The Caterers Corner
Home Based Caterers Caterers Corner: Home Based Caterers

By catergreat on Wednesday, July 25, 2001 - 08:08 pm: Edit

I am the author of this thread and I too agree with the past two comments.

I also have NO problem with a professional caterer who works from their licensed kitchen at their home....

I completely understand and applaud you for having the guts and wisdom to do whatever it took to compete legally....


By Socaligrl55 (Socaligrl55) on Tuesday, July 31, 2001 - 02:22 am: Edit

Hi. I might seem young, but I was wondering how to become a legal caterer? I am a third year college student who does planning and budgeting for my sorority. This past year, our caterers have been unreliable leaving me to handle the food issues. There is only one real catering company in our county. This coming year, I am asked to handle food more frequently, but I want to make sure it's all legal before I do anything. Is there a place I can go to get more information??? I don't start doing our social events until this coming October. I live in California, so I wasn't sure where else to go, but to the chamber of commerce. I am sure there is some kind of a state agency that regulates these things. Please let me know. Thanks.

--Yes we have facilities to cook in. (e.g. kitchen and dining facilities)

By chefmanny on Tuesday, July 31, 2001 - 07:50 am: Edit

You are never to young to be legal, as Carl may say. You should definitely contact the Health Department and the Department of Business regulations, they will be able to tell you exactly what you need. You might want to contact whoever provides insurance for the sorority and make sure you get liability insurance plus whatever else they might tell you you will need.
There are some caterers from CA on these boards, maybe they can help you out more.

By LEWIS on Wednesday, August 01, 2001 - 12:10 pm: Edit

I am interested in starting a small baked goods business. I don ot want to do it from my home and am interested in finding out about renting kitchen space somewhere. DOes anyone know how to go about this?

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Wednesday, August 01, 2001 - 12:48 pm: Edit

Read caterer's corner threads on this site.

By mbw on Thursday, August 02, 2001 - 08:46 pm: Edit

Hi there Socaligrl55!

I cater in Northern California.


#2a All food must be prepared in a health department inspected and approved kitchen. If you have one, you're half way there.

#2b There is a new law that makes it mandatory for each kitchen to have someone "On Staff" that has a valid sanitation certificate. If you want to get a certificate yourself it can be done for about $120 and 8 hours of class time. The Department of Health Services should give one, or have a list of available classes.

#3 LOCAL: The business licensing stuff will be different in every town, county, etc. (:Everybody wants some of your money:) You will probably register a DBA with the city or county. Then with your newly registered DBA info you apply for a "Business license." Some cities are real cheap to get started in. Hope you're in one. Manny was right in that city hall will have most off all the information you need, save how to BE a caterer.

#4 STATE: In California almost "everything" a caterer does is subject to sales tax. All labor, and rentals associated with the food service, and of course the food. The upside is that when you register with the state (yes another license) your new resale tax ID # may give you access to a wider variety of wholesalers, and vendors.

#5 FED: Sole proprietorship, C-Corp, S-Corp, talk to an accountant!!! They will help explain the difference if you don't already know. If you have payroll, and you probably will, you will need a FEIN (Federal Empoyment Identification Number??) Ask your accountant or banker about payroll.

#6 Liability insurance (a real good idea, but often not required by law) cost is based on your GROSS sales for that year. For your own good UNDERESTIMATE that figure. If you make a pile of money in your first year call your agent.

There may be "No such thing as a catering license," but as you are well aware it is quite a responsibility. Have fun, do a good job, provide good food, and work safe.


By Carl on Friday, August 03, 2001 - 08:11 pm: Edit

Great Job Mark!!!

Thanks for the informative post! Kudos.


By ScottTheApprentice on Wednesday, August 15, 2001 - 03:54 pm: Edit

What about Personal Chef Services? Do you need to have your clients home inspected before you start cooking???

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Wednesday, August 15, 2001 - 04:10 pm: Edit

No, you are cooking at home to eat at home. You only need a licensed and health dept. inspected location when you are serving to the public in a public location.
You might want to get liability insurance though.

By Amy on Wednesday, September 05, 2001 - 12:31 pm: Edit

Hi there,

I'm a pastry chef in Chicago who wants to try my hand at selling my products, primarily to other caterers. I want to have my office in my home (I guess this makes me home-based, please, don't shoot! :) ) but I definitely want to rent out some kitchen space, at least at first. IF you have thoughts on what kind of space a fledgling like myself might seek out (church kitchen space, sharing with another caterer) I'd love to get some advice. In addition, the various permits and licenses that I know I'll need are confusing to me. I've never owned my own business so it's all new. Thanks so much, this is a great board!


