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How to Become a Licensed Caterer from Home in 10 Quick Steps

Do you want to become a caterer and want to know the requirements? If YES, here is exactly how to become a licensed caterer from home in 10 quick steps. Caterers are people who work with clients to plan and execute food menus for dinner parties, weddings, birthday parties, corporate celebrations and other special events. Caterers in order to become successful should have good business, customer service and time management skills. They should also know how to work with basic kitchen equipment such as knives and ovens.

The united states catering industry rakes in over billion a year and the majority of the sales in the industry are generated through events like weddings, corporate functions, funerals, holiday parties, etc. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that caterers accounted for about 5.12% of individuals employed in the food and beverage service industry in 2014.

The median annual salary for caterers and others in non-restaurant food service was $20,420 as of May 2015. The United States is home to about 10,000 catering businesses that employ more than 110,000 people. Caterers who want to work for large organizations, such as health facilities, hotels and universities, usually require formal training. Depending on the state, caterers may also need a food safety certification.

Some municipalities require caterers to get a license, such as those who prepare food in their own kitchens and bring it to clients. In this case, you’ll also need to register your catering business with your secretary of state’s office and obtain a business license. Each state has its own rules for applying for a catering license and caterers planning to serve alcohol may have to apply for a separate additional license.

How to Become a Licensed Caterer from Home in 10 Quick Steps

  1. Register your business

To get started, you have to register your business through the State Department of Assessments and Taxation of your state. Incorporation should be your first priority when opening a catering business. This is because if you have an outside income of above $600 but do not have an official business structure, the IRS will get suspicious, and it will land you in serious trouble.

Choosing your business structure largely depends on how you want business income to be taxed. You can incorporate your business as a sole proprietorship, corporation or a Limited Liability Company. You should know that sole proprietorships do not insulate the owner from the liability of the business, whereas limited liability companies and corporations do.

Catering is in a high-risk category because you’re making something that’s being consumed by individuals and the public. You’re safer choosing a structure that protects the owner’s personal assets from a lawsuit

2. Get a business name

You now have to select the business or trading name that you feel would suit your purposes, and register this through the same department. You can conduct a trade name availability search online to find out whether the trading name you want is in use by another business. If it is available, complete the forms to register the Business title=”business name” data-wpil-keyword-link=”linked”>business name. If it is not, then you have to keep searching till you find an available one.

3. Choose an address

You equally need to sort out the address and location of your catering operation. You can operate the business from your home, or from a commercial or industrial address, but will need to provide an address in the state your business is to be set up to qualify for a business license. Make sure that you comply with any zoning requirements for the address you plan to use.

4. Get a tax number

All applicants must provide a registered tax number (i.e., SSN or FEIN) at the time of application. Register by completing and filing a Combined Business Tax Registration Application (Form FR-500) with the Office of Tax and Revenue. Online registration is also available at the Business Tax Service Center.

Registering your business and getting a tax number will enable you to pay business and sales tax, and you will need to show proof of tax registration when you apply for your business license.

5. Obtain a business license

You now need to gather your documents and apply for a business license. Depending on your state, you can obtain your business license locally from your city hall or from your local courthouse. Get a list of requirements from city hall or the courthouse so that you will complete everything before applying for your license.

6. Get a food safety certification

Most states require individuals who prepare food to obtain a food safety certification. Food safety courses are offered online or on site by local departments of health and community colleges. These courses teach students about proper food storage, food-borne illnesses, hygiene, pest control and sanitation. Following the completion of the course, students must pass an exam to attain their certification. You can register for the following courses;

  • Associate Degree in Catering

A catering diploma is available at the associate degree level, either directly in catering or in culinary arts with a catering concentration. These programs provide comprehensive training in the skills required to establish a catering business.

Catering associate degree programs include courses on food preparation, service and business, such as the following: Introduction to professional cooking, basic sanitation and food safety, baking and pastry arts, introductory business skills, management theory and wines and spirits.

  • Certificate of Achievement in Catering

Catering certificates are intended for students interested in the food service and hospitality industries. These programs provide students with basic culinary skills. Additionally, students learn business skills relevant to the food service industry, such as management and marketing. Common courses include the following: Introduction to professional cooking, introductory baking, basic sanitation and food safety, business planning in food service, cooking in quantity and catering practicum.

