Caterers and bakers find many advantages to running their businesses out of their homes. In addition to the obvious money savings of not having to rent or buy a cooking or baking facility, doing the food preparation from home can help you balance business with motherhood or other professional responsibilities. To provide catering services or sell bakery items out of your home in Virginia, you must first go through some steps to make sure you are properly licensed.
Prepare an Area for Your Business
In the state of Virginia, the law requires food preparation areas for a catering business to be separate from your home's kitchen. A complete partition, wall or solid door must be in place between the area in which you prepare food for sale and your personal kitchen. Separate sinks for hand washing and cleaning food preparation utensils and materials also must be present.
Getting a License for Catering
In Virginia, the Board of Health must make sure food is safely handled and prepared before it can be sold and distributed to the public. While a license is required for caterers, you do not have to obtain a license for a bakery-only business. Licenses can be obtained through the health department in your individual county. Before the license can be issued, a representative from the health department will inspect a food preparation area to ensure it adequately meets sanitary requirements.
A Home Bakery Business
Unlike a catering business, a home-based bakery in Virginia does not need to take place in a cooking facility separate from a home's kitchen. The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services must inspect the area used to prepare your bakery items. Ingredients used for your business must be kept separate from items used for your family's cooking. VDACS will review the recipes you plan to prepare for sale. They will also test your equipment to ensure it is not at risk for transmitting food-borne illnesses.
If you plan to have any employees, the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry (see Resources) can help you with tax issues of having people in your employ. This agency can also provide you with information specific to your business and county regarding the Virginia Occupational Safety and Health Compliance Program.
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