Are you about starting a catering business? If YES, here are 10 legal requirements you must meet to avoid having friction with the government or regulatory bodies. When you are planning to start your catering business, you have to be aware that there are legal considerations that you would have to meet up with for your business to be considered legal; so that you can operate freely without fear or harassment.

It doesn’t matter if you are starting your catering business on a small scale from your residential kitchen and starting a really large catering business, you would have to meet up with most of these legal requirements. So whether you are starting your catering business in Canada, Australia or America, here are some of the legal requirements you would need to meet up with.

Remember that some of these regulations are designed to protect you, your business and your workers. The government is not only interested in the revenue that it makes from these licenses, it is also interested in protecting you and ensuring that you protect yourself, your employees and people who reside around the places where you conduct your business. I have outlined the top ten legal catering documents or requirements you will be required to meet up with below-:

Top 10 Legal Requirements for Starting a Catering Business

1. Health Permit

The government wants to be sure that people who consume your prepared meals are safe and not exposed to dangers like food poisoning. There have been cases of wide spread epidemic or even deaths as a result of consuming meals that were not probably handled by caterers and this is what the government generally wants to guard against and that is why obtaining a health permit is the first and most important legal requirement you would be required to meet up with before you can commence operation of your catering business.

It doesn’t just end with getting the license; you would also be paid regular visits by health officials who would regularly inspect your operations to ensure that you are complying with laid down policies and required code of conduct. Some of the things that would be inspected before you can obtain or renew your health permit include;

  • Kitchen

Health officials want to be sure that you are not using a residential kitchen for your business. You may be denied a health license if you use a residential kitchen.

  • Hand washing

They want to be sure that you have a facility that makes it easy for you and your employees to wash your hands when handling edibles and that you actually use these facilities as required.

  • Food storage

They want to be sure that your food storage methods are appropriate and safe.

  • Cooking temperatures

There are required temperatures for cooking different food items that health officials would insist that you use. For instance, the temperature required to boil meat is usually higher than what is required to cook other food items like say, rice and the health department would pay you regular visits to be sure that you are consistent with these temperatures.

  • Waste handling

They would also be interested in how you handle wastes especially liquid waste. Other things that would be inspected to obtain a health permit include your storage areas, refrigeration system, raw food and cooking methods.

2. Business License

Another legal requirement you would have to meet up is obtaining a business license for your catering business. You would have to determine the legal structure of your business and register your business accordingly. It is always advisable to incorporate your business as a Limited Liability Company, so that your catering business can have an identity of its own.

3. Occupational health and safety

The government wants to be sure that your employees are protected, hence the reason for insisting that you obtain an occupational health and safety certificate. This would also attract regular visits from the authorities involved and some of the things they will be looking at include, eye and face protection, walking surface protection to prevent falls as well as equipment inspection.

4. Fire protection inspection

You should expect regular visits to your kitchen by the fire department because the catering business is one that is susceptible to fire outbreaks and the fire department would want to do everything possible to prevent this. You would also be charged annual fees for a certificate of compliance.

5. Fictitious Business Name filing

Of course, you won’t be using your name and surname as your business name, so you would be required to register your business name with relevant authorities.

6. Alcoholic beverage control permit

Most times, caterers also handle the drinks served at parties and if you would be handling alcoholic drinks, you would need to obtain a license for this. You may also need to obtain an alcohol permit for every party you cater for.

7. Business contracts and policy statements

You would need to hire a lawyer to help you in drafting a business contract and policy statements which you would hand out to each of your clients and must be signed by both parties to show that they agree with the conditions stated; and to ensure that it is legally binding on both parties. Some of the things that would be contained in your policy statement include-:

  • Who would be responsible for purchasing the raw foods?
  • The services you will render to your clients and the ones you won’t be responsible for.
  • Location for cooking the food
  • Prices
  • Payment method and policy
  • How the food will be stored and preserved
  • The procedure for cancelling an order

8. Insurance

Catering business is not immune to risks and you must be prepared to handle such situations when they arise. For instance, there might be a fire outbreak that would lead to destruction of equipment. There is also the risk of employee injury or legal suits that may arise as a result of people getting sick after consumption of prepared meals.

Apart from these, there is also the danger of thefts and property damage. This means that you should obtain an insurance policy to cover for such losses if and when they occur. However, you must ensure that you hire an insurance agent who has experience in the catering industry. You may also need to get different types of insurance such as personal liability insurance, motor vehicle insurance, fire and theft etc.

9. Employment laws

When you are hiring your employees, you should be aware of the laws that guard employment procedures in your state and ensure that you comply with them. For instance, there are minimum wage requirements, employee discrimination laws, privacy laws and you just might be breaking a law without knowing it; if you are unaware of some of these laws.

10. Certification and training

There are also certification requirements for starting catering business in some countries which you must ensure that you comply with. Some countries require you to take some practical tests or to have some training before you can start a catering business.


These are the basic legal requirements for starting a catering business. However, the requirements may differ from country to country. Some countries may require that you meet up with all of these requirements while in some countries, you would just need one or two of these and you are good to go.

Ajaero Tony Martins