Students may also complete an apprenticeship or internship. Apprenticeships can last between six months and three years and include a minimum number of classroom hours. Apprentices may learn about cooking techniques and tools and food safety. Longer programs can also include instruction in advanced cooking techniques and baking.

7. Apply for a food service permit

Before you can open, you must get a permit from your local government. Contact your nearest Department of Community Health and ask for an application for a food service establishment permit. Fill out the application completely and submit the completed form to your county office. You must apply at least 10 days before you anticipated opening so as to give yourself plenty of time to complete the application. Keep a copy of the permit application for your records.

8. Schedule your inspection

Schedule an inspection with your local health department to ensure your cooking facility complies with the rules set forth by the state and your local health department. A health inspector will visit your home or your cooking facility to ensure that your establishment allows for proper hand washing, separate areas for handling cooked food and raw food products, and proper methods for keeping food at recommended temperatures.

Some cities do not require health inspections for in-home catering businesses, so check with your local health department for details. Prior to this visit, you should get yourself familiar with your state’s Food Service Rules and Regulations. You can talk with other caterers to find out what to expect and if there are any common issues that crop up during the visit.

9. Get your liquor license

If you intend to sell liquor in your facility, then you must get a liquor license. Your county or city government should have a board that handles local liquor licenses. You should stop in or call and ask about the process, as this varies by state and varies by location. Also figure out which type of liquor license you need. For example, you might need an off-site event permit to serve alcohol has part of your catering business

To apply, you will need to complete an application and have your fingerprints taken. You may also have to provide paperwork about your business. Generally, your application should be processed within 30 days, though it can be longer in some states.

10. Consider insurance

Catering businesses hold a lot of potential risk like kitchen fires, food poisoning and transportation accidents, among other hazards. Insurance insulates you from those risks. You need to consider buying a policy that covers every risk you can think of. You can ask experienced caterers what type of insurance they carry and what they can advise you.

11. Ensure your business safety

Ensure that the food served by your catering business is safe for human consumption. To retain your catering license, you must purchase supplies from approved sources and comply with the state requirements for food safety.

4 Licenses You Need to Run a Catering Business

The reality is that you’ll probably need to apply for a number of different permits and licenses, rather than just one. In addition to state-level licenses—including a business license—you may also need to apply for local county or city-based licenses and permits.

In addition to licenses and permits specifically related to serving food, such as health permits and food-handling licenses, you may also have to obtain a liquor license. As well, additional licenses and permits may be required for an individual event, if the event takes place in a city other than the one in which you normally cater. Some of the licenses you will need include;

  • Catering Permit

Some states in the United States prohibit food establishments and catering businesses to operate from a home kitchen. In order to secure licensing for your catering operations, the catering business must operate from a commercial location.

To obtain licensing to operate the catering business, the business’s kitchen must pass inspection from the local county health department. The department inspector will issue the license once the kitchen has successfully passed inspection.

  • Alcohol license

If the catering business produces food that is cooked with wines or liquor, the catering business must obtain an Alcohol Beverage Control culinary permit. This permit authorizes the catering business to store no more than 12 liters of wine or liquor on the premises. The wine and liquor can only be used for food preparation. The permit authorizes the catering business to transport the liquor to and from its client’s locations for cooking purposes.

  • Obtain a certified food protection manger (CFPM) permit

You should obtain a certified food protection manger (CFPM) permit for at least one staff member in your business. Effective June 1, 2000, a state like Texas requires that all food establishments should have at least one CFPM responsible for supervising how your staff prepares food and serve it to the public.

The selected crew member must complete a special CFPM training program administered or approved by the Texas Department of Health, and he or she must present his or her permit to any health inspector or consumer upon request.

  • Clean Hands Self-Certification

Some states require that all applicants must certify that no more than $100 is owed to the Government as a result of fees, penalties, interest, or taxes through completion of a Clean Hands Self-Certification.

  • Note

If you will be shipping or transporting food products to another state, you’ll also need to be aware of food-related regulations from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), both of which provide resources on their websites. If you cater an event across state lines, you’ll need to ensure compliance with the regulations applicable to the state in which the event is being held.