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Opening a Restaurant in Thailand

Transcript of the above video: 

As the title of this video suggests, we are discussing setting up a restaurant here in Thailand. 

At first I was going to title this video, “Setting up a Restaurant in Bangkok”, as I think certain aspects of this video may be more Bangkok specific. That being said, I decided to go ahead and title it more broadly because I do believe that some of the information in here can be applied throughout Thailand. Meanwhile, other aspects of the information in this video may not specifically apply to maybe a small little restaurant by the beach somewhere whereas you are dealing with different issues here in Bangkok. That being said, I will try to keep it as broad as I can. 

There are many foreigners that come to Thailand in a given year and they go ahead and they come to us or they go to other people, who knows, for assistance or they try to do it themselves to go ahead and set up a restaurant here in the Kingdom. Moreover, I see many Thai- foreign couples who also go ahead and try to set up a restaurant. Now I am going to stay away from some of the old clichés and try not to be overly negative. You know everyone has heard the phraseology or they have heard the saying you know: "a restaurant is the toughest business to run etc." I would counter with "any business that is one's own business is going to be in many ways tough to run," so a restaurant is nothing special with respect to that. 

That being said, restaurants for foreigners can pose specific problems here in Thailand for a number of reasons. First of all restaurants are by definition  "brick and mortar" for lack of better term, so unlike more nebulous jobs if you will, consulting or things that we find in the “digital nomad” space now, in the new economy, a restaurant, enforcement officials know where to find you, for lack of a better term. So you know tax authorities, health code violations, things like that; you are going to be dealing with physical people. This isn't again as nebulous or in "the ether" if you will as certain other types of jobs can be.  Moreover it is not nearly as nomadic; you are not traveling. If you are running a restaurant, you tend to be coming to the same place fairly frequently. So a couple of things with respect to Thailand to be aware of. 

First of all work permits are extremely important with respect to restaurants. As I stated, there is nothing nebulous about the nature of one's work if one is working within the confines of a restaurant. If you are the owner of the place and you are in it, it is pretty safe to assume for lack of better term you are working; so be aware of work permit regulations. I see a lot of folks who say "well you know I am on a Retirement Visa but my wife really runs the restaurant. I am just going to be in there." I have seen that go wrong many, many times especially here in Bangkok. Often times that passive owner who is a foreigner will be on the Corporate documentation.  In comes Immigration Police or even the Health Inspectors etc.  and there is this foreigner who is undocumented with respect to work authorization in the establishment and I have seen circumstances where you know they take the position of "well he's just in there, he's not working".   I have also seen them take the position "if you are in there, you are working!"  So work permits are very, very important and better safe than sorry especially with respect to that.

The next thing to keep in mind, accounting is extremely important with respect to restaurants. Maintaining proper books, maintaining a proper POS System, point of sale service etc., these are important aspects of running restaurant and failure to maintain one's records properly can result in problems with respect to for example a tax audit. Why would that be a problem? Well if you can't prove what you make, it is very difficult to disprove it if the government says you made more and for this reason accounting is extremely important with respect to the running of a restaurant here in Thailand and I would argue in many ways it might be even more important especially with respect to part in point one I just made with respect to work permits. Accounting is integral to maintenance of work permit because you have got to show that the company is paying certain things like VAT, Social Security contributions etc. which brings me to another point which is payroll.

Payroll is exceptionally important with respect to running restaurant here in the Kingdom. Again, as previously noted, maintenance of things like Social Security contributions which are necessary for maintenance of a Work Permit here in the Kingdom. Those two things need to be maintained, generally on a monthly basis, and you need to go ahead and either have a service provider to assist with that or be able to provide that documentation to the Thai Government on one’s own. Again, for foreigners operating here in the Kingdom and maintaining a restaurant this may not be feasible. We assist many clients, especially restaurant clients, with respect to things like payroll and tax advisory as well as tax filing services; general accounting services as well.

So the thing to take away from this video is while running a restaurant in Thailand I have seen firsthand as an observer, to be very rewarding for those who undertake that type of occupation. It is also very time-consuming;  it is rather labor-intensive and here in Thailand there a lot of laws and regulations that need to be maintained especially by Foreign Nationals operating here, in order to maintain their status and not cause themselves more trouble than they would otherwise like simply from the fact that they are running a restaurant.