Opening a small food businesses in the philippines

Hey guys!

First of all, excuse me for my English, it's not my native language.
I'm planning to move in the summer to the Philippines(or other third world country in Asia, but Philippines is the current planning) and open a small food cart on the beach.
I don't have any experience in opening a business and I was wondering if someone here could advise me about the regulations and give me tip some tips about the procces.

thank you very much!

Yoav I dont mean to put a damper on it, but you will have no hope of succeeding........ take my advice and get to know the country first, and then you will understand what I mean.
Good luck with your stay here.

Small food cart business is a big scam here, its like Amway back in the US. You buy the food cart at a reasonable price, but can only buy the supplies from the distributor at high mark-ups.  The only way you make money is to sell a franchise to another member, and you keep portion of their sales. Its a ponzi scheme.

Aussia, thank you for the reply, but it's not really helping.
Of course I'm planning to visit the country and examine it before making any decision, but yet I prefer doing some "homework" before going abroad.

dhnindc, I'm not sure what I understood you, I'm planning to open my own cart with my own food, how can that be a scheme?

Hi Yooav

Opening a small cart business in the Philippines will require you to acquire business permits and licenses. Expats are not allowed to have retail business in which a small cart business will fall into this category the very best thing you can do is if you have a local filipino friend who can you use to register for your business permit.

Hello to you,
I'm a filipina I'm living in cebu since birth,your plan is quite good as I am planning also to open a small restaurant because i think this is the only business will survive bec all the people eat we need food but for you if I am not mistaken you're a foreigner its complicated became u cannot use your own name in a business u need someone like filipino,but there's no wrong of trying just put a small capital just in case in won't good at least u lost small...

Good luck to both of us,

if living whid a philippine partner why not invest in the future in the end it is beter than suporting a lifestile
beleve in them and give the chance cnow how is woth more than money when used  constructive not in a exploiting way that wil turn against you
good advise RESPECT the people

as creating e bisnes concern find a trustwothy partner dont lend money from the bank invest no more tha you are wiling to loos if it go wrong
in the long term you find out this is the way to be a good investor becose a good job is hard to find they work hard to kreate if given the oportunity

Yeah the opportunity to send you broke.

i did it ! did you? i dont regret investing in
the future of my partner

Good luck, but keep your eyes open.

yooaavv wrote:

I don't have any experience in opening a business and I was wondering if someone here could advise me about the regulations and give me tip some tips about the procces.

Personally, I think the most important qualification for you to open a small business here is if you have already experienced running a profitable business in YOUR home country.

Running a small business, in general, is not the same as a job with a regular salary. You'll have to spend a minimum 11-hour per workday, 6-7 days a week. You will need partners and workers you can trust. You will need to be both firm and compassionate when dealing with employees. And just because you have a net profit this month on your new business does not mean you can already draw upon it. Ideally, it should be after 2 years when you can start drawing. So for the meantime, you should have another source with which to pay your personal expenses, such as from a pension or savings / funds.

Anyway, even if you were able to comply with the restrictions for foreigners, still the process you have to go through in opening a small business here in the Philippines is confusing. You would need permits, which starts with getting a business name, a barangay clearance, business permit (which in itself has requirements you need to submit to different departments such as environmental, signboard, fire safety inspection, just to name a few), BIR Tax ID#, books of accounts, official receipts / invoices and if you have employees, SSS, PagIbig, PhilHealth.

Here's an advice about food cart franchising. I think it will still apply to you even if you're not buying a franchise. … food-cart/

If you're planning on selling by the beach, I'm sure you would have a lot of competition, including peddlers from informal sector / underground economy. What type of food are you selling? Filipinos prefer food cart food they are familiar with such as fish balls (sounds funny because fish don't have balls), siomai, goto, tokneneng, barbecue, "betamax" (grilled coagulated blood blocks on skewers), "scramble", etc. Do research to see if local residents would like your type of impulse-purchase food.

As an entrepreneur with more that 50 years business experience, listen to Aussie Dave. . . .you stand no chance of success with such a business.

