Fish and chips legal issues

Woman eating chips with ketchup on them

There are several pieces of legislation that apply to fish and chip shops. They cover areas such as licensing, food safety, food waste, and litter.

What licences does a fish and chip shop need?

Because your business will prepare, store and sell food you will need to register with your local environmental health department. They will inspect your premises and help you to comply with the requirements of the Food Safety Act and regulations. You should contact your local authority early on in your planning so that you register in good time. There is no charge for registering.

If you plan to play background music in your shop you will need to obtain a Music Licence from PPL PRS Ltd. There is an annual fee for the licence.

If you purchase fish direct from the fisherman ('first sale' fish) then you will need a fish buyer's licence. You can find out how to register on the website.

You should contact your local highways department if you plan to put tables and chairs on the pavement outside the sandwich bar.

Alcohol licensing

If you want to serve alcoholic drinks with meals in a restaurant area you will need an alcohol licence.

In England and Wales, the Licensing Act regulates the sale of alcohol and the supply of hot food between the hours of 11pm and 5am ('late night refreshment'). A premises licence is required for any premises where these activities will take place (although in some cases late night refreshment may be exempt from the licensing requirement), and a personal licence is required by anyone who wants to sell alcohol from premises which have a premises licence. The website contains more information about alcohol and late night refreshment licensing.

In Northern Ireland, alcohol licences are granted by the county court. You can read more about alcohol licensing in Northern Ireland on the NI Direct website.

In Scotland, personal and premises alcohol licences are granted by local Licensing Boards. You can read more about alcohol licensing in Scotland on the Scottish Government website.

Premises - planning usage classes

When choosing premises, note that you will need to find some with the appropriate planning usage classification. It may be possible to change the classification of a premises, but this will require planning consent. It is easier to change to some classifications than to others - for example it can be difficult to change from a cafe or restaurant serving food for consumption on the premises to a hot food takeaway.

Planning usage classes covering cafe and restaurant activities are as follows:

  • A3 - restaurants and cafes (food and drink for consumption on the premises)
  • A4 - drinking establishments (pubs and wine bars, but not night clubs)
  • A5 - hot food takeaways (hot food for consumption off the premises)

You can find out more on the Planning Portal website.

Food safety

All businesses in the food sector must comply with strict food safety legislation. Before you open, you must register your business with the local authority environmental health department. Your local environmental health officer will be able to give you advice and guidance as to what you should install in your premises to make sure your operating areas are hygienic and how to comply with the requirements of the Food Safety Act and regulations made under it.

Food waste

If your business produces food waste you must make sure that you dispose of it correctly. It mustn't contaminate the environment and it can't be fed to livestock. If you use a waste carrier to get rid of your waste you'll need to make sure they're properly authorised. You can find out more about your responsibilities on the website.

Food hygiene rating scheme

Food businesses in Wales and Northern Ireland must display their food hygiene rating. The lowest rating is 0, meaning urgent improvement is needed, and the highest is 5, indicating very good hygiene levels. There are similar schemes in the rest of the UK but these are voluntary.


The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act makes businesses responsible for clearing up any litter around their site that has originated from their retail activities. You will be responsible for clearing up any take-away food or drink packaging litter, such as empty crisp packets, drink cartons, sandwich wrappers and so on.

Smoking ban

Smoking is no longer permitted in enclosed public places like cafes and take-aways and you must display appropriate 'No Smoking' signs. The legislation varies slightly in different parts of the UK so contact your local authority for details of how the ban affects you. You can also find out more on the HSE website.

Carrier bag charge

A minimum 10p charge applies for single-use carrier bags in England (other rules apply in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland). You can get detailed guidance from the GOV.UK website.

Health & Safety, fire

You must comply with workplace health and safety and fire safety legislation.

Employment legislation

Anyone employing staff must comply with employment legislation. Important areas of legislation include recruitment, employment contracts, pay, working hours, holidays, employment policies, sickness, maternity, paternity, discrimination, discipline, grievances, dismissals, redundancies and employment tribunals.

Insurance for a fish and chip shop

Contact an insurer or insurance broker and explain exactly how your business will operate - they will then explain what insurance cover you must have by law, and other cover you should consider. This might include:

  • premises, premises contents and stock
  • goods in transit (for example on the way back from a cash and carry)
  • freezer breakdown
  • employers liability (if you employ staff)
  • public and product liability
  • motor insurance (for any business vehicles)

Tailored policies and discounted premiums are available to members of the National Federation of Fish Friers (NFFF). See the online NFFF Associate Members Directory for details.

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