How to Get a Food Handler’s License for Your Restaurant

Of all the Restaurant licenses and permitsIt is essential that you Be a restaurateur in the US, the food handler’s license is one of the most important for your staff.

The employee health permit is sometimes referred to also as an employee license. It ensures that all staff have passed a food safety exam. No matter where you open your restaurant, employees must complete a state-approved food handler’s course and purchase a food handler’s permit. This course will help your staff learn about food safety, sanitation and food storage.

In this article we’ll go over:

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How to get a food handler’s license

It is not difficult to obtain a food handling permit. You can get one by following the steps below.

1. Learn your state requirements to get a food handler’s license

There are different requirements in each state for food handler permits. Each state also has their own courses. You’ll want to check with your state’s Department of Health to learn the state-required certifications and courses, but here are a few examples of how to get a food license. Just from these examples, it’s clear to see how fees and procedures can vary greatly from between states, cities and regions.

New York If you’re trying to obtain a food handler’s license in NYC, you’ll actually have to go through a different site than those living outside the city. The Big Apple has a lot of restaurant workers. NYC Health has a free online food protection course you’ll want to take. Those outside the city will want to find their local district’s website on the Department of Health’s directoryClick here to learn more.

Texas: To get a food handler’s license in Texas, restaurant owners need to download the Texas food handler’s application form from the state’s Health and Human Services website. After payment, you will receive your license in the mail within 4-6 weeks.

Oregon: All food service workers in the state need to obtain an Oregon food handler’s license in this state within 30 days of starting to work in the industry. It comes as a $10-per-year card. You can find the license here. Oregon Health Authority has all of the rules, information and applications you’ll need to obtain a food handler certification in the state.

California: Being such a large state, the requirements to obtain a food handler’s license in California vary from region to region. The following information is available: California Department of Public Health’s website, however, they have multiple training courses and helpful resources to make sure you get all of the food handling licenses and permits you’ll need to operate in the California restaurant industry.

Florida: Looking to get a food handler’s license in Florida? You’ll want to check out the Florida Department of Health’s page on Securing food safety. On this page, you can download an application for a food handler’s license, read employee training guidance manuals, and download the state’s employee health poster.

Illinois: Illinois defines a food handler as “an individual working with unpackaged food, food equipment or utensils, or food-contact surfaces.” If you are an unpaid volunteer working with food or you’re working at a temporary event, getting a food license in Illinois is not necessary. You can find answers to common questions at the Illinois Department of Public Health’s website.

2. Pass the exam and complete food handling training

All staff members must pass an exam and complete training once they have understood the requirements of the state to obtain their food handling license.

This is usually possible online. ServSafeIt is a good resource for finding out the requirements in your local area. You can also take online courses to earn certifications. According to their website, “the ServSafe Food Handler Certificate verifies basic food safety knowledge and is for individuals in food handler employee-level positions.”

3. Print your food handler certificate

You can start work immediately after paying this fee. A small fee will be required. While the cost for an employee health permit can vary from one state to another, it is usually between $100 and $500.

The certificate you receive is usually temporary. An official certificate from your local health department will be sent to you within 30-days.


How long will a food handler’s permit last?

Remember, your food handler’s permit does expire. These expirations will vary depending upon the certificate and course taken, as well as where and how many restaurants you visit. National Restaurant Association recognises the ServSafeFood Protection Manager Certificate for a 5-year period, and the ServSafe Alcohol ServSafe Food Handler Certifications for a 3-year period.

Close up of a chef rolling a sushi roll and wearing plastic gloves.


Are food handler certificates required to be published?

Once you and your staff have your employee health permits, you’ll want to check with your health department as to whether or not you need to have them posted. Certificates must be kept on site by many local food handling training departments. That doesn’t always mean they need to be posted, of course. In any case, it’s better to be safe and keep all food handler certificates on-premise at the restaurant.

Since this process requires all of your employees to earn a food handler’s permit, you’ll want to start early. And while they’re focused on that, you can continue to tick away at the rest of your restaurant opening to-do list.

Whether you’re opening your first or twenty-first location, Small Biz Sense has the tools to help you streamline, manage and grow your business. To learn more, chat with one our experts.

Cyndy Lane

Cyndy is business journalist with a focus on entrepreneurship and small business. With over a decade of experience covering the startup and small business landscape, Cyndy has a reputation for being a knowledgeable, insightful and approachable journalist. She has a keen understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing small business owners and is able to explain them in a way that is relatable and actionable for her readers.