How do I obtain a catering license?

Written by megan mattingly-arthur
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How do I obtain a catering license?
Obtaining a license is an important part of starting your own catering business. (frutta coreografica image by Francesco Marino from

Obtaining a catering license is the most important requirement to starting your own catering business. Catering licenses, regulated by your state, ensure that people preparing and serving food to others are capable of doing so in a safe and proper manner. Having a catering license protects caterers and gives clients the peace of mind they need to trust a caterer as a professional. The process of obtaining a catering license differs slightly by state.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Call your local courthouse to find out which agency in your state is in charge of regulating catering licenses. In California, for instance, catering licenses are regulated by the Department of Alcoholic Beverages. Though the regulating office differs from state to state, the application process is largely the same.

  2. 2

    Request a catering license application form from your state regulating office. In California, the necessary form is a Correction/Application request, or Form ABC-239.

  3. 3

    Complete the application form with all necessary information. After completing the application, go over all the information to make sure you haven't overlooked anything. If your application form is incorrectly completed it can delay the application process.

  4. 4

    Submit your completed application to your local regulating office. Depending on technology in your state, you may be able to submit your application online for faster processing. Upon submitting your application, you will be required to pay the necessary application fee. In California, the 2009 application fee to apply for a catering license is £71.

  5. 5

    Wait for your application to be investigated. If your completed application meets the necessary requirements, you will be issued a catering license. Your regulating office will contact you with the permit once it has finished its investigation.

Tips and warnings

  • Be sure to ask about annual fees. In California, caterers are required to pay yearly fees determined by the population in the cities where they work. Ask about yearly fees during the application process to ensure that you're not caught unaware.
  • In some states, you will be required to submit an authorisation form for each event you cater. Ask whether or not your state requires approval for catered events during the license application process.

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