Legal Guide for Gastronomic Enterprises

By: Lic. Nicole Pérez – Associate Lawyer at CLD Legal

Si estás emprendiendo en la industria gastronómica, son varias consideraciones las que debes tomar en cuenta y conocer para operar legalmente y para ello en CLD Legal te apoyamos con esta guía que explica ciertos permisos y términos que debes conocer.


Like any other industry, It is necessary that you initially decide and formalize the way in which they will operate, either as a natural person or a legal person, that is, through some type of company. This figure must be registered with the General Directorate of Income, once it is constituted, thus becoming a taxpayer.

After this, it is necessary that you obtain the corresponding Operation Notice for the gastronomic activity you are doing. The Operation Notice is the ideal document that authorizes you to trade and, therefore, generates a tax on the invested capital which you must include in your return and pay annually.

Finally, it is important that you register as a legal business with the Municipality corresponding to the area where your premises are located. In this way, you will become a duly legalized business to operate.

It is necessary that you contemplate having an accountant who can adequately assist you in paying your taxes to the Panamanian treasury, otherwise, you may face annual fines for each Institution.

Health Permits

Now, gastronomic ventures, in addition to formalizing their operations as a company, must have prior permits regarding health regulations.

The Sanitary Code of Panama establishes the obligation of prior and continuous control of activities considered risky to human health in the matter of food, this includes the manufacture, sale, commercialization, delivery (delivery) among other activities regarding food.

The first permit to apply has to do with the premises in which it is operating, and this applies to both restaurants and food production factories. We refer to the Sanitary Operation Permit. To obtain this permit, a prior inspection is carried out at the place where it is operating, therefore it is important that the place has cleaning measures, temperature, implements, security, waste disposal, access to drinking water, among other requirements, to obtain the proper qualification to finally have the permit. The requirements will vary according to the type of premises and activity.

That said, we know that many businesses in this industry are starting their operations from home, however, it is important to note that this is prohibited by law and therefore must be invested in a location.

Now, an area around the house can be enabled, as long as it can be separated from the kitchen where the family’s food is prepared, where pets are not allowed and finally that it has the necessary sanitation measures.

Next, in case we are talking about food manufacturing, you must have the corresponding Plant Certificate, which requires having the sanitary permit, since this is a requirement for the processing of this document.

Finally, having these two documents, you can request the sanitary registration of food at the Food Protection Department of the Ministry of Health. The product will go through a documentary examination and also an examination of the product per se before the Specialized Institute of Analysis, where the formula and its components will be analyzed, ensuring that it does not affect human health.

It is important to emphasize that, although we consider that our product is “artisan”, said product must have the corresponding permits. This connotation becomes even more important, since artisan products are regulated by Resolution 747 of 2017, which establishes as artisan foods those that are listed in the resolution, namely: new corn buns, artisan bread, bienmesabe, cheek of chola, and other food products that are part of our culture and traditions.

This means that, despite the fact that our production is small and uses rudimentary implements, if it is not within the foods mentioned in the resolution and apart, they are not produced using the ingredients and techniques described there, the food cannot be considered as artisanal and must not carry the connotation “artisan food” on its label and / or advertising.

Intellectual Property

In the gastronomic industry we are faced with a great load of creativity through the creation of dishes and names that are used to differentiate both the restaurant service and the dishes or products that are created, so that we must consider how to protect Intellectual Property properly.

A restaurant, by way of example, may have in addition to its main brand, sub-brands that protect its products, for example, the characteristic name of a dish. The main flaw is found in not registering those sub-brands that add a great competitive advantage and a direct association of the consumer with the product. These are strategies used by large fast food chains and even restaurants that have allowed the consumer to associate that a quality and flavor product is part of a specific restaurant.

Finally, we are faced with the case of recipes and how to protect them. Can you create a copyright? The basic answer is that a gastronomic recipe cannot be registered as copyright, however, there are ways to protect them at a contractual level and through Intellectual Property, we will be talking about this in our second part of this article.

Here we leave you a Live from our Instagram account, where we were talking about the topic of gastronomic ventures and answering different questions about it. You can see it here. Also, we have created a checklist that can be helpful if you are starting and that you can download here.

For more questions, do not hesitate to contact us at

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