Catering Business License: Everything You Need to Know
A catering business license is required if you want to enter the catering industry.3 min read
A catering business license is required if you want to enter the catering industry. The permits and licenses that you will need for your catering business will depend on the state where your company will be located.
Structuring Your Business and Getting Licenses
Structuring your business is the first step that you should take when you're starting a catering company. If you want, you can run your company as a sole proprietor, which does not require registering with your state. On the other hand, if you want to protect yourself from the liabilities of your business, you may want to establish a limited liability company (LLC) or corporation.
When you run a catering business, you will usually provide your service in someone else's home or business. Countless people will eat the food that you have cooked, and your employees will need to perform physical labor while engaging with your customers. Because of these issues, it's very easy for someone to be hurt or property damaged while you're offering catering services. If your business is a sole proprietorship, you, not your company, would be legally liable for these circumstances. Before you can structure your business or apply for a catering business license, you will need to choose a name for your company.
After you have named your business and structured your company, you should apply for any licenses and permits required for catering companies in your state. You need to research what licenses you need before you can serve food or alcohol at catered events. Never offer your services before acquiring your permits and licenses, as this could put you in a precarious legal situation.
Getting Your Catering Company Started
One of the most important parts of starting your catering company is deciding what type of food you enjoy making and serving others. You want to be passionate about your business, which means you need to make the food that you love.
There are several different types of food your catering company could offer:
- Brunch and lunch type foods, such as pastries, salads, and sandwiches. With these types of foods, your business could cater school events and daytime business luncheons.
- Wedding food, including entrees, appetizers, and desserts. Many catering businesses find great success working weddings, so focusing on these events can be a good way to get your company off the ground.
- Desserts such as cakes, pies, cookies, and cupcakes. A dessert catering business may have a limited clientele, but you won't need to spend as much on equipment.
- Appetizers and cocktails. Focusing on these two items can allow you to cater trendy parties and other similar events.
After you've decided what type of food your catering company will offer, you should develop your menu. Creating your menu should be one of your top priorities, as it will help you make important decisions about your business, including:
- Your needed kitchen space.
- The appliances you will need to purchase.
- How much your company can earn.
When developing your menu, you should include a variety of food items so that you can attract a wide customer base. Even if your menu focuses on a specific type of cuisine, you need to be certain you're including items that people with different tastes can enjoy.
After writing your menu, you should test out a few of your dishes. Prepare a few of your planned dishes for your friends and family members, and then ask for their feedback. You should make sure that they critique both the quality of the food you have prepared and the overall services. Take this advice and then refine your food and service as needed. Don't stop experimenting until your food is excellent and your service is quick and friendly.
Now, you need to find a suitable space for your business. Even small catering businesses will need to find a rental space, as it is usually illegal to run a catering company out of one's home. Research the health codes in your jurisdiction to see what qualifications your kitchen will need.
If it's possible, you should rent time from a commercial kitchen. Although you may need to do some searching, you should be able to find a commercial kitchen that will allow you to use the space for a few hours or days. Renting time in a commercial kitchen is a good choice if you're only planning on offering your services on the weekend or select days and times during the month.
If you need help obtaining a catering business license, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Stripe, and Twilio.