Start a small restaurant in Sri Lanka

Hi me and my best friend are planing to start up a small restaurant in Sri Lanka. we already have a place to rent. just need to know about all permits. recidence visa. heard about BOI that we need to registrate our company there before we can legally work in SL. Talked wih the embassy in Stockholm Sweden and they didnt know much exceept the procedure is slow and it takes time to do the regristration with BOI- Board of investment. What are the costs for a regristration ? and what is a long process? is it sure that we can get a recidence visa after this and how hard is that to get ? Last of all , is there another way thats legal to work in Sri Lanka. Thank you :)

Hi Linna,

The alternative is to register your business under company registration. So you an your fiend can be directors. Upon registration under the company you can go to immigration and request for Residence visa providing the proof of your business. It will be much more easier.  For BOI projects, you need to bring 500K USD. So u are eligible for free resident permit for 5 years.

Cost for company registration will be around 50k - 60k LKR. You can get residence visa once u establish ur company. So you can mention as the purpose of residence visa as business. If you have kids and still they are schooling, you can bring them down to sri lanka for the purpose of Education. On that basis you will get resident permit.

Let me know if you have any other concern.

- Super Man-

So Its enough to just do a registration of the restaurant ? Or is it more economic to registrate with BOI ?  Do you know the registration time ? Do I go to Sri Lanka with a eta tourist visa then and go to immigration in Colombo to apply for For the recidence visa when I'm all done with regestration ? It can't take more then a month to do a r registration , or can it?
I wanna find the easiest and fastes way to do this.

Ill inbox all your concern

Hi Superman,

I would also like to know more about starting a restaurant in Sri Lanka.  Could you send me some information?  Do you recommend anyone who can help me setup?

Thank you for your help

Hi Thlom,

Which food are you going to serve?
Who are your customer base (Middle class, Middle class customers, upper class)
What is your concept
Are you going to serve locals demand as well

Please elloborate further

Hi Superman,

I am looking to start a chain of bubble tea chain store in Colombo.  This will cater to the middle class.

I am wondering if there is a minimum investment requirement by the government for foreign investor

Thank you


If ur going to start as a normal business with paying all the taxes etc theres no minimum investment.But if u opt for BOI ,which comes with wide tax benefits then thetes minimum investments plus strict regulations.But u will be tax free for first 10 Yrs or so .


I am already a BOI investor in Sri Lanka. Let me summarize how to start a restaurant:

1 - You can go through BOI. You need USD 300,000 cash at the time on investment. If they don't see the money, your project will not be approved.

2 - You can go through Sri Lanka Tourist Board. You need to register a company. It will cost you around 65000 LKR (400 USD). Then find a suitable building for your restaurant. You need to be careful about the number of seats. Since you are a foreigner, your minimum requirement is 40 seats (at least 10 tables), 3 toilets (men, women and workers), separate entries for restaurant and store room etc. I suggest you better to ask Tourist Board before you rent any building.

Main issue is the visa. If you are not registered to Tourist Board, you can't run the show and get visa.

Pls ask if you have further questions..

thlom :

Hi Superman,

I am looking to start a chain of bubble tea chain store in Colombo.  This will cater to the middle class.

I am wondering if there is a minimum investment requirement by the government for foreign investor

Thank you


Dear Michael,

Bubble Tea chain is already available in Colombo. Locals are doing it. For you, it will be huge investment and waste of money.


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Ok thanks for your advice

Hi Linna, as my wife is an expat owning a small business she had to go through a long process as you mentioned. But since I'm a local I was able to help her out throughout the whole process.

However, as someone suggested before my wife did not go through BOI but through the Sri Lanka Tourist Board, as her restaurant is pretty small thus she did not have any issues in getting an approval.

In addition, I would advise you to adopt an insurance cover to your shop after registering it. My wife used Fair First Insurance for her restaurant as they provide various other services and they are one of the top insurance companies in Sri Lanka. Please visit their website if you need more information

I hope this was helpful and that you will be able to set up your restaurant soon!

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