Do you need a health dept license?

Discussion in 'Catering & Large Group Gatherings' started by workoutchamp, Mar 18, 2009.

  1. We are starting to book some gigs. Do we need a health dept license? What is entailed in smoke for hire?
  2. dutch

    dutch Smoking Guru Staff Member Administrator Group Lead OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Law vary from state to state and even county to county. Check with the local health department of the locale in which you have gigs book. Also would be a good idea to take a Safeserve class or a food handlers class. The Safeserve of a bit more costly and time consuming but worth it if you are serious about any type of large mass cooking or catering.
  3. I have found that most states REQUIRE a license and some go beyond that and require an inspection for every event. In addition to this you are going to want to get a registered business name/tax ID and insurance for that business. That way if someone sues you they can only go after your business's assets and not your personal property. Insurance ranges from $300 to $500 a year depending on what you already have for insurance.

    Lastly the place where your event is held might have additional rules beyond the state level.

  4. I'd start by paying the typical nominal state fee to form a LLC, then get some business liability insurance, probably $1 mill will cost you about $500 per year, and can be written to include all your equipment, transportation, and employees (i.e. you) for any business related activities. As previously posted, check with the locals about health certificates. Note that this may also vary if you cross county lines to do work in other locations. Can't stress enough the need for safe food handlers class. You'll learn alot of things, including tips from others on how to handle different situations. It will also help with customers peace of mind. Remember that once you start to sell it, you enter an entirely different world than cooking for family and friends at home, so take the proper steps now to avoid any problems later.

    Good luck with your endeavor.
  5. rivet

    rivet Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Couldn't have said it better. Most states will require certification of completion of the Safe Food Handler's (or similarly named) course. I've taken it in several states and the knowledge is worth the time. You'll be amazed how even your household practices will change from what you learn. If you have access to any HACCP training you might want to consider that too. Best of luck to you!
  6. alx

    alx Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    We get one day catering licenses 3-4 times a year in maryland.Insurance would be a must.
  7. vtanker

    vtanker Meat Mopper

    My wife wanted to do concessions for years and I finally gave in. We started with the out house races in Bowling green KY. I let her do her thing and I did mine. We have done about ten of those events in KY and we have never gotten a license or insurance. We were not required to get a license in KY and I haven't even considered Insurance. Never the less it is still your option!
  8. travcoman45

    travcoman45 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Need ta check thins out with yer local an county health inspector. Then get insurance unless ya wanna give somebody else yer home an everthin else ya got.

    In my area I can do a cook fer hire with non-profit groups an not have the required license of a caterer. This is a good way ta get started an test the waters.

    Check on food safety courses with yer local ag extension office er college.
  9. bbq bubba

    bbq bubba Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Great advice.
    Do it the way you want and when somebody gets Ill or worse, you can blame it on the outhouses.

    Not only wouldn't i admit to that but i wouldn't post it in an open forum.
  10. bbq engineer

    bbq engineer Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Great post...

    I have been asked to do some events, and wouldn't even consider it because I knew that it would open me up to all kinds of liability simply because I would be serving the general public. I personally take great pride in the things that I do, the way I conduct myself, and the BBQ that I serve to my family and close personal friends...but even if you do nothing wrong, the situation changes dramatically when you start dealing with the general populus. We live in such a litigious society, that anything is fair game for someone to see an opening and come after you...don't give them a chance. Get the proper insurance, take the food handling class, and check with your local officials. You will never be regretful of doing it the right way.

    Just my $.02

    BBQ Eng.
  11. crockadale

    crockadale Smoking Fanatic

    Every state has a dept. of professional regs. If you are serving food to the public for a price you need some kind of license. There are ways around this but ultimately you will be caught. In order to get a food service permit in most states you will need a sales Tax use #, an EIN and have passed a Servesafe course and pass a physical inspection.(your equipment). Get Insurance you don't want to give away everything you owne to some assh&^e that claims he got sick off of your food. there is a lot more but this will get you started.
  12. OK, checked in with the Health Dept. Long story about how it came about, etc, but here it is in a nutshell - for MY county now:

    License and inspections are required for a regular and consistent business operation.

    They are short staffed, so the state made us "one-day-event guys" exempt.

    He recommended the class - which I will do.

    He gave me coarse tips like don't use the meat ice for drinks, 40-140 is the danger zone, etc, etc.

    No license needed.

    He also told me about the "guy on the side of the road" license - there is some quirky law still in effect - you can buy a permit for 14 days, then you have to take off for 30 days, then you can be back on for 14, etc, etc. Now that is my kind of job - work two weekends and take a month off. :)

    Insurance will be forthcoming - smart and cheap.

    Thank you all for this wonderful input and ideas - this forum is great. Brad in KY
  13. alx

    alx Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Glad to hear that.As i posted earlier we get the one day license hear in maryland and it is no problem.Watching shows like kitchen nightmares it is amazing how filthy some places are-i think following protocols shows your standards are high-good luck.I helped a few vendors for free 15 years ago to get a feel for the procedures and what the inspectors look for when they draw down on yah.
  14. rivet

    rivet Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Your food and your standards are a reflection on who you are. Maintain the highest and you will never go wrong. Folks can tell ithe difference, and if you care about them they will come back.
  15. mgwerks

    mgwerks Smoking Fanatic

    Let's just hope it isn't t he food that is making those people race for the outhouses!
  16. mginani

    mginani Newbie

    I just spoke with the local health department and they said that they absolutely allow no cooking at home to be sold to the general public. I asked about caterers who cook at home and bring the food to the location and they said that those people are out of compliance. That's crazy. Any of you deal with that issue?
  17. bbq bubba

    bbq bubba Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Yup, thats the law everywhere!
    Thats what keeps the good guys in business and the "home" cooks out!
  18. mginani

    mginani Newbie

    So all caterers have their own restaurant?
  19. bbq bubba

    bbq bubba Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    All "legal" caterers have a restaurant or an approved kitchen they work out of.
  20. mginani

    mginani Newbie

    In that case, I guess I am thankful that I am in a career where my success is not based on the government eliminating my competition.

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