How to Get a License to Sell Food in Florida

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Selling food is one of the oldest forms of business in the world.
Selling food is one of the oldest forms of business in the world. (Image: Taiwan - Food market / Asian Food image by Stéphan SZEREMETA from Fotolia.com)

Getting a license to sell food in Florida requires steps to be followed in a specific order. For instance, it is important to avoid seeking any license before selecting the food selling venue. Florida requires businesses to be inspected and pay the appropriate fees to operate legally. The Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) website is an important resource (see Resources). It oversees the Division of Hotels and Restaurants, which provides the information to become licensed to sell food in Florida. Selling food in a retail setting should begin with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FACS).

Contact the business tax receipt, zoning and building authorities for the future business location. The county website will be a useful resource. Each Florida county has a site with links to the aforementioned departments to confirm whether selling food is permitted.

Secure a Florida sales tax number. Contact the Department of Revenue, Sales Tax Division, at 800-352-3671, for further information. The department also has a website (see Resources).

Obtain a federal employer identification number (FEIN) to protect the business. Use the website (see Resources) or call the U.S. Internal Revenue Service at 800-829-4933 for a FEIN application. It can be completed the same day and there is not any cost associated.

Decide the venue you plan to sell food at in the state. For example, those who plan to sell food in a grocery store setting will need to refer to the state website link for Food and Meat Inspection, Licensing Permits Registrations. The DACS has a Division of Food Safety that monitors a variety of food outlets, like mobile vendors that sell only pre-packaged foods and more. A permit may be either distributed by the DACS or the DBPR once compliance is verified during a physical inspection. To start, complete the application for an initial inspection and permit from the state website.

Adhere to the regulations specified at the the DACS website. This department parallels the procedure completed by the DBPR. However, it differs when it comes to ensuring that prices charged to the public match the ones listed on items. Both departments require certain construction standards are met. To find more details, download the portable document files listed on the site.

Submit facility plans to the Division of Hotels and Restaurants, if your business location meets certain conditions that are not applicable to the DACS. For example, it should be a newly constructed, remodeled, converted or any location that will be reopened after one year of being closed.

Complete the application process and obtain licenses for each food service operation on the premises. For example, you operate within a hotel and around the premises with a food cart (i.e., hot dog stand).

Get the license from the food service and lodging website. New and transfer applications include a $50 application fee with the license fees. To assess the proper fee, you may use the calculator provided on the referenced site. Submit the application to the listed address on the Public Food Service And Lodging Establishment Licensing website and wait about one month for processing.

Schedule an opening inspection. Potential food sellers are required to pass a sanitation and safety inspection prior to starting the business. Keep in mind, all fees must be paid and the review must be passed as well. Once approval is granted, call 850-487-1395 to schedule an inspection.

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