How to Start a Catering Business in Florida

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Starting a catering business in Florida may be ideal for someone who loves to cook and wants to work in the food industry, but doesn't want to open a restaurant. Although caterers may not have the overhead a restaurant or cafe does, they must follow the State's food business laws. Florida caterers have specific regulations that they must follow in order to legally start a catering business.

  • Determine where you will prepare food for your clients. You can either rent a commercial kitchen, use the kitchen on-site at the events you cater (which may include your client's homes) or open your own private commercial kitchen. In Florida, you cannot use a residential home to prepare food for catering, unless it is for a client, and the food will be served in their home.

  • Prepare and submit your food service plan review to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation's Division of Hotels and Restaurants, if you will be opening up your own commercial kitchen facility. You will also need to submit a fee of $150. To obtain an application, click on the link in the "Resources" section below titled "Food Service Plan Review".

  • Ensure that at least one of your catering employees has food manager certification, and that all other employees who touch or prepare food in any way have a food handlers permit. To obtain these, you will need to attend food workers training programs. For a list of food worker training programs approved by the State of Florida, click on the link titled "Food Worker Training Programs" in the "Resources" section below.

  • Obtain an EIN (employer identification number) from the IRS and a sales tax registration number from the Florida Department of Revenue's Sales Tax Division. All caterers in Florida are required to have these two identification numbers.

  • Fill out and submit a Public Food Service License Application Packet, and determine the amount of license fees you must pay--you can access a packet and fee calculator from the link in the "Resources" section below titled "Food Service License Application Packet & Fee Calculator".

  • Contact the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation's Division of Hotels and Restaurants at the following number to set up a time and date for the opening inspection of your catering business: 850-487-1395. You should only do this after you have submitted your plan review (if needed), obtained food manager and food handling permits, submitted your license application and paid all applicable fees.

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