Putting up business anywhere in the world is always a risk...but puting up business where you have the passion, capital, right market right documents, you will surely grow and success will come your way.. Just be positive at all times dont listen to negative advices it wont do you any good

Just try it. What if you made it? Look for a partner first here

How bout franchising a food cart business?


The food cart business isn't quite the scam people make it out to be.  Just it is not as easy and you cannot really depend on it to be a primary source of income unless you're in a high crowd area.

It would be far easier i think to partner with a Filipina and open a small restaurant, and put in some daily convenience items (like a "sari-sari" store).  If you chose the right beach location, the rentals are not high and the life can be pretty sweet, easy and laid back.

Ive been here for some time and traveled extensively throughout the Philippines.  If you have any questions, feel free to private message me.

Regards, and good luck in your venture

Thank you very much for the detailed answer FilAmericanMom and to everyone.
I'm planning to sell some special sweets that fit good with the beach atmosphere. I'm still young and success is not goal with this business, but to gain experience as an entrepreneur in a country which excites me. So maybe ill fail, but its a cost I'm willing to pay.

HI.....where actually you from?....i am read in it about your idea......sounds interesting

Im from Israel :)

Hi Yooavv

I am afraid I tend to agree with the naysayers. One thing no one has touched upon is a work permit, I would think your chances of getting one to run a food cart would be close to zero.

Quote: An expat work permit is hard to accomplish due to a major criterion imposed by the Department of Labour. An expatriate has the greatest chance of his or her employment permit be approved should it be proved that he or she can perform a highly-specialized skill where no one in the Philippines is able to do so. The authorities provide top priority to able Filipinos to address the countrys high unemployment rate.

Good luck, whatever you decide to do.

Yea, open a food cart business in a country with 90 million people fighting each day to make enough money today, just in order to feed themselves and their loved ones... People who are desperate and hungry enough to do whatever is necessary to just survive... and along comes a rich foreigner (compared to them) who has no right either legally nor morally to steal business from them (the nearby filipino food cart or food stall business) and steal food from their babies mouths or that desperately needed medicine for lola.

Yep, a knife in the ribs on your way home late night after a 14 hour day losing money... Good idea... Open your food cart in Israel if it is such a good idea...try it out... See if it and you work.... but remember you will be welcomed as much as a Hamas run food cart in a Jewish neighborhood would be... Hope that comparison helps you, but in either of these examples it might be prudent to keep your knives hidden....

yooaavv wrote:

Hey guys!

First of all, excuse me for my English, it's not my native language.
I'm planning to move in the summer to the Philippines(or other third world country in Asia, but Philippines is the current planning) and open a small food cart on the beach.
I don't have any experience in opening a business and I was wondering if someone here could advise me about the regulations and give me tip some tips about the procces.

thank you very much!

Dear Yoav,
you can not open a foodcart business in the Philippines. Retail and food business is restricted to 100% Filipino ownership, so therefore you are not allowed to open one.

Hello Yooaavv,

Different people have different experiences, while I respect the opinion of all the naysayers, if we keep believing in negative thoughts, then you will never even have a fighting chance.

Robert Kiyosaki said, it is not a gamble if you know what you are doing. So just have a plan, it is right though that you cannot just open a small business here unless partnering with a local, just make sure he/she is someone you can trust 100%. There is also a visa for bigger businesses , minimum of $20,000 i think?  That i am not sure.

I am in a related business, I provide business solutions to food merchants and what I can advise you is this, after you have worked out all the business permits etc, get your business online. It costs much less to have an online store than a brick and mortar/  physical store/place in the mall. Online stores have wider reach too and costs less to operate. Then as you grow you can have physical store/mall outlet.

A lot of great entrepreneurs started small, even Google started in a rented garage in 1998. Col Sanders was rejected 1009 times before someone agreed to market his chicken. But as long as you know what you are doing and you persevere, you will succeed.

There will be a lot of detours and lessons learned along the way, but don't worry about making mistakes, you only have to be right once.

Welcome to the Philippines.

