Food businesses are highly regulated. Because of the potential health risks to the public, federal and state legislatures require food establishments to have various permits and licenses. The city of Houston laws state, "More than one permit may be required depending on the type of food or type of food service provided." The permits are required to be visible to the public. Catering is considered a food establishment in Texas, so permits and licenses are required.
Sales and Use Tax
If you are starting a formal business in Texas, it is required that you have a Taxpayer ID number. Texas Comptroller of Public accounts issues tax ID numbers. Applications can be completed online. The turnaround time after your application has been printed, signed and sent to the comptroller is two to three weeks. The tax is 8 1/4 percent depending on city, county and local transit authorities in your area.
Health and Safety Inspection
The area in which you prepare food may need to be inspected by the Texas Department of State Health. Health inspectors are not required to inspect at-home catering services in every county--check with your local municipality. Houston considers catering companies food establishments. The laws state, "This means that the local health department permits them and is inspected at least twice a year by the department inspector."
Mobile catering businesses must have their trucks inspected in order to receive a permit for the use of a vehicle. The city of Dallas requires mobile catering businesses to pay $100 along with a "Notarized Commissary Approval Form, current Texas Drivers License, proof of liability insurance, low propane gas permit (if propane gas is used)."
Food Handlers License
Food handlers licenses are also handled by the Department of Health. You may be required to take an examination to verify your expertise. The City of Arlington, Texas, states, "Food handler permits are required for all persons who handle food, utensils or food service equipment." The fee is $16 for a permit that is good for two years. Classes to prepare you for the exam are offered by the Department of Health.
Certified Protection Manager
One member of your team has to be responsible for supervising the way food is prepared and serviced. This position is called Food Protection Manager. To be qualified, the candidate for this position must complete a training programed that is sanctioned or accredited by the Texas Department of Health. Certification must be presented upon request if a health inspector or consumer asks for it.
Caterers are required to have a mixed beverage permit if alcohol is served with dinners. Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code states, "The restrictions and regulations which apply to the sale of mixed beverages on the licensed premises also apply to the sale under the authority of a caterer's permit." The license is temporary and can only be utilized for and during a catering event. A caterer can't use the same license to open a liquor store.