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Where is catering out of one's home permissible by law?

post #1 of 29
Thread Starter 
Hi, all. I'm looking to start a catering business soon. Virginia law prohibits preparing food out of one's home, as I'm told most states do. Do you know of any states that do allow catering out of your home, even on a limited basis or under certain conditions? For instance, I know that Michigan allows it granted the catering kitchen is used exclusively for that purpose, i.e., it's separate from the private areas of the home. Thanks in advance for your help.
post #2 of 29
My understanding is that all states require commercial food service to be done in a commercial kitchen. That commercial kitchen can be in a home, but it can't be the family's kitchen.

There may be some non-conforming state out there, but I haven't heard of it.
post #3 of 29

renagade states

not sure if its still true but at one time you could cater out of your home kitchen given certain guidelines in the state of Maine.

However in this day and age its highly unlikely.
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post #4 of 29
I believe that in NH, it's only legal to do baked goods out of your home. You can use the home kitchen, but there are very strict standards. I suppose they figure the odds of killing someone with your cookies is a whole lot less than with a chicken. But then again, I've worked in some kitchens.....
post #5 of 29

Another avenue that I've been exploring:

In-home catering. I don't know how large a venue you're looking at but if you're thinking about a home business you're looking at fairly small number of guests due to limitations in kitchen facilities...unless you have one friggin big home kitchen!

I have been exploring the 'in home' catering approach recommended to me by the Small Business Administration here promoting new business (we're just outside of Las Vegas in a small town). From what I understand you basically plan the party menu and prepare it at the client's home in their own kitchen. You have a fair amount of flexibility in that you can provide all or none of the service/flatware/dishware, etc...depending on what you agree on. The only thing you are absolutely in charge of is the menu, purchase of ingredients, preparation and clean up.

I'm still waiting for information from the NV Dept of Health to find out what the home based food business is.

Another thought is: renting a local kitchen from a club, church, community center on demand.

I don't have details yet but it's one of the avenues I'm pursuing.

April :bounce:
post #6 of 29
Unfortunately, to get a kitchen "liscensed" is usually required for attaining liability insurance. Those great insurers would like to write property along with liability. In my state, they won't write one without the other. Although rates have basically tripled over the last three yrs. it's still affordable. The properties I deliver to mostly require 2-5 mil liability so it's a little higher.
Even though I am not liable for something natural like pecan shells, If someone was to break a tooth or bridge(has happened) it's nice to say just call my agent and forget about it.
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post #7 of 29
April,

That is in line with what I am preparing to do. I will be starting my research in the next few weeks. Please let me know the outcome of your research.

The major difference in my plan is I will be catering events in the middle of the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area. If I cannot get a waiver, I will be purchasing a Catering Rig (trailer) to pull behind my RV.

Perry
post #8 of 29
Kind of insteresting but when I lived in New Orleans there were people who would serve dinner to patrons in there home. they would open on Friday, Saturday and sometimes Sunday, when "the man" was not around. Some of these were great (and cheap)! Cheap beer, great food, limited menu and music. Straightforeward Home Cookin, Fried Chicken, Mack and Cheese, BBQ, Fried Fish, Red Beans, Smouthered Chicken, Rice, Gumbo, Chicken and Dumplings, etc.
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post #9 of 29
Hmm I've kinda asked this question already before but I am still a little confused...So i live in Ct...and would I be able to one day become a caterer and prepare the food at my home and do it that way? If there is any websites or anything about that please let me know...because it would be soo awesome if it could happen. i really want to be a chef, but i really want to be able to be at home a lot if i have kids and for my husband and everything when/if i got married... thanks!
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"Dream as if you'll live f o r e v e r, Live as if you'll die today"
-James Deanand...."Dream as if you'll eat f o r e v e r, Eat as if you'll die today"=D=D
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post #10 of 29
karen90,
You need to get in touch with your local health department. They will have a number for the food division. They will give you all the information you need. The law varies in all states and sometimes jurisdiction. Most all health department will set their policies based upon Fed guidelines. So things vary depending upon how the guidelines are interpreted. There really is no one here (unless in your County) that can really tell you. Do not rely on hear say for something like this.
A little tip. You may want to keep your call to the health dept. anonymous.
In many states you may have a home kitchen if it has a seperate entrance and basically seperate from you family kitchen, and inspected.
You can also go to the health dept. and request a copy of their guidelines. Try not to listen to negetivity about the Health people. They are there for a reason. They are responsible for keeping less the 5% of food borne illness out of commercial kitchens. The're a little cautious about home kitchens because that 95% occurs in the home.
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post #11 of 29
Dangy...
I've done some research on this when starting my personal chef buisness. I live in Ohio, so as some have mentioned, laws may be different depending on where you live. My instructor for my Servsafe class has been a health inspector for twenty-five years so I asked him what I could do in my own kitchen and what sort of licensure I needed. In Ohio, I can prepare up to twenty "entrees" a week in my unlicensed kitchen. I asked what constitutes an entree? He said it wasn't clearly defined...a loose interpretation. All I need as a personal chef is a vendor's license and a tax I.D. number to be legitamate. Another option is renting kitchen time from a church or synagouge. Many Jewish temples have totally pimped out kitchens. Just ask to see their most recent inspection results for you fork over cash. AS far as cooking in your clients personal kitchen, in Ohio, you are hired as a landscaper, chimney sweep, or pet butler would be hired. You may want to look into being bonded just for back up in case someone cracks a molar on one fo your scones. Never hurts to be too safe! Good luck!
post #12 of 29