By sam on Wednesday, September 05, 2001 - 09:27 pm: Edit

in each locale the requirements are unique, in my area, you would need to work from an licensed approved facility & have a license in your companies name.....but you can still have your "office" in your could look at churches, faternal org, vfws, american legion halls, other small caterers, lunch only restaurants or dinner only for that matter too!, nightclubs that may have kitchen facilities, ect....good luck...sam sears, cec

By Tonya Jennings on Thursday, September 06, 2001 - 01:39 pm: Edit

How can I run a catering business out of my home? Is it legal to cook out of your own kitchen?

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Thursday, September 06, 2001 - 02:49 pm: Edit

If you make or can make your house legal!

By sam on Friday, September 07, 2001 - 07:59 pm: Edit

every city, state & county is different and has different regs....check w/ your local board of health or enviromental protection or building/zoning board.......sam sears, cec

By catergreat on Monday, September 10, 2001 - 02:01 pm: Edit

Tonya, what state do you reside? There are practically none that allow this. The states that do allow it require you to remodel your home to a commercial kitchen. Expect to pay $50k just to get the basic for a successful catering business...

After all of that, you are entering into a fiercely competitive business with a very low success rate. 95% fail before 5 years.... If you are a shrewed business person and are ready to put in many hours with little or negative income for a couple years, go for it.....

Best to ya!

By TMarta on Monday, September 10, 2001 - 05:45 pm: Edit

Catering last time. In SOME places, like where I am, you need to pay more for a CATERING LICENSE to be allowed to accomodate more diners than your establishment can hold. That means that we had to get the CATERING LICENSE to do box lunches, and our carry-out catering for more than 24 people. I have been told that this is NOT required in some places, but it IS required in others. Several of you have advised others that there is no such thing, but there ARE REQUIRED CATERING LICENSES IN SOME AREAS !!!!!

By Mbw (Mbw) on Wednesday, September 12, 2001 - 12:29 pm: Edit

I stand corrected.

Thanks for the additional info. This CATERING LICENCE you speak of, it is in addition to all of your other licences right?

Could you open a catering business in your area with ONLY THIS LICENCE?

BTW What city/state are you in?


By TMarta on Wednesday, September 12, 2001 - 07:40 pm: Edit

I would assume that that would be the license needed to open a catering-only business, although I really never needed that info. Yes, the license was in addition, (a $100.00 addition), to our tax, permits, etc. It came through the Health Department, as we wished to serve more than the bakery/restaurant would hold. BTW- I am in central KY.

By Mbw (Mbw) on Thursday, September 13, 2001 - 11:51 am: Edit


I suppose every county/city/state can impose additional and/or different requirements for each business.

BTW compliments on your pig farms. The KY ham I bought for my brunch a few months back rocked our world!!


By TMarta on Friday, September 14, 2001 - 08:14 pm: Edit

Not MY pig farms! Glad they are worth something. The pollution problem is awful, and the stench is beyond description!
The Bourbon Festival is going on now.But "HAM DAYS" will be coming soon, as next week is the Tobacco Festival!

By Kit (Kit) on Thursday, November 08, 2001 - 09:34 am: Edit

Iím preparing some written information on the legal issues facing the home-based caterer in the US. Itís for a home-study course.

Could you have look at the file below, and see if you spot any flaws?

If you donít know much about the legal issues, and youíd like to become a caterer, you might find the information useful.

Any other comments and suggestions would be gratefully accepted.

This has been changed by Admin from an .exe to htm for safety reasons

By Cheftim (Cheftim) on Thursday, November 08, 2001 - 07:42 pm: Edit

Great information. I Think it's good coverage of all the basic information.

You do say it but I think you should advise more strongly "consult a lawyer" for any legal advice.


By Kit (Kit) on Monday, November 12, 2001 - 02:21 pm: Edit

Thanks, Cheftim. You're right.

By Tmzcali (Tmzcali) on Tuesday, July 09, 2002 - 01:22 am: Edit

You seem to know a lot about catering in California. My husband and I live in So. Cal. and both work in the hotel/rest industry. We have an opportunity to do some catering on the side for a local wine bar. The wine bar does sell food, but only cold apps because they do not have a kitchen. There is a rest. next door where we could rent kitchen space. The owners of the wine bar have also discussed getting a BBQ where cooking would be done on-site.

We need help with the legal aspects of the opportunity. We would like to start a catering business and start slowly to see if this takes off. Where should we start? Any idea on estimates of start-up costs? The events would be once a month for about 40 ppl. We would profit about $650 per event. Financially would this be worth it? Would there be any tax benefits? Suggestions on types of insurance coverage?

