The laws and regulations governing food catering businesses are established at the state level. To find out what the requirements are for opening a catering business you should contact your state's Department of Revenue and Health Department. Many aspects of the catering business are regulated in the same way as restaurants and other food service establishments. Permits and licenses may be required.
Many areas restrict the operation of small businesses in residential neighborhoods. Some cities may allow you to operate a catering business out of your home provided you meet certain requirements; home catering kitchens must be separated from your living quarters in most locations.
The University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension recommends visiting your local planning board or zoning office to get the zoning information in writing. In many locations you may need proof that your location is zoned to allow a catering business before you can get a permit to operate from the health department.
In order to operate a catering business many states require that at least one member of your staff is a certified food manager. This person will be in charge of food handling and preparation to ensure that all pertinent food safety and sanitation practices are followed by all employees. According to the Florida Department of Health, the National Restaurant Association provides the examination that one must pass in order to become a certified food manager.
A catering business that has one or more employees must withhold payroll and social security taxes. You should apply for a federal Employer Identification Number (EIN) at least six to eight weeks before hiring any staff. The EIN will be used to identify your business on tax forms and you can apply for it online at the IRS website.
According to the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center, after you get your EIN the IRS will send you a booklet explaining the process for remitting the withholding taxes you collect and how and when to file tax reports with the IRS.