Starting a Catering Business? Know Your License Requirements

People group catering buffet food indoor in restaurant with meat colorful fruits and vegetables
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If you have a passion for cooking and plan to convert this passion into a successful catering business, you must be aware of the license requirements vital for your business.

Some licenses may take more time than others to obtain, so it’s important to consider this before you embark on your venture.

What Licenses Are Needed to Start a Catering Business?

The most common licenses you need to start a catering business are:

Catering Business License

This is the bedrock of your legal operations. A catering business permit gives you the legal green light to run your catering enterprise in specific areas, such as a city, state, or county

The license is issued by your local or state government. The exact issuing authority can vary depending on the specific location where your business operates.

To obtain this license, you generally need to provide essential business details, including name, location, and contact information.

The authorities may also require information on your projected earnings. There’s usually a fee for this license, which needs to be renewed either once a year or twice a year.

It’s essential to renew this license promptly to avoid penalties or even a potential shutdown of your business.

Catering License

A catering license is pivotal to ensuring that your food service business abides by local health and safety regulations. It’s issued by the local health department or a similar body.

You may be subjected to a health inspection to ensure that your facilities fulfill the standards for food preparation, storage, and service in order to obtain this license.

These standards include the cleanliness of your premises, the functionality of your equipment, and your waste management systems.

Your place of business may get surprise visits for check-ups. They want to see if you’re following the rules all the time. If not, you could face fines or even lose your license.

Food Handler’s Permit

This permit is mandatory for any employee who will directly handle, prepare, or serve food. It ensures that the employee has undergone training in safe food handling practices, thus helping to prevent foodborne illnesses.

The training includes vital areas such as personal hygiene, cross-contamination prevention, proper time and temperature control for food, cleaning and sanitizing practices, and handling common allergens.

Maintaining a team with valid food handlers’ permits not only aligns with regulations but also instills confidence in your clients about your commitment to food safety.

Liquor License

If your catering service includes serving alcoholic beverages, you’ll need a liquor license.

The process of acquiring this license can be intricate and lengthy, as the laws, costs, and limitations vary widely between jurisdictions. Some areas may limit the number of liquor licenses issued, making it a competitive process.

The license may restrict the types of alcohol you can serve and the hours during which alcohol can be sold. Violating the terms of this license can lead to substantial fines or revocation of the license.

How Do You Get a Catering License?

Determine Your Eligibility

It’s essential to know that you must be at least 18 years old and the official owner of the business to jump-start the process. Individuals under the age of 18 typically cannot sign a legally binding contract.

You should also have a valid Social Security Number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number.

If you are a non-U.S. resident, you may need additional registrations or permissions.

Understand the Requirements

Research and understand the local requirements for a catering license. This might involve digging into information on your local health department or city government website, or even reaching out to them directly for some advice.

Here’s the twist, – these requirements can significantly vary depending on your state.

Apply for the Necessary Permits and Licenses

Depending on the requirements, you may need to apply for permits or licenses from various government agencies. This process might involve local health officials or fire marshals inspecting your workplace and equipment.

Some key permits and licenses you’re likely to need include a business license, a catering license, a food handler’s permit, and possibly a liquor license if you plan on serving alcohol.

You may need to submit certain documents. These can include a business license application form and supporting documents, as well as certifications.

Also, there will be application fees for your licenses and permits. The total cost will depend on the specific permits and licenses you need, as well as your location.

Follow Up

After you submit the necessary papers, pay the fees, and clear the inspections, your application will be under review.

The processing might take a few days or several weeks. Once cleared, you’ll get the license to start your business.

Note, catering licenses often need renewals, and you must follow local health rules.

Also, if you make significant changes to your business, such as moving or changing the kitchen, you might have to revisit some licensing steps.

How Much Is a Catering License?

The amount of money you’ll need to part with to obtain a catering license will depend on a number of factors, including the type and size of your catering business.

It’s best to check with your local and state authorities to get the exact cost details.

Wrapping Up

Please note that this is a general guide, and the exact license requirements can vary by location. Always check with local governing bodies to determine the specific requirements for your area.


  • Dacia Flowers

    Dacia Flowers is a graduate of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) with a major in Cultural Anthropology. Since graduating in 2019, she has expanded her expertise and applied her anthropological background in the practical domain. As the Administration Manager at CMJJ Gourmet since August 2022, Dacia handles crucial day-to-day operations, ensuring the warehouse's optimal functionality, timely delivery of orders, and managing invoices. Her commitment to excellence and in-depth understanding of organizational dynamics stem not just from her academic prowess but also her personal passion. Beyond her professional responsibilities, Dacia has a keen interest in reading, loves to travel, and stays active through regular exercise.

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