Any help is appreciated.
Thanks, Tarrah

By Catergreat (Catergreat) on Tuesday, July 09, 2002 - 07:24 pm: Edit

The tax benefits will be from the huge losses you will incur.... ONE event per month? gross margin of $650.00??? If your information is correct, you can't touch the start up costs...

I will write more later as I am just passing thru...

By Chefspike (Chefspike) on Tuesday, July 09, 2002 - 07:48 pm: Edit

What city are you in? Please tell us.
I don't think it's legal to BBQ food, just because you/they don't have a kitchen inside.
You may want to check with all of the agentcies, Health Dept, Building Safety, Fire Codes, ect,ect.
Carl is correct, you'd never make a dime.
Things to consider and I'm sure other's have more insight and will add. 1.) Who's going to pay for the insurence to cover you and your husband?
2.) How much will you have to pay them, (their cut) for using the space, electric, gas, ect. ect.
3.) When you do cook it, who mantains it during the event?....Waiters?...Who pays them?...Who cleans up?....How much time do each of these events take?(You and your Husbands)...What happens if you get someone sick?...Do you have a food handlers card?....Insurence to cover a lawsuit, if someone does get ill?
Bunch of stuff uh? bet. You could be in court for a long time if something goes wrong, and it may not even be something you may have done, just the fact that you were part of it.
But again, I'd like to know what city your in.

By Tmarta (Tmarta) on Friday, July 12, 2002 - 12:22 am: Edit

Take it from someone who was legally in business in a rented, fully-equiped kitchen, who tried to move the business closer to home with guaranteed clientle, it expensive as heck to set up, and not worth the risk of going in waaaay over your head, because nothing in life is guaranteed. And for crying out loud, go LEGAL. EVERYONE is ready to sue over anything. And accidents happen.

By Tmzcali (Tmzcali) on Friday, July 12, 2002 - 12:45 am: Edit

We are in Encinitas. We are not looking to start up a successful business since we are both content in our professions (chef and rest. manager). We were asked to do an event once a month at a wine bar across the street from our house which sounded like fun. We realize the only way to do it legally would be to set up a catering business, or at least I think. Then we thought there might be some tax benefits if the start-up costs weren't too high (we don't own a house and cannot afford to pay any more than we already do). Equipment and time commitment would be minimal. We both have food handlers cards. We don't need any additional help, the wine bar would schedule and pay servers. The insurance, legal and rental fees are what we know little about. Thanks for the help, any feedback is appreciated.

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Friday, July 12, 2002 - 06:06 pm: Edit

Why don't you do it from where you work? If you are the Chef and the other the Mgr., there should not be a problem; unless the owner is an idiot!!!

By Chefspike (Chefspike) on Saturday, July 13, 2002 - 01:30 am: Edit

Yea, talk to your owner/boss and give him a slight cut. Legal stuff, can be found at the city hall. Insurance is found under the wine bars present policy, and any policy your present boss may have if you use his kitchen.
so lets see........
minus, food, time (you have to pay yourself), gas, kitchen rental(if any)
insurance, ect?
= what? walk with...400.00?
Is that what you guys came up with?
Let us know, please.

By Ladycake (Ladycake) on Tuesday, July 16, 2002 - 07:46 pm: Edit

I cater in California and the state law says that you cannot barbecue outside unless you have an inside facility in which to cut the meat. Santa Maria has gotten around that somehow, but San Joaquin Valley counties will not allow it at all.

By Mbw (Mbw) on Wednesday, March 05, 2003 - 03:23 pm: Edit

Home-study Diploma course in home-based catering

Yep you got it right. See for yourself

Are you an expert in the kitchen? Would you like to put your culinary skills to work? If so, you could join the thousands of people who've set up their own catering or food business. And what's more, you can do it by working from home. It's true. In fact, many of the big catering firms were started by just one person - working from their own kitchen. Think how wonderful it would be to earn a living doing what you enjoy - cooking. You'd be your own boss, and you could do it either full time or part time.
Every day, you'd wake up with a song in your heart.


By Cheftim (Cheftim) on Wednesday, March 05, 2003 - 05:16 pm: Edit

Somebody send this link to Carl!!!

By George (George) on Wednesday, March 05, 2003 - 08:21 pm: Edit

I guess Carl was just around to hawk that CAter souce get together.

surprize, surprize, surprize


PS- I'm going to sign up for the "Complementary therapist" course but turn it around and do and insulting version.

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Wednesday, March 05, 2003 - 08:33 pm: Edit

Hey, you can get a master's degree in anything for about $2500 on the net!!!!!!!!!!!!
Some school board members here in Miami did that not too long ago! Bigger $$$$$, you know!
Got snagged though!!!!!!!!!
No longer on board now!