DEAR sir you have no chance Philippines bring there own food  and if you were to open a cart you would have to cook philippino food anything else they won't eat and you would not make much money as the price of the food would have very cheep as low as 20 Paso I just don't think it would be vierbal sorry to scupper your plans

I agree it is difficult to expect to succeed when all around you people want your money especially if you seem  succcessful. Ive lived here 6 yrs snd to date there is nothing I would venture into except buying motorbikes snd reselling with my partner.

RIGHT ON MAN if wanting to start a bisnis macke shure it bring food on the table for the people
and noane wil blame you for having a litle desert

Stupid advice from someone trying to sell you something... also tells you to put your food cart on line??? so obviously did NOT even read your post as if someone is walking down the beach is going to search online to find food nearby.  Tells you that there maybe special "visa" for you if the investment is over $20,000??? NO SUCH THING,,,,maybe 20 Million US Dollars...but admits doesn't why post if you don't know?

He can not own anything other than a condo in the Philippines....No business, no land...not even a food cart no matter if he's got a positive or negative ATTITUDE.... WTF has that got to do with laws and reality? Getting a filippino partner, whom would legally own everything on a business you have no chance of making anything beyond barely a living, competing with locals, is not a's giving your money away....

There are foreigners who make money in the Philippines, but their intelligence, multitude of needed skills (time management, marketing, short and long term budgeting, personalities, gift dealing with insane amounts of paperwork and laws dealing with their chosen business, connections and extreme hard work....just to name a few...... is not easily copied as most people do not possess these needed gifts and intelligence.... YES you have to be smart...That is why only  1 out of thousand succeed.... the rest dream or ask others to tell them how or what to do....  Might as just ask for the winning numbers for the lotto....

The world is full of people sick of their present position/failure in their present life, many dreaming of a better one on the beach anywhere else, but where they are... thinking that these third world countries must be full of less intelligent people, than they are, because they are from a First world there must be a business,  that will save them from their failures at home... They have 10 or 20 thousand dollars, so anything is possible??? Get real we spend more than that for vacation, every time we go visit... The people (and their whole family)  will work 10 times harder than you just to feed their families and are way smarter than you, especially when it is about their own country....... They are also legal, both morally and by law, and you are not, so let me put this mildly.... YOU are not welcome to steal the food or badly needed medicine out of lolas' mouth, especially illegally....................................

Didn't this guy say he was from Israel??? Test your business skills at home first, before making a fool of yourself in a country that you know nothing...not even the language... NO????  you say it's too hard to make it at home????  Why -----would anyone think it is easier somewhere else....???? How does that work????

GDT you are right in 100% and thank you for giving your perspective.
Now please, get out from my post, your writing is not respecting , sarcastic and not helpful.

GDT he described it to me and if you are not in the latest of things, then let me tell you, I attended a food summit and people say no matter how small, you should put your food business online because how will people find you? 

The $20,000 was a figure i did not think out of the blue, i had an American brother-in law many years ago and wanted to invest here, though i said I am not sure because it has probably increased of course by now.  But my point is, it is either he has a Filipino partner and the most he can own in paper is 40%, with 60% to the Filipino. Or if he doesn't want that, he needs a special visa allowing foreigners to invest here without a Filipino partner.  I only meant that to say that there are other ways to do business here and not just by partnering with a Filipino.

You know you might want to be kind with your words because it shows one's character.  :)

GDT besides..I am not selling him anything, my merchant partners are mostly restaurants and what he wants to start is somehow not a fit with my merchant roster.  I am merely advising him if he wants to make it bigger faster...It is just a well-meaning advice if he wants to get the word out, putting it online or even an FB page will help.

No less than Bill Gates said this, "If your business is not on the internet, then your business will be out of business"  40 Million Filipinos go online every day.

five six is good business, many indian do this business in philippines

5 6 do they find it easy to get the money back with interest when the time comes


"five six is good business, many indian do this business in philippines"

I think you need to tell the poor guy what "5 6" is first of all.
Its lending money.
From experience Filipinos dont like paying back money they've borrowed. Its very hard to keep tack of their whereabouts and they disappear. So not a good thing to get into at all.

