Learn How to Get a Food Service License For Your Restaurant

To official Be a restaurateur, you’ve got to get some restaurant licenses and permits out of the way. You can avoid paying fines. While the requirements and laws vary slightly depending on where you’re going to open your doors for business, most states have a similar list of applications to go through. Restaurant owners will need a foodservice license.

Soften your list if you already have a ton of menu options to try. Grand opening of restaurant marketing promotions to launch and an eager staff to train, how to get a food service license likely isn’t the most exciting item to check off.

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This guide will walk you through the future-proof restaurant tactics that’ll add flexibility to your business—a key to thriving in the new world of hospitality.

What does a Food Service License mean?

If your restaurant serves food, you will need to have a foodservice license. This is a common requirement for restaurant owners. However, in many states this is not the case. The type of restaurant will dictate the type license that you’ll need. Dine-in restaurants may be licensed based on the number of seating. Take out or food trucks still need one, but it might be called a food vendor’s license instead. 


How do you get a foodservice license

You don’t want to complicate things.), you’ll want to start by reviewing the food vendor’s application requirements for your specific state with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The local health department can issue a license to operate a foodservice business. This application is available online and in person.

In general, here’s what you can expect the application process to look like:

  • Fill out the form and send it in. Be prepared to supply information like the name of your restaurant, an address for a permanent kitchen (even if you’re registering a food truck) and the owner’s personal information. You’ll also pay an application fee.
  • Your restaurant will be visited by the health department. It is necessary to ensure you adhere to all local restaurant food safety regulations. They vary from one state to the next. You can find them all here.
  • After your license has been approved, your local health department will make periodic visits to your establishment to check for any violations. Failure to pass an inspection could result in your license being revoked. These food safety regulations should be observed. 


How much does a licence cost?

The fees for food service licenses depend on where the restaurant is situated and the type of its establishment. You may see a different fee depending on how many employees you have. You should consult your local health department.

It can cost anywhere from $100 up to $1,000. 


Requirements for renewal

Your restaurant license can expire depending on its location. Attention must be paid to all requirements when renewing your food service license.  

The best rule for applying to new licenses is: If anything happens in your establishment it’s time to renew.

You will need to fill out a new application for the following:

  • New establishments
  • Transfer of ownership
  • Modification in the physical address of an establishment
  • License type change


What’s Next?  

A food license is only one step in opening a restaurant. Our hospitality team is available for assistance to learn how Small Biz Sense’s commerce platform can help make your new venture a runaway success.  

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.