Special events, corporate meetings or general gatherings may require the services of a professional food caterer. In Georgia, caterers are required to meet specific regulations. Catering businesses deliver food and beverages to remote locations, which requires knowledge of food-safety practices. Georgia’s Department of Public Health oversees and administers the licensing requirements.
Food Service Licensing
Georgia requires catering food establishments to acquire a valid food service permit. The owner, or an officer of the establishment, must contact the local health authority and allow access to the establishment for health inspections. The owner must submit the permit application at least 10 business days before opening for service. The application should include information about the types of meals offered, the population served, dates of operation and location. Mobile catering businesses are required to obtain a permit for the county in which the business operates. Additional permits are required for locations outside the county of operation.
Training and Certification Requirements
Georgia requires that at least one employee, or the owner, obtain Certified Food Safety Manager (CFSM) certification to retain a catering license. Some establishments are exempt from this requirement. Temporary food establishments, such as those catering for one-time events and those serving prepackaged items, do not need a CFSM. CFSM training courses must be approved by the Conference for Food Protection or an accrediting agency accepted by the state. The National Restaurant Educational Association, Thomson Prometric and the National Registry of Food Safety Professionals offer courses approved by the state, according to Northwest Georgia Public Health. The business must employ a CFSM within 90 days of the issuance of a food service permit. Furthermore, if a catering business ceases to employ a CFSM, the owner must notify the local health department within 30 days. The business owner then has 90 days to employ a new CFSM.
Georgia business owners must obtain general business licensing, including business name registration and zoning permits. The Georgia Secretary of State manages general business registration. Business owners can contact the Secretary of State at 404-656-2881 or visit the agency’s website for additional information. Home-based catering businesses are required to contact the local zoning authority to acquire approval for operation in a residential area. Business owners can contact their county or city business zoning authority for additional information or to request an application.
Georgia requires employees of catering businesses to report symptoms of foodborne illnesses to retain a valid permit. Employees must report symptoms, such as jaundice or fever and sore throat, immediately to the owner and CFSM. The CFSM is then required to report symptoms to the health department and limit an employee’s exposure to food.