Updated October 12,2020:

What is a catering license? To operate any type of food establishment such as a restaurant, you will need to obtain a catering license. In most states, it is the Department of Health that will provide a business with the necessary licenses. The one exception to the rule is bakeries, when sometimes required licensing is obtained from the Department of Agriculture.

While the requirements for obtaining a license vary from state to state, the licensing body will often require an inspection of the facility and that all employees have the proper training and food certification.

Obtaining an Alcohol License

For businesses that plan on serving alcohol at a restaurant or catering event, they require an alcohol license. Since these licenses can take longer to obtain than others, it might be beneficial to start the process early. To determine the specific requirements for your state, you will need to contact the local Beverage Commission. Some of the general guidelines to obtain a license include:

  • Proof of zoning restrictions
  • Background checks
  • Training of management and staff who will handle alcohol

Other Licenses or Permits

Other state agencies and local jurisdictions may require additional permits and licenses to operate a catering business. You can talk with a county planner to determine all necessary requirements.

If you plan to use a billboard to market your company, you may also find there are state and local laws you will need to satisfy as well. You also may need specific zoning permits to provide food service in certain areas of the city.

Starting a Catering Business

The first step in starting a catering business is to register your business. This is an important step, as many other companies will require that your business is registered before they agree to work with you. Before you can register the business, you must be able to meet the eligibility requirements:

  • You must be 18 years of age or older.
  • You must also have a valid ID.
  • You must have your business registration documents.

Once your business has been registered, you will need to obtain the licenses necessary to allow you to conduct business in your specific state and city. During this process, you will also need to make sure that there are no laws preventing you from operating your business, such as strict zoning requirements. A catering license may require some food and environmental hurdles but is necessary for operating your business.

Along with your business license, there are other possible licenses you may need to get, such as:

  • An air and water pollution control permit
  • A fire permit
  • An occupational health and safety permit
  • A fictitious business permit

You will also need to choose the tax designation and structure of the business that you will form your company under. The most popular legal entity for catering companies is a limited liability company. This type of entity has fewer restrictions and requirements than other types of entities.

In addition to the proper licenses, there are also other forms of legal documentation that you will need to start running your business, including:

  • Certification documents
  • A business plan
  • Contract forms
  • Health and safety policy documents
  • Insurance policy documents
  • Alcohol permits
  • Tax registration documents
  • Tax permits
  • Sign permits

The Best Insurance for Your Catering Business

When starting your catering business, one of the most important things to secure is business insurance. Insurance is vital to the catering business because the trade comes with many liability risks. The best insurance you can get would be catering liability insurance, which is a detailed type of business insurance that offers a variety of coverage options.

While most catering businesses will not benefit from intellectual liability property protection, if you will be creating items like training manuals or have recipes that will need to be protected, it might be a wise investment.

To make sure you get the proper coverage to protect yourself and your business, consider working with an insurance agent who has had previous experience creating policies for those in the food industry. If they have worked previously with other companies, they are likely to know what coverages are most vital. Your policy should include coverage for all your equipment as well as a general liability policy that can protect you from damages if someone becomes ill from the food or burns themselves.

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