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How to Start Catering Business From Home

Starting a business selling homemade food is incredibly easy, affordable, and can be done in a short amount of time depending on the state you live in. If you're wondering how to start a food business from home, your first step will be to familiarize yourself with cottage food laws in your state and city, and their many benefits.

For starters, it's important to understand that catering food is a bit different than traditional foods covered under the cottage food law. Cottage food allows you to sell prepackaged, labeled foods directly to a consumer straight from your kitchen. This can be done without the need for a permit, licensing fees, or inspections in most states. However, this is subject to change depending on your state or county. States will also only allow food that is non-perishable to be sold from home, meaning it doesn't have to be refrigerated to be safely eaten. Some catering business ideas that can be covered by cottage food laws include selling scones, cakes, pastries, and candies to large parties!

Some states, such as California and Wyoming, will even allow the sale of perishable foods, with California allowing the sale of fully cooked meals and Wyoming allowing meats and live poultry to be sold.

Cottage food laws can be beneficial for those also wondering how to start online food business from home. Most states now allow the sale of foods through the internet, although it must be delivered directly to the customer. This isn't an issue with catering businesses, since the consumer is directly interacted with.

What Licenses Are Needed to Start a Catering Business?

If you're selling non-hazardous, properly labeled, and pre-packaged foods in bulk, you can still operate under most states' cottage food laws. However, you will need to register with your local or state health department if it is specified in your states' rules on selling food from home. Your local health department might issue you a permit for selling food from home, or might even tell you you don't need one to sell non-hazardous foods. For instance, Iowa doesn't need people to have a permit or license to sell cottage food from home.

However, if you're starting a catering business that sells ready-to-eat or perishable foods, you will need to register your business with your local city, obtain an EIN, register it as a sole propriety or LLC or any other business model, and obtain all proper licenses for catering businesses. Most states require a catering business that sells potentially hazardous food to only run from a commercial kitchen, not a residential or home kitchen. For instance, for those wondering how to start a catering business from home in Georgia, unfortunately, no catering businesses are allowed from a home kitchen. This is different from other states, which might allow food to be prepared in a commercial-approved kitchen attached to the home.

This is the case for those wondering how to start a catering business in PA. The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture allows foods to be prepared from home, provided the kitchen being used to prepare the catering goods is separate from the personal kitchen and approved by the department of health.

In addition, it's important to also consider zoning laws. For instance, for those asking themselves how to start a catering business from home in Arizona, they will need to register with their county health department and ensure their catering business is in a commercial use zoning area.

The bottom line is, you must always register your business as a catering business through the proper channels, and then contact your local health department for more solid advice on permits, zoning, inspections, and fees.

Opening a Catering Business

If you want to open a catering business that sells perishable foods, you will more than likely not fall under cottage food laws. You will have to register your businesses as a sole proprietor or LLC, and then obtain an EIN for tax purposes. Your catering business registration to handle and safely prepare food will also be filed with your local county or city health authority.

Some home catering business ideas to help you avoid the headache of having to