Uh...besides, do not suggest ideas that are not in the circle of knowledge or familiarity of the person.  He wants to do a particular business, not asking what business to do here.

katefs4 wrote:

1. GDT he described it to me and if you are not in the latest of things, then let me tell you, I attended a food summit and people say no matter how small, you should put your food business online because how will people find you? 

2. The $20,000 was a figure i did not think out of the blue, i had an American brother-in law many years ago and wanted to invest here, though i said I am not sure because it has probably increased of course by now.  But my point is, it is either he has a Filipino partner and the most he can own in paper is 40%, with 60% to the Filipino. Or if he doesn't want that, he needs a special visa allowing foreigners to invest here without a Filipino partner.

I'll quickly add onto her point #2. I also have someone I know, who studied his Bachelor's degree in a university here in the Philippines. When he graduated, he couldn't find any business partner whom he could trust his equities. He approached a local lawyer who practiced mainly in the topics of business consulting and immigration. The lawyer also, funny enough, suggested to "marry into the country," basically telling him to find a trustworthy local wife. If that doesn't sound impossible enough, he could also apply for the "SIRV" (Special Investor's Resident Visa), which would require a provable investment of $75,000 USD into a bank in the Philippines to help the economy. The lawyer wouldn't recommend any other "legal" yet roundabout ways for my friend to get a business registration.

Now back to point #1. Her point about putting your business ("searchable" is what I assume she meant) online is ACTUALLY significant. Just to put it at the bare minimum standard, you don't necessarily have to make a website to showcase what you sell, and because no one will know your web address of by heart just yet. Even if you can just create an official social media page for your food cart/truck/stall/whatever that might be will be the start of an easy-budget marketing method.

Also, even if you can just pinpoint your business location for google map, and then add some pictures for general gist of what the store's like, and your hours of operation will, at minimum, create a chance where people might stumble upon a "never-heard of" eatery near where they're at via google map.

You can also try posting your eatery at review sites like "Tripadvisor" or "Zomato"--these will have greater impact. This one always seemed to work for food business clients when I used to work as a Marketer and Advertisement Designer at a Marketing Agency. Mainly, because if you can make some kind of uniqueness in your food (most easiest path is the appearance of the food) that can cause curiosity or buzz to the crowd, food bloggers/reviewers will try your food just to do their job: introduce food to the public. Furthermore, they will basically do all the marketing for you, ironically for their own selfish cause--to gain popularity as a reviewer. JUST AS LONG AS YOU CAN CREATE THAT BUZZ! Is it a time eating challenge? crazy looking #instagrammable #foodporn? super enticing #dietstartstomorrow? 24-7 #midnightrun? Just think of those things that sets you apart instantly. You are getting into food industry, which in nowadays jargon is called, "Red Ocean." … rategy.png

Take a deep breather. Read about it, then think strategically. For young customers, the instagrammable appearance will give a greater impact. For older customers, the actual taste of the food will make or break them from becoming your repeat customers. Just target one of the two, you can't be Starbucks or McDonalds so simply within a lifetime. Cheers! ;)


Hi Peter,

While it is a common practice to have a social media account to market your business, having one's own website really matters much more.  I am a Search Engine Specialist and these are the advantages of having a website compared to just, let's say, a Facebook Business Page

1) You cannot apply SEO (Search Engine Optimization into a Facebook Page, not as much as having a website/online store. If you know SEO or have a website that has been optimized for Search Engines you can rank high in Google or other search engines depending on what market you play by putting the keywords in the WEBSITE TITLE and the META DESCRIPTION

With a website, you can put a website title such as "Best Cheesecakes in QC" or "Indian Food Delivery in Manila" etc.

If you want your business to be easily found and searched in Google, a search engine optimized website is still the best way.

2) Facebook is not yours, so anytime your FB page goes down, you cannot do anything about it.