Papa can you heeeeeear meeeee...(sorry...Yentl was on last night)

The major difference in my plan is I will be catering events in the middle of the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area. If I cannot get a waiver, I will be purchasing a Catering Rig (trailer) to pull behind my RV.

Catering trailers are really nice if you are patient enough to get the right one at a good price. Just make sure it has most of the equipment you need. Re-fitting a trailer for general catering that is already fitted for the corn dog fare can be pretty expensive. E-bay has many for offer, only one really had any potential in my opinion. Maybe I can look it up and forward the number to you. I would SO love to have it, but...<sigh> SS walls, all kinds of amenities.

It actually makes the most sense having a separate kitchen facility in instances when you have a family, kids, pets (definitely) ... you can keep it sano and lock it up. It gets health certificates and you can keep it separate from real life. Works really well if you sincerely plan to pursue this venue in earnest.

I guess it also depends on how long this particular event is and what type of fare you're serving.

Anyway, I'll look up the info and forward it to you so you can have a look.

april
post #13 of 29
Thanks April.

Each event is just 1 day. They are like company picnics, except for customers.

What I have done this year, is show up and camp with the group. I prep as much of my food at home. I cook almost everything on my Weber BBQ's.

I set up tables and server everything buffet style. It is a real hit, I am getting people asking me to do more events each year. I sarted out just helping friends, now it is becoming a bit more.

The catering rig may be over kill for what I do, but if that is what is required, I will go that way.

PP
post #14 of 29
Well it looks like I will try the Personal Chef route on this the 1st year or so. This is due to the amount of equipment I will have to purchase. Since this is only a weekend venture for me 6 months out of the year it does not make sense.
I already have had inquiries for dates starting in October, including a deposit for a Super Bowl party.

I will let everyone know how it goes.
post #15 of 29
This message seems to be very old. Are people still looking for information about starting up a home based catering company?
post #16 of 29

I am just now doing research and would take any advice you have!

post #17 of 29

Hey Brandy, welcome.

Would help if we all had an idea of what you're looking into, type of business/ type of cuisine,

general /location etc.. Far too big a subject to just say "Gimme info". smile.gif

The new cottage food laws coming into being give homebased food-doers much

more latitide these days....but only regarding certain kinds of products.

 

--Meez

post #18 of 29

I want to cater, meal deliver and what not but have no start up funds as of right now. I was hoping to start out as a home based business so that I could build a cliet base and accumulate money. I have catered several parties but just as favors to friends. Without an idea of how well I could do I wouldn't be able to justify renting a space and equipment.

post #19 of 29

Check with the local health department. Get a copy of the sanitary code book for your area. They can tell you what the regulations are. You may also be able to find them online under your local state website. You may be able to do some work out of the house if you meet certain requirements and have the kitchen inspected. No matter what you do, you will have to involve the local health department. They will be much more supportive if they know from the start you are trying to follow the appropriate guidelines. 

post #20 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by Brandy McGhee View Post

I want to cater, meal deliver and what not but have no start up funds as of right now. I was hoping to start out as a home based business so that I could build a cliet base and accumulate money. I have catered several parties but just as favors to friends. Without an idea of how well I could do I wouldn't be able to justify renting a space and equipment.

From what you've posted, I am NOT aware of any jurisdiction in the USA that will permit this without a licensed, inspected, commercial kitchen, unless you are willing to restrict yourself to a narrow range of non PHF (potentially hazardous foods) such as some baked goods, i.e. cookies, muffins, etc., and then only in states with a "cottage industry" law.

 

Now, if you are willing to forgo the delivery aspect and cook only in a client's kitchen, you may want to investigate the personal chef business. Give Candy Wallace, Executive Director a call at"

American Personal & Private Chef Association
4572 Delaware Street San Diego, CA 92116
Tel: 800-644-8389 / 619-294-2436
Email: webmaster@personalchef.com

Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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post #21 of 29

Hey Brandy, welcome in.

First, there is a big difference between catering a few parties and running a catering business. That's why I recommend

working for a catering operation first, and getting at least 15 events under your belt, and learning all you can.

