licences based on your location.

Your local municipal office will also be able to direct you to the various departments you’ll need to contact. We encourage you to complete this step early. Call before signing any agreements to get an understanding of your approval timeline and verify any unexpected requirements.

At this stage, you may not be ready to actually apply for certain permits or licences, but you should be doing some research about which ones you’ll need based on where you live and what you want to do with your business. 

REVIEW FOOD SAFETY LEGISLATION

It’s your responsibility to ensure that you comply with all applicable laws, regulations and codes, including local zoning bylaws and building, fire, electrical, plumbing, ventilation and licensing codes under the Buildings and Mobile Homes Act.

All food handling establishments in Manitoba are inspected to comply with the Food and Food Handling Establishments Regulation under The Public Health Act.


Location and Zoning

CHOOSE A LOCATION

Now that you’ve got your business plan, chosen your business structure and know what permits and licences you’re going to need, you need a location. Your ideal location will depend on zoning restrictions, your target market, competitors in the area and your specific business needs.

Before you buy or lease a space to operate your restaurant, or buy or lease an existing restaurant, you’ll want to consider:

  • municipal zoning restrictions
  • renovations you may be required to make
  • reviewing your lease with a lawyer 

MUNICIPAL ZONING RESTRICTIONS

Different zoning requirements may exist for different types of restaurants. Take the time to confirm zoning for any location you’re considering, even if the space was a restaurant previously. Never expect zoning to be changed to accommodate your business.

Factors to consider when reviewing the zoning of a potential location include:

  • permitted uses
  • hours of operation
  • hours for serving alcohol
  • permitted outdoor serving areas
  • washroom facilities
  • parking

Each municipality will have different zoning for different areas; contact your local Planning & Development Office for any questions you have about zoning. In lieu of the Planning & Development Office, contact your local municipal office for guidance.

Note: A turnkey restaurant — which is one that is already in operation or was operating recently — is usually in compliance with zoning bylaws and building code regulations, but you should always check to make sure.

RENOVATIONS

It’s important to consider any necessary construction before you purchase or sign a lease. Even if you’re just leasing the space, you may be required to pay for renovations, which can be expensive and cause costly delays.

Getting a bargain on a lease or property is great, but building permits and construction costs can quickly add up. You may find that you can purchase or lease a space for cheaper than it costs to bring another location up to code.

REVIEWING YOUR LEASE

Before you sign a lease, it’s a good idea to have a lawyer, notary, chartered accountant or other legal representative review it for any unusual requirements or clauses.


Register Your Business

Now that you have your location, it’s time to register your business with various government agencies. Depending on your business activities, size and revenue, you will need to register for a variety of different government programs and accounts.

REGISTER YOUR BUSINESS NAME

If you choose to operate a business under a name other than your own name, you must register with the Companies Office. Sole proprietors who are carrying on business under their own name do not have to register (e.g. Jane Smith operating as “Smith Plumbing”).

Note: The sole owner is required to display a sign at their business showing his or her full name. Partnerships and Corporations must be registered with the Companies Office.

There are two steps to registering your business name in Manitoba:

Step 1: Reserve your business name

The first step in registering your business is to file a name reservation with the Companies Office. When you file a name reservation, the Office will conduct a search to determine if the name you have chosen is available. If available, the name will be reserved for you for 90 days.

During this time, you should file the necessary forms to register the business name. If, for some reason, the name is not available, you must choose a new name and request another reservation.

Important note: To save you time and money, the Companies Office strongly recommends that you search the following free databases to determine if the name you want is too similar to a name already in use:

This is an important step, not only because you increase your chances of obtaining name approval on the first try, but also because the responsibility for choice and use of a name rests entirely with the applicant.

The Companies Office does not provide any guarantee that the obtaining of a name reservation, or a subsequent registration, means that the name you have chosen will not be the subject of a complaint or direction to change your name — so do your due diligence!