3) Facebook has many distractions; if you put a page, FB gives related businesses - and you can lose your potential customer to the other "related businesses"

I am not saying Social Media is not good, it is. But it should only be a social component of one's online marketing.

sorry the screenshot doesn't seem to display right.

That's a good advice, and I actually do agree to your statement that having a website will be beneficial with the SEO hands down, that goes without saying.

However, given the scenario that he stated, I'm merely giving my two cents that is budget-friendly and possible to replicate simply as DIY. I wouldn't carelessly recommend him, after consulting a number of failed business owners, to go learn Wordpress or to fork out $200-2000 on a web developer without even selling his food once before, let alone learn to do programming himself nor to use those unprofessional website makers such as Wix. Entrepreneurs all start with a different start-up capital, so it is safer to keep things simpler budget-wise and skill-wise at the start, then scale up(which in this case, he is just testing the waters).

Also, I wouldn't think that a Facebook page would have any less SEO capabilities compared to a website, given that not only can you blog, include #, !, @ symbols, and paid "reach" custom target advertising. Let's just say even without using all of its tools, just by the fact that you're Facebook page starts with a "www facebook com / your business" or "@yourbusiness" makes you rank higher by the google bot, in comparison to a generic eg. "www atemarsgulaman com."

When I was working Part-time in a Marketing and Communications dept at an Agency in Hamilton, Ontario, I had a client who was hesitant to agree on building a website after hearing our quote, which was over $5000. So I suggested a monthly subscription with the Agency starting with a Facebook page to #1 Build followers and advertisements #2 It's easy on the budget. They agreed, and I personally built their page from scratch, it reached over 2,000 likes, reached over 5,000 visits, and the restaurant was fully booked whenever I'd visit to give assessments about their progress. Eventually, I built them their website as well, because then they had that assurance that having a website would actually be an extension to their business brand and not a bargain. They're called Spring Grill House. Another example of successful businesses with just the use of social media would be food trucks. I see them in every nook and corners of the cities when I was in Toronto or Vancouver. People would find where they're at every day by checking their tweets or Facebook page. Most of them don't have a website because it's not as active and is not interactable (post reviews, selfies with the truck, share their experience to friends, answer polls and votes, etc).

Furthermore, I agree to most of your information, but frankly wouldn't you agree that a Facebook page crashing with all of their high-tech secure servers is a bit of a stretch? ;) But it'd be funny to laugh at Facebook if it actually happened because it'd be so humiliating for one of the top silicon valley corporation to fail like that. x)


If you are skeptical of the locals being your business partner (for other reasons than being prejudiced), then you could try looking for people who are in the same age group as you just so you are like-minded and get along better, and is a "balik-bayan." A balik-bayan is a Filipino who was raised abroad returning to live permanently in their home land, Philippines. Most balik-bayans that I met in North America didn't speak Tagalog and only learned of the Philippines through stories or tourist travels. Simply put, still considered a "foreign-ger" (foreign stranger). However, the benefit is that they can have or probably already hold a dual citizenship in the Philippines. Although, I would really suggest you, and even the balik-bayan to learn and integrate into the culture first before deciding what to do.

To put the Philippine law in a nutshell, I would describe that it's too loose in dealing with the common(visible) matters and too uptight, outdated on the matters that could improve their country--just my perspective through living here for over 20 years since 1 yr old.

If your Fil-Am or Filipino American friend from, let's say, LA, California becomes your best buddy, you wouldn't mind if it says 60% on the paper for him, because in reality you guys can just decide on how to share the pot at the end of the day/week/month. From my experience, at least with Filipino buddies, it's not really about being friends that makes you close, it seems that it's more about the "barkada"(crew or squad)--looking out for each other, because life can get tough in the Philippines. There's also a culture, which most foreigners feel ripped off called, "pakikisama"(helpin' a fella brotha out!--except it can be abused among the poor). There's so much more cultural nuances that aren't coined in terms, therefore hard to explain. That's why, above it all, you gotta put your hands in the dirt and see if you want to live permanently in this country or not.

But, honestly, with all the potholes on the rules and regulations, "ika nga"(as they say) it's more fun in the Philippines. ;)