Read carefully to avoid delays in opening or operating your business.
What is a Catering license?
A type of food service license that does not offer dine-in, delivery, or take-out of usually individual made-to-order food.
Generally, food or drink is prepared in one place (a licensed kitchen) in order to serve it at another location (customer’s event). Caterers are most often:
- used for events like weddings, parties, and meetings
- hired to prepare certain foods
- paid by one individual
- taking food to a predetermined location where it is served
You may not conduct food operations in a private residence
Food safety requirements for Catering are the same as other fixed food service licenses available from the division. Catering operations must meet all applicable standards of a public food service establishment. You must conduct all food storage and food preparation operations in an approved, licensed food service establishment.
Food service businesses should get a catering license if the only thing they intend to do is cater food
There are 2 alternatives to holding a catering license that may suit your needs better:
Option 1 – Any licensed public food service establishment may also provide catering services without holding a separate catering license from the division. A Seating (SEAT) or Non-Seating (NOST) license can also perform catering services.
Option 2 – Mobile Food Dispensing Vehicles (MFDVs) can travel from place to place and sell or serve food to anyone, unlike vehicles used only to transport catered food to a contracted service location. For more information about MFDVs, see the division’s Guide to MFDVs and Hot Dog Carts. Guide to MFDVs and Hot Dog Carts
Sharing a Licensed Kitchen
A Caterer may share a kitchen already licensed by the division. The caterer must obtain a separate license and is subject to all of the same requirements as the existing establishment. A plan review would not be required.
Exception – If a caterer shares a commercial kitchen permitted by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, such as a bakery or grocery or coffee shop, a plan review would be required.
Exception – If a caterer shares a kitchen permitted by the Department of Health, such as a school or fraternal organization or bar, then the Department of Health would be the permitting agency.
Steps to acquiring a Catering License
- Create a DBPR online account
- Apply for and complete plan review (if required)
- Apply for a license and pay the license fee
- Schedule and pass the licensing Inspection
Note: Steps 1 – 3 can be completed online.
If sharing an existing licensed kitchen
No plan review is required if the kitchen is licensed by the division. However, each independent business will need a separate license. Obtain the license number from the existing operator and verify the license status with the division by searching here. Save the license number; it will be needed for the license application. This particular type of catering application is not available online, so when ready to apply, complete the HR 7007-Application and mail it in with the appropriate fees. Make sure to mark the “Caterer using existing H&R licensed kitchen” checkbox and include the license number of the kitchen on the application.
If buying an existing business with a licensed kitchen intact and no changes are made:
No plan review is required if the kitchen is already licensed by the division and no changes were made. Get the license number from the operator of the kitchen and verify it’s currently licensed by searching here. Save the license number, it will be needed for the license application. When ready apply online or complete the HR 7007-Application as a change of ownership and mail it in with the appropriate fees.
If building a new kitchen or taking over and remodeling any kitchen:
Plan review is required if a caterer constructs or uses a space that has never been licensed by the division, has been closed for more than one year, or has been remodeled. The following documents are must be submitted with a plan review application: plan, proof of connection to approved water and sewer and a menu. For more details about plan review visit the plan review page. When ready, apply online or complete the HR 7030-Application print application. Mail it in or email the completed application to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Applicants are welcome to send in a cover letter with their completed application explaining their specific situation.
- All DBPR food service licenses have a 7 digit numerical license number. Before purchasing a food service business, making an agreement with a commissary, or sharing a kitchen verify the license by searching here.
- If changing ownership or sharing a kitchen ensure the location address on the application matches the location of the licensed kitchen.
- If a plan review is required check the plan review page before submitting your application. Remember that plan review applications can be submitted via email.
For a detailed breakdown of fees see the food service fee page.
All new licensees are required to pass a sanitation and safety inspection prior to opening. After meeting all requirements of the plan review and submitting your license application and fees, check your approved plan review packet for Inspector contact information or contact the department at 850.487.1395 to schedule an opening inspection. For more information about inspections view the inspections page.
Division personnel inspect as often as necessary for enforcement of the provisions of law and rule, and the protection of the public’s health, safety, and welfare. Catering operators must permit division personnel right of entry at any reasonable time to observe food preparation and service. If necessary, division personnel may examine records of the unit to obtain pertinent information regarding food and supplies purchased, received or used.
All requests for public records, complaints, forms, and applications for licenses can be obtained by contacting the Customer Contact Center.
Steven von Bodungen, Director
Division of Hotels and Restaurants
2601 Blair Stone Road
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1011