To search the Companies Office database, log in to Companies Online. If you do not have a Government of Manitoba account, register as a new user. Once you’re registered, you can search the database by name / number.

To reserve your business name, you can:

Step 2: Register your business

Once your chosen business name is approved by the Companies Office, you can register your business. Once your business has been registered, the Companies Office will issue you a Business Number (BN), a unique, 9-digit number that identifies your business to various levels of government.

To register your business, you can:


Permits and Licences

HEALTH PERMIT

To prepare, sell or distribute food to the public in Manitoba, you must register your food handling establishment and obtain a health permit from a Public Health Inspector before opening to the public.

A food handling establishment is any facility or location where food is prepared, stored or served to the general public. This includes:

  • restaurants, delicatessens, bakeries, butcher shops, grocery stores, convenience stores
  • caterers, take-outs
  • food processors
  • mobile push carts and food trucks
  • special events (e.g. festivals, fairs, farmers’ markets)

Your application will be forwarded to a Public Health Inspector in your area, who will contact you for more information about your business, such as the types of food you will prepare and the number of employees. When the Inspector is satisfied that your business meets compliance requirements, they will issue you a health permit.

Note: If you purchase an existing restaurant, you still need to apply for an operating permit. Health permits are non-transferrable. You may also be required to arrange an on site inspection with a Public Health Inspector.

BUILDING PERMITS

All proposals for new construction or renovations to an existing food handling establishment — or conversion of an existing building to be used as a food handling establishment — must be reviewed by a Public Health Inspector prior to starting construction of any kind.

Any person(s) constructing, renovating or re-constructing a food handling establishment must first register the proposed food handling establishment with Manitoba Health. 

Read the Guidelines for the Design, Construction and Reconstruction of a Food Handling Establishment and complete the application form at the end of the guide.

Note: Plans, specifications and any other pertinent information must be submitted along with your application and must be clear, complete and to scale.

A health permit will only be issued after an on site inspection of your facility has been carried out. All construction and renovations must be completed prior to scheduling your opening inspection.

OTHER PERMITS AND LICENCES

Depending on where and how your business will operate, you may require a number of additional permits and licences in order to open in Manitoba.

For example:

  • building / occupancy permit
  • general business licence
  • commercial cooking equipment permit
  • sign permit
  • use of street permit (mobile vendors)
  • liquor licence
  • sound / musical performing rights licence

Contact your local municipal office to find out which of these permits you need to operate the business you want, or use BizPaL to generate a list based on your location and business activities.


Train Your Employees

Food safety training is an essential part of running a food business. Not only does it protect the public from health risks like food poisoning and allergic reactions, it also protects you, the business owner, from serious financial and legal consequences.

In the City of Winnipeg, training in food safety and hygiene is regulated and mandatory. In accordance with the City of Winnipeg Food Service Establishment Bylaw:

  1. No person shall operate a food service establishment unless the person in charge has successfully completed a Food Handler Course approved by the government of Manitoba.
  2. Food service establishments with fewer than five Food Handlers must have a person on staff who has successfully completed an approved Food Handler Course.
  3. Food service establishments with more than five Food Handlers working at any one time must have at least one person who has successfully completed an approved Food Handler Course on duty at all times.

The Canadian Institute of Food Safety (CIFS) Food Handler Certification Course is approved by the government of Manitoba and accepted by Health Inspectors in every municipality of Manitoba.

If you’re going to serve alcohol in your restaurant or other food service business, your employees may also be required to complete the Smart Choices Liquor Service and Retail Certification.


About the Canadian Institute of Food Safety

At the Canadian Institute of Food Safety (CIFS), our mission is to reduce food-borne illness in Canada through education, promotion and advocacy for better food safety. 

To improve food safety in Canada, we want to make it as easy as possible for businesses to do the right thing. We strive to protect both business owners and consumers from the consequences of food-borne illness.

We work with the public, as well as small, medium and enterprise food businesses in every industry that is regulated by the Canadian government.

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