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How to Obtain a Catering License: Step-by-Step Guide

Jun 13, 2023 · 7 minutes to read

Catering businesses can be lucrative for those who love to cook.

The startup costs for catering businesses are much lower because they often run in home kitchens. You can’t simply start working for yourself. You must obtain a license for catering and comply with all state requirements.

This is a guide on how to get your catering license and start your new culinary career.

Options for catering education and training

In most states, you need to obtain a certification in food safety or a permit for food service.

The certification usually involves a brief class and a final test, online or in many private culinary schools, community colleges, and universities. You can find food safety information at your local health department.

You may have to take a class on alcohol safety if you plan to serve alcohol.

A culinary school is not necessary to obtain a catering business license in Palo Alto. But it can give you an advantage over other caterers by demonstrating that you know the health and safety laws.

The range of culinary schools is wide, from local community colleges to international schools. Decide what type of food you will serve first. Find a catering program that suits your business ideas.

Earning a certificate through the National Association for Catering and Events is not mandatory, but it’s a great way of establishing yourself as a professional, skilled caterer. The certification is based on an extensive exam covering eight core competencies:

  • Accounting
  • Beverage Management
  • Catering services
  • Contracts and agreements
  • Food production
  • Event Management
  • Human Resources
  • Sales and marketing

How to get a license for catering

Licenses required to open a catering company vary from state to state. These are the general steps for getting a catering business license.

1. You need a business license

In most cases, you will need to obtain a business permit or license to operate a business in the area. These documents are usually issued by a local government agency that handles the application process.

The cost of a business license varies depending on the location and type of catering service you provide. You will still have to pay a processing fee or filing fee, as well as the cost of the actual license.

2. Check the requirements for catering licenses in your state

It’s best to contact your local Small Business Development Center, as the requirements for catering licenses vary from one location to another. Also, you can check with the local branch of your Department of Agriculture. You can ask them how to obtain a catering license in your locality.

These centers help small businesses start up and succeed. These centers offer free assistance and information and can help you with all the details to get your catering business off the ground.

Ask how much the cost of a catering license is in your locality, as costs can vary greatly.

3. Get a catering license

A health inspection or permit is often required to obtain a catering permit or business license in Palo Alto. A health inspector will usually visit your workplace to make sure that you are meeting all local and state requirements for commercial food preparation.

You will need an alcohol permit if you plan to sell alcoholic drinks. Check with your Small Business Development Center.

Can you work as a caterer without a license?

If your catering business is small, you might not think that obtaining a catering license is necessary. In most places, it’s illegal to be a caterer if you don’t have the right permits and licenses.

Working as a caterer without a license will put you at risk. This is because you will be working with food. The local health department may shut down your business until you have the proper paperwork. If you operate illegally, you could face fines and even jail time.

A third risk is someone getting sick because of your food. You may face a lawsuit if this happens because you have not complied with all the laws. A lawsuit can result in high attorney fees, punitive and compensatory damages, or even a complete loss of reputation.

Choosing a business structure for a Catering company

The first step is to obtain your catering license and permit.

How you structure your catering business can affect everything from taxes to your personal liability. Most small catering businesses are organized into three different types, with each having its own pros & cons.

It’s not worth the risk to operate illegally, no matter how expensive a catering license is in your area or how small your company may be. Investing early in licenses and permits can save you money in the future.

  • Sole Proprietorship: Sole Proprietorship is the easiest and simplest. You will be operating under your name and Social Security number. No special paperwork is required. You can deduct your business expenses from your personal income tax and pay self-employment taxes on the earnings. You are personally liable for the company you own and can be sued.
  • Limited Liability Company: If there is more than one owner in the business, it cannot be a Sole Proprietorship. A limited liability company (LLC) is an easy business structure that can be used by businesses with more than two owners. The owners are protected from being sued personally for business issues. The business’s profits and losses are “passed through” to the owner’s personal tax return.
  • S Corporation: An S Corporation is a form of incorporation that is very similar to an LLC. It has certain tax benefits over an LLC but requires more paperwork.

The decision to choose a business structure depends on several factors. Consult your lawyer and accountant for the best advice.

Get catering insurance

Business Insurance is essential for all small businesses. It is a must for those working in the food industry. You can protect yourself financially if you injure someone or are found responsible for damage to property that does not belong to you. Many event venues require it.

It can be difficult for small caterers to determine the type of insurance they need, and how much they can afford. Here is what BizInsure recommends:

  • General Liability: Coverage for a variety of risks and accidents in the catering industry. This is a basic insurance that almost all businesses carry.
  • Commercial Auto: You may have started with a personal car, but the insurance you carry for your own vehicle may not cover professional activities. It is not a good idea to wait until after an accident before you find out. In most states, business vehicles must be insured with commercial auto insurance. This helps pay for property damage and medical costs.
  • Worker’s Compensation: This covers people who are not affiliated with your business. It covers those you hire. After a workplace accident, it can pay for medical treatment and lost wages. This is almost always required by employers.
  • Commercial Property: This insurance can protect your equipment, stock, and spoilage, as well as the building itself if you are the owner.

Caterers can easily and affordably cover their needs with BizInsure.

Catering can be a great choice for people who enjoy cooking, but it can also be challenging due to the specific legal requirements that apply to food businesses.

Catering Business Insurance is changing the game.

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