Guide to acquiring a Seating or Non-Seating license:
Please read these sections carefully before applying. Missing documents or steps may delay opening for business.
Steps to apply
- Apply for and complete plan review (if required)
- Apply for a license and pay the license fee
- Schedule and pass the licensing inspection
Notes: Steps 1 – 2 can be completed online. If plan review is required, we recommend applying for both license and plan review at the same time using one of the combination applications available via DBPR online services. This COMBO is the fastest way to apply and get open.
- is for a permanent structure that includes seats for customers to dine-in
- is the most common food service license
- is typically what people think of when someone refers to a restaurant
- allows for take-out/delivery and catering services
Food safety requirements for a Seating food service license are the same as other fixed food service licenses
- is a type of food service license for a permanent structure that does not include any seating under the control of the food service
- allows for take-out, delivery services and catering services
Food safety requirements for Non-Seating food service licenses are the same as other fixed food service licenses.
How many seats do I have? (Seating License only)
The number of seats is determined by how many seats are under the control of the food service establishment. Seating limits are established by building design, building code, fire safety, water and sewer capacity, and other considerations under the jurisdiction of local authorities.
New or existing establishment?
If restaurant is
- in a new building
- or in a space that has never been a restaurant before
- or taking over a space where a restaurant closed over 1 year ago
apply for a NEW license
If taking over a space currently licensed by a restaurant or where a restaurant has been closed less than a year, apply for CHANGE OF OWNER even if the business is completely different. Search licenses for location here.
Fees MUST be paid at time of application.
For a detailed breakdown of fees, see the food service fee page.
Plan review is required if an operator
- constructs or uses a space that has never been licensed by the division
- uses a space that has been closed for more than one year
- uses a space that has been remodeled
- changes the menu or concept
No plan review is required if
- none of the above are true
- or the kitchen is already licensed by the division and no changes are made
- or if sharing a kitchen. Each operator must obtain a separate license and is subject to all of the same requirements as the existing establishment. Verify the license number of the kitchen by searching here.
In general the plan review process ensures food service facilities meet sanitation and safety standards. In addition to the application, to complete the plan review process provide a plan of the establishment with equipment labeled and also a sample menu. For more details about plan review visit the plan review page.
Establishments on septic systems must obtain approval from Department of Health or Department of Environmental Protection. Many septic systems are not equipped for food service operations and could need extensive upgrades prior to approval. Contact the local County Health Department for assistance with septic system and well water approvals early in the business’ planning phase.
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 a license application and fees, check the 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.
Once licensed, operators must meet and maintain all applicable standards of a public food service establishment as provided in rule, code, and statute. Conduct all food storage and food preparation operations in an approved, licensed food service establishment. Food service operations MAY NOT be conducted in a private residence.
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. Seating and Non-Seating food service license 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.
Apply online to speed up the application process. Create or manage your online account here.
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