By Corey (Corey) on Thursday, March 06, 2003 - 09:56 am: Edit

geez, whats next, home vet training? I'd hate to be a dog in that house, "mail's here!, arrroooww"

By Catergreat (Catergreat) on Thursday, March 06, 2003 - 10:58 am: Edit

No, george, I always read your forum. I am always lurking. It is a shame you still have such a problem with catersource....

anyone who caters from home without a license or insurance is simply risking too much for little return. sure, many started this way, but they are lucky and very good at what they do.....

By George (George) on Thursday, March 06, 2003 - 11:04 am: Edit


Humble appologies.

I was just shocked to see Mbw's posting to go so long without your normal response I feard we had lost you or you were ill.

Figured a cater source jab might revive you, and it did.

Good to hear from you.


By Catergreat (Catergreat) on Thursday, March 06, 2003 - 11:05 am: Edit

This is information from THEIR website:
Are there any restrictions on me setting up as a caterer?
Yes. And the course covers this in detail. We have separate editions for the US and Canada, and the UK and Europe. We also cover regulations for australia and New Zealand in outline. In the US, you can't cook in your own kitchen. But there are several solutions to this, which we discuss in the course.

We also provide detailed advice on forming a company, keeping records and paying tax.


"In the US, you can't cook in your own kitchen."

Well, at least THEY understand the laws.

do they tell you how much it costs to get legal at home? probably. most people cannot afford it or they can't build their business fast enough to cover the overhead and the go out of business.....

interesting idea...

By Mbw (Mbw) on Thursday, March 06, 2003 - 11:31 am: Edit

Like we don't LIVE at work already SHEESH!

"Every day, you'd wake up with a song in your heart."

And exactly WHAT song would that be?

Chain gang?
Big boss man?
Everyones crazy cept n me?
Prep the abalone later I need sleep? <--working on the tune now

By Mbw (Mbw) on Thursday, March 06, 2003 - 11:37 am: Edit

There is a kitchen here in San Francisco That is rumored to "Rent" out space, but the caterers renting never seem to use it.

Turns out they are just using the licence, and inpection certificate, but preparing the food wherever. How stupid they are breaking the law AND paying for rent? Go figure.

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Thursday, March 06, 2003 - 11:50 am: Edit

Hey Carl!, good to see some things never change!
Good to read you again. Stick around!

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Wednesday, March 26, 2003 - 08:14 am: Edit

Never mind!!!

By Teddybearbbq (Teddybearbbq) on Monday, April 21, 2003 - 02:19 pm: Edit

Here is what we did to get our catering company off the ground.

First off lots of catering companies fail. They never get known or the focus on a very narrow market. Our specialty is Barbecue and there are lots of competitions so that is what we did first. We enjoyed a lot of success which was a great door opener for finding customers. There are food competitons everywhere including state and county fairs. Winning awards never hurts.

Then we found space in a co-op kitchen. The only way to do a home kitchen would be a second full commercial kitchen in your home at considerable expense. We got a "Catering License" and food handler cards from the county health department. We purchased a $1,000,000 insurance policy and set about marketing. We did all the business registration requirements with city and state. Taking credit cards was a big boost to sales.

Offering great food and service is a must. Even if you do that and don't always do marketing you will probably fail.

By Jlkuntz (Jlkuntz) on Thursday, April 24, 2003 - 01:38 pm: Edit

I have been asked by a local cafe to bake my sugar cookies for them. But as I started to bake them today, my husband started asking if I needed a license, small business, health dept etc. I never thought of it. If I am baking cookies, rasberry bars, lemon bars, etc for a few local coffee houses, from my own kitchen, how can I protect myself legally or do I even need to worry about this since I was invited to do so.

By Cheftim (Cheftim) on Thursday, April 24, 2003 - 03:50 pm: Edit

As it has been discussed so many times in these forums, Yeah, you need all of that.

Do a search using the keyword "home" and you will get many discussion threads that will go into more detail.

By Mbw (Mbw) on Wednesday, April 30, 2003 - 12:42 pm: Edit

Nope can't do it legally from home.

We will assume the café doesnít have an oven.

There are TWO issues here

1. Food preparation must be done in a licensed inspected facility, and typically a certificate of food handling needs to be held by someone onsite.
2. Taxes licenses and other money issues are often COMPLETEY separate. EXAMPLE: The IRS, and state could care less if you are cooking out of your home as long as they get their money from your sales. The county health department will not care if you are current on taxes as long as you make THEM happy by fulfilling their requirements. The same goes for the fire dept. Kind of disappointing in a way but true.

Liability insurance is highly recommended but I have never known it to be required by the law.

Rent a kitchen


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