Take me for instance, though I've cooked all my life, if I had just decided one day I wanted to go cater, it would have been

a disaster. It took me assisting and then RUNNING dozens of varied events before I felt I understoood (mostly) the

business. And there may be far more factors that go into it than you realize.

 

Another way, (if you're moving in those circles and not in a huge hurry), is to attend as many catered parties, events,

weddings etc as you can, watch closely what they do (the caterer not the bridal party smile.gif) and ask them as many questions

as they'll answer. Eventually you'll get a feel for it. (and may even change your mind)

 

Also might be hellpful to  look into a good book on the subject to get an overview. Amazon has several including:

http://www.amazon.com/Catering-Science-Mystery-Michael-Roman/dp/0970234228

 

Second, search the archives on Cheftalk-- this site's been here over 12 years, there are hundreds of posts on the subject.

And though she has not yet been mentioned, searching Shroomgirl's posts would be an excellent beginning.

 

Meanwhile FWIWorth, here are few points you need to consider...

 

1) You CAN start catering on a shoestring budget, taking jobs here and there, by renting most of what you need. You do

this by writing the rental cost into your price. Once you figure out how to start profiting, you buy a little here and there,

like chaffers etc to get overhead down and profits up.

(And be warned, if you dont learn how to price & contract right, you're gonna get killed in this business.)

 

2) The minute you get PAID to off-site cater, you become legally  LIABLE for what you serve, and compliance with state

and county health laws. Which means you need to be licensed and insured. You will also need a Food handler certificate,

usually obtained through Premier or some other certifier.

 

3) Chefwriter is totally right--better to do it right from the start, because if you try to "sneak-in" jobs illegally to get started,

and you get caught (usually turned in by another caterer unfortunately) then you're on a bad footing with Health,

which is....well, BAD.

 

4) The health department is concerned mainly about foodborne illness, which was a big problem with home based

catering, which is why HBC is pretty much illegal and is likely to stay that way to protect the public.

Their main concerns are: Sanitation, Transport, Prep, and maintaining safe Temperatures.

Which leaves two options:

Do everything on site, (no delivery, as mentioned above)....

or cook, sanitize and transport from an already approved kitchen ("commisary").

 

Again, you need to do some reading and consulting with your local authorities.

 

Hoping that was helpful....

--Meez

post #22 of 29

Hi Brandy,

What state/city do you live in?  You should think about renting a commercial kitchen.  I have one in Tampa Bay that is available by the hour and I'm sure there are probably some by where you live as well at very reasonable rates.

post #23 of 29

Thanks to everyone. I am in Southern Ohio. I am just STARTING to do research on the whole idea, and by no means think that I will be easy. I understand health codes and inspections as I am a nurse manager for a dialysis clinic and we have very strict guidelines similar to the food service industry. I am just trying to find the right situation for myself to do something that I have always loved and make a profit at it. I don't plan on doing anything until I have a sound idea of what rules and regulations are.

post #24 of 29

You need to find out the regulations from:

  • Your local zoning authority, most do not permit businesses in residential areas, for example. Some do not provide for home based businesses.
  • Your local health authority, they enforce the health code and should know the requirements
  • Your local fire department, they control ventilation and fire suppression requirements
  • Your local sewer utility, they set the regulations for grease traps, etc.
  • Your local power providers, natural/LP gas, electric. They provide the required power and understand what they can supply. Before you purchase any equipment that uses power, be sure the utility is able to supply your location.
  • Your local business licensing authority, especially if delivering, you may need licensing in several jurisdictions.
  • Your insurance broker, they will NOT insure something that is out of compliance with zoning, health, fire, or building codes
  • Your alcoholic beverage control board for adult beverage rules and regs
  • Your sales and use tax authority for a reseller number, if necessary
  • The IRS for an EIN if you will have ANY employees
Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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post #25 of 29

So my health department emailed me back and it is not an option to start as a home based business. Now onto other alternatives. I have find out if there are commercial kitchens for rent in the area or dontinue to research the private chef option. I will be taking longer to develop my business now.

post #26 of 29

every state, county and or municipality is  different. But most wont permt it. or will make it so impossible that you wont want to... Red tape and BS  is unbelievable

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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post #27 of 29

I understand that! I am looking into rental spaces now. We are a small market so I'm not sure if that type of space is available here. Still looking and planning.

post #28 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by Brandy McGhee View Post

I understand that! I am looking into rental spaces now. We are a small market so I'm not sure if that type of space is available here. Still looking and planning.

While looking, do not overlook

  • churchs
  • restaurants only open for part of the day
  • fraternal organizations
  • meeting halls
  • school cafeterias
Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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post #29 of 29

If I were you I would look into starting out with gigs you can do entirely at the event-site. Without being a fully licensed caterer.

And to that end,  it wouldn't be a bad idea to look into the info/contacts Chef Pete provided above on personal cheffing-- it's

pretty much the same principle as preparing everything on site for a large party.... no premade transport, no commisary.

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