Opening a Bakery or a Cake Shop: everything you need to know to get off to a good start

Last modified:

Tuesday 25 May 2021

THE BAKERY/CAKE SHOP BUSINESS

You must be able to prove that you are qualified to work in the bakery/pastry profession (FR) to work as a self-employed baker/pastry chef in the Brussels Region. In addition, to qualifications, which are a legal prerequisite, the profession requires real know-how. It is essential to receive training and gain practical experience before starting your own business.

ACCESS TO THE PROFESSION

By “baker/pastry chef”, we mean a person who makes the following products on a consistent and self-employed basis, and on behalf of third parties: breads, pastries (products using puff or flaky pastry, meringues, various pâtes grasses, biscuits and fruit cakes, petits fours, pies and tarts and cakes).

However, restaurant operators and caterers who prepare desserts for their business don’t need to be certified as a baker/pastry chef as well.

In addition, chocolates, sweets, jams, ice creams, crepes and the cooking of pre-made products are not covered by the baker/pastry chef regulations.

The eating areas of bakeries/pastry shops are not subject to professional qualifications either and if you buy and resell in a tea room you don’t need to be certified.

There are different ways to obtain professional qualifications: either by working in the profession for at least five out of the past 10 years, by taking the jury central examination (FR), or by taking certification training.

If you are unsure, check with a business advice centre (FR) which will be able to confirm if you are entitled to work in the profession.

You will find complete information about the rules for accessing the baker/pastry chef profession (FR) on the Brussels Economy and Employment website. 

TRAINING

A number of centres provide training and qualifications for the baker/pastry chef profession:

  • Ceria (adult education in fundamentals and continuing education); 
  • EFP (adult education in fundamentals and continuing education); 
  • Compagnons du devoir (workers’ training association).

WHERE SHOULD YOU LOCATE YOUR BUSINESS?

AT HOME

You can, of course, do your first trials at home, as long as you don’t sell your products. On the other hand, as soon as products are sold, they have to be produced in a location which complies with AFSCA standards. Take an in-depth look at the urban zoning of the area in which you want to produce. See the article on this topic.

IN A SHARED KITCHEN

Another option is to rent a shared kitchen which complies with AFSCA standards. Rental is usually by the hour.

  • Co-Oking, “culinary coworking” provides a professional kitchen rented by the hour; 
  • Foodlab, is a platform dedicated to collaboration and inspiration for gourmets and restaurant professionals; 
  • BFBC (Business Food Business Center) is a cooking incubator, a professional kitchen which can be rented by the hour and advice.

Another alternative is to rent a restaurant kitchen when the establishment is closed.

IN A FOODTRUCK

You can also opt for a mobile business. The advantage is that food trucks don’t require certification. This means that you can get started a little faster, if you have the skills you need for the business but you don't have the proof of qualifications needed to access the profession.

IN COMMERCIAL PREMISES

You must first check the urban zoning of the premises you’re considering. If it doesn’t correspond to the business you want to set up, you can submit an urban planning permit request to the municipality. It’s important that you check the location options with the municipality before signing the lease.

A prior urban planning permit is required when the pastries will be consumed on site (tables and chairs). Be careful before making any investments: you aren’t automatically entitled to a permit...which is why you have to submit a request!

You will also have to submit an environmental permit request for a production workshop to cover your machines and your refrigerators, then comply with the conditions of the permit. All of the rules governing this subject are available on the Brussels Environment website (FR).

You can find retail space to lease at inventimmo, a database entirely dedicated to commercial real estate in Brussels. Note that this website, like the private immoweb and immovlan platforms, does not check for the existence of an urban planning permit for the properties advertised. The only place to avoid bad surprises is the municipality's urban planning office.  

Don’t hesitate to consult the geomarketing analysis platform which can be of help when selecting a location for your business.

Once your business plan is complete and you've located retail space, you can obtain assistance from the retail unit of hub.brussels to start your business.

FOOD SAFETY AND HYGIENE

All food chain operators are required to request registration, approval or authorisation from the Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain (AFSCA) based on the actual business carried out.

AFSCA provides users with a self-checking guide (PDF) for each business sector in question. AFSCA uses a system of checklists (PDF) to conduct its inspections.

The Brufotec (FR) non-profit provides advice, training and support for the implementation and monitoring of food safety and hygiene.

PACKAGING

If you’re planning to sell pre-packaged food, you will have to pay attention to the regulations for labelling products. The following must be included: the name of the food, a list of ingredients, a declaration of allergens, the quantity of each ingredient, the net weight, the minimum best-before date and the use-by-date, any special storage and use conditions, the name and address of the operator responsible, the country of origin or place of provenance, etc. The complete rules are available on the FPS Economy (FR) website.

MUSIC

If you want to play music in your bakery/cake shop, you will have to pay a royalty to the SABAM and to equitable remuneration. This fee depends on the size of the premises and on which music is played. You can submit a single request for both.

INSURANCE

If you carry out your business in a place that is accessible to the public, you will be under an obligation to take out a strict civil liability insurance policy (fire and explosion).

If you have a vehicle, you will need a civil liability policy, of course.

professional civil liability policy which covers damage caused to a third party by the company isn’t compulsory, but is highly recommended.

Other insurance policies can also be useful.

LEGAL STATUS

You know what you’re going to do and how, but you still have to select the legal form of your new business and grow it!

FULL-TIME SELF-EMPLOYED OR COMPANY

You can be self-employed as a natural person, or create a company.

If you want to start to test your business (FR) without taking too many risks, there are also alternatives to being self-employed:

  • Business cooperatives

They provide the option of having a business activity using the VAT number of the cooperative and benefiting from the services offered by the cooperative for administrative management, legal assistance, support, insurance and more. They also allow payment of all or a portion of unemployment insurance if you are entitled to it, therefore, enabling you to start up your business step-by-step.

As they are intended to test your business with minimum risk, organisations like Smart (FR) or JobYourself are available to projects that need little financial investment and are, therefore, better suited to businesses like catering or a food truck.

  • Part-time self-employed

You can be part-time self-employed from a salaried position or from unemployment by extending an existing self-employment activity on a part-time basis (FR) or via the self-employed springboard which enables you to maintain income while the new business is getting off the ground and begins to provide income. Conditions (FR) governing income, the duration and working hours may be applicable, depending on the case.

SUBSIDIES

There are several financial aids available to help you start your business!

  • If you are a jobseeker and you set up as full-time self-employed, you can, under certain conditions, receive the “self-employed allowance (FR)” of €4,000.
  • Several subsidies exist to help you further your company (FR) or your plan to take over another business (FR).
  • If you have material investments, property, works, a business takeover, a brand to register, etc. you can submit a request for an investment allowance (FR). Depending on expenses and other conditions, you can receive a refund of 5% to 30% of the investment amount.
  • Once the business is launched, if you want to improve your skills or those of your employees to improve the operation or competitiveness of your company, you can receive a training allowance (FR) for 40% to 70% of training costs.
  • In the event that you want to hire staff, there are also various hiring plans (FR) available.

Other aids? Check Subsidies on the 1819 website!

GETTING YOURSELF KNOWN

DEDICATED WEBSITE

Tartine et Boterham the leading artisanal bakeries/cake shops in the Brussels-Capital Region also organise workshop visits, training and tastings to promote the work of artisan bakers/pastry chefs.

Groups and federations

Would you like more information on this subject? Please don’t hesitate to contact us with your questions.

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