Updated November 23, 2020:

Catering certificates required will vary by country. Because a caterer supplies food and beverages, they must obtain various certificates and permits to conduct business. They operate their business off-premise, which can cause confusion with what is required of them.

Steps in Obtaining a Health Permit

For a caterer to obtain a health permit, they must pay a fee. This permit is non-transferable unless permission is granted by the Health Department. Also, it is location-specific. There are certain steps that must be followed in order to get a health permit.

  1. The Planning Department approves catering facilities, and a caterer is required to prove that their kitchen is on the list of facilities/kitchens that have previously been approved. If the location is not on the list, it must apply for a planning/zoning referral. Make sure you pay the required fee when applying.
  2. It is important for a caterer to upload their business registration with the application. Make sure that your business address is the address where you will be working from. The business address and the catering facility address must be the same on the application.
  3. A completed catering facility/permitted kitchen verification will be needed and can be uploaded with the application. The owner of the catering business is required to do this.
  4. The following are also required to be submitted by caterers:
  • A certified Food Safety Certificate (can be a copy).
  • The catering menu of what will be served.
  • The catering facility's floor plan—make sure to include the location of storage spaces, sinks, and all equipment.
  • A description of food safety practices that will be adhered to, also known as a Standard Operation Plan (SOP).

5. By visiting https://etaxstatement.sfgov.org/dphehbfoodpermit, you will be able to start the application process and electronically sign the form, as well as pay any applicable fees.

Getting a health permit is not the only requirement of starting and running a catering business. There will also be regular inspections by health officials. The inspectors want to make sure that policies and codes of conduct are being abided by. Health officials will be looking for certain things when inspecting your catering business before you can be issued a health permit. These might include things like:

  • Your kitchen: A residential kitchen is not permitted by health officials to be used for a catering business, and using one could cause your health license to be denied.
  • Hand washing practices: When handling food, proper handwashing is vital. Health officials will want to ensure that not only are hand washing stations easily accessible but also that they are being used.
  • How food is stored: Proper food storage will need to be both appropriate and safe.
  • Correct cooking temperatures: Health officials will be checking that all food items are being cooked at the required temperatures. Regular visits by the health department should be expected as they will want to ensure that, for example, the temperature you are using to cook rice is not the same temperature being used to boil meat.
  • Proper waste handling: Make sure you are disposing of waste properly, especially liquid waste—officials will be checking for this.

There are a few other things that will be inspected before you can receive your health permits, such as your refrigeration system, storage areas, raw food, and cooking methods.

Obtaining a Business License

Obtaining a business license is another requirement for your catering business. You must first decide on how you are going to structure your catering business. Then your new business must be registered accordingly. Incorporating your business is always a good idea, this means that your business will be an entity of its own.

Certification and Training Requirements

In certain countries, it may be necessary to complete some training prior to starting a new catering business. There may be special certification requirements as well that need to be complied with. Make sure you inquire if there are any practice tests that need to be completed for starting a catering business, too.

Insurance for a Catering Business

Being prepared for any type of situations is a good reason to have insurance. There are many examples where having insurance for your catering business comes in handy, including employee theft, a fire which damages equipment, and illness caused by improper food handling. Obtaining an insurance policy to cover your business for all possibilities is important. Make sure you hire an insurance agent that has experience in the catering industry.

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