Division of Hotels and Restaurants
Guide to Catering Establishments
This web page and the associated guides are a good-faith effort to provide basic general information to help businesses open as quickly and easily as possible and as such cannot be considered definitive or comprehensive. For complete information, we recommend you refer to the applicable laws and rules and our licensing website.
What is a Catering license?
A Catering license is a type of food service license that does not offer eating in or delivery/take out. It’s generally when one prepares food or drink in one place (a licensed kitchen) in order to serve it at another location (customer’s event). Most commonly, a caterer has been hired to prepare certain foods and the services are paid by one individual and the caterer simply takes this food to a predetermined location where it is served. Food safety requirements for Catering are the same as other fixed food service licenses available from the division.
Other License Option - Any licensed public food service establishment may also provide catering services without holding a separate catering license from the division to conduct catering operations. Food service businesses should only get a catering license if the only thing they intend to do is cater food.
Other License Option - Mobile Food Dispensing Vehicles (MFDVs) can travel from place to place and sell or serve food to anyone including catering events, 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.
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
There are generally three steps to acquiring a food service license with the division:
- Complete plan review (if required)
- Apply for a license and pay the license fee
- Schedule and pass the licensing Inspection
Note: Steps 1 & 2 can be completed using a single application for License and Plan Review HR 7030-Application.
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. When ready to apply complete the HR 7007-Application and mail it in with the appropriate fees.
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 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 web page. When ready to apply complete the HR 7030-Application, or use the online system, or email the completed application to email@example.com.
- 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.
Food service license fees are listed on the food service fee web 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.
Catering operations must meet all applicable standards of a public food service establishment as provided in rule. Conduct all food storage and food preparation operations in an approved, licensed food service establishment. You may not conduct food operations 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. 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.