Do you want to start a food vending business and need a license? If YES, here is a practical guide on how to get permit to sell food from home in 7 easy steps.

If you have a flair for cooking so much so that people always commend your culinary skills whenever they taste your meals, and if you find uncommon joy in making meals, then maybe it’s time to make money off this skill. Granted, there is a whole lot of capital requirements involved in setting up a restaurant or food business, and this is what has been holding a lot of people back. It is for this reason that some chefs started considering cooking out of their home kitchens.

Why Start a Food Business from Home?

First, cooking and selling food from home is convenient especially for chefs who are stay at home mums or even students. Again, overhead cost is reduced tremendously because you are not paying for any additional facility and the bills that come with it. You only need to make contact with your clients through the phone, or may be through the use of an app; you cook the meals, make the supplies and collect your pay. Easy, right?

But sadly, that is not the only thing involved when one wants to start a home cooked meal business. The most complicated part of starting this business is fulfilling state laws – yes, licenses and permits. Before you can start cooking and selling meals from your home kitchen, you have to first of all find out if the state you reside in allows home cooked meals business. This is because a lot of states in the united states do not allow the selling of food from a home kitchen due majorly to health concerns and lack of a proper monitoring arrangement.

But the good news now is that a lot of states have started losing their stringent laws and now instead require people who want to run home cooked meals businesses to acquire licenses and permits before they can start their businesses. Also, there are various limits they must not cross when running their business.

In 2013, Cottage Food Operations (CFOs) became legal, allowing people to prepare, package and sell non-hazardous foods from a private home kitchen under the Homemade Food Act. Only specific foods are approved for CFOs and they have to be foods that don’t require refrigeration to avoid people from getting sick.

These foods include baked goods without cream, custard, or meat fillings as well as dried fruit and nut butters and nut mixes. The list also includes confections such as salted caramel or fudge and fruit pies and fruit tamales.

A CFO must make less than $50,000 or less in gross sales annually to qualify. It also needs approval from their local city or county to operate. CFOs fall into two categories, ‘Class A’ and ‘Class B’.

  • ‘Class A’ refers to CFOs that are only allowed to engage in direct sales of cottage foods. This means there has to be a direct transaction between the consumer and the CFO location such as a home, a farmer’s market or a holiday bake sale. ‘Class A’ CFOs don’t generally require inspections from a local agency.
  • ‘Class B’ CFOs can engage in indirect sales through a third-party retailer that holds a valid permit, such as restaurants or bakeries. A ‘Class B’ CFO is initially inspected before a permit is issued but isn’t inspected more than once a year.

‘Class A’ CFOs requires an annual registration plus completing a full ‘self-certification’ checklist, while a ‘Class B’ requires an annual permit.

Both registration and permits also require taking a training course to receive a Food Handlers card within three months of approval. This ensures food is being handled safely and under health code guidelines. Breaking any of these laws means facing dire consequences.

5 Important Licenses You May Need to Sell Food from your Home

To begin selling food from your home in the United States, you have to first of all register your business. Many states require that the Business Name and type – either a sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC or corporation – be registered with the secretary of state’s office. Once your registration is complete, you then have to start considering the licenses available to you. Some of the licenses you are required to obtain for your business include;

  • Food Handler’s License

This license is sometimes called a food and safety certificate. This may require a test in your knowledge of how food should be handled and stored. Not only do you have to have a food handler’s license but anyone who assists in the cooking will have to obtain one as well.

  • Catering License

If you make the food and deliver it, rather than making the food in the client’s kitchen as a personal chef does, then you may need a catering license.

  • Kitchen Inspection

Your kitchen will have to pass a health and safety inspection and be certified, which is a type of license. Preparing food in an uncertified kitchen may set you up for fines from the state or county. If your kitchen doesn’t pass and you still want to run a food business from home, consider cooking the food in a certified kitchen in the off hours. For example: a restaurant that only serves breakfast and lunch may be happy to lease you its kitchen for the late afternoon and evening hours.

  • Zoning Laws

Check the zoning laws of your city to see if you can operate a business out of your home. If people come to your home to pick up food, permits may be required. Obtaining a zoning variance would be necessary.

  • Homeowner’s Association

You must of necessity check with your homeowner’s association rules and regulations if you live in a townhouse or condo. You may find that operating a business out of your home is not permitted. Getting your business registered when you are not even allowed to run that sort of business from your home would be disastrous.

Exceptions to Licensing

But for people who what to start on a very small scale, the Cottage Law also gave them an opportunity to survive. They are not given freedom to sell all types of homemade food, and their cooks can only sell at certain venues. But the laws make it possible to sell something.

Items sold under cottage food laws are exempt from local licensing and codes. Because of this, only certain sales are legal. Foods susceptible to botulism, such as low-acid vegetables, are outlawed pretty much everywhere. The most acceptable foods include jams and jellies; pickles canned in vinegar, and baked goods, though that can vary state by state.

Meat is generally not allowed because of widespread health concerns. Most farmers wanting to sell meat to the public must have it USDA-inspected or offer programs where consumers purchase animals and pay for butchering costs, and even dairy products made from store-purchased pasteurized milk require special licensing.

Fruits and vegetables grown in a home garden do not require special licensing as long as they have not been cut or altered in any way. Some states allow cooks to include home-grown produce in cottage food but not all do. Still, other states do not allow home-canned products, such as fruits or vegetables, within cottage food.

How to Get Permit to Sell Food from Home in 7 Easy Steps

Cooking and selling food from the home front provides professional chefs and cooking enthusiasts with a low-cost means to operate a small business. To set up your home business, you would need a stove or two, refrigerator, food storage facilities and cooking utensils. These are the basics, and anything higher than this would require separate licensing. You are allowed by law to sell your homemade foods at farmers’ markets, grocery stores and online catalogs.

Whether you need licenses and which licenses you need to sell homemade food depends on your state’s and local jurisdiction’s food handling laws. You need to go through your jurisdiction’s home-based food service rules to get familiar with them. You can find such rules in several places like your state and local government’s public health, agricultural, taxation, business licensing or zoning websites.

To get started with acquiring a food license, you need to set up your kitchen based on the information you were able to glean from your public health department. You can purchase and install separate kitchen counters, additional equipment such as a stove or refrigerator, and sanitation equipment such as a three-compartment sink, if required by law. You may be required to set-up a completely separate kitchen for your home-based food manufacturing facility, even if it is located on your home premises.

When you are done with putting your kitchen in order, your next move would be to contact your public health department for an inspection. The health inspector would visit your kitchen to determine if the facility is fit for cooking. The health inspector would either pass your kitchen upon initial inspection or give you a list of items you need to further bring it up to standard.

When you have satisfied all the requirements, the health inspector would come back to make sure of that, and if he or she is satisfied, you would be issued with your certificate or permit.

In order for products from your kitchen to get accepted by retail stores and farmers markets, you need to furnish them with a copy of your permit. You may also be required to take a food-handler’s course, depending on your jurisdiction.

Depending on how big a business you intend to run out of your home kitchen, you can apply for other jurisdictional business licenses as required. You may be required to register your business and apply for a resale license, depending on how much product you manufacture and sell on an annual basis. Note that some businesses would only buy from you if you have a business license, so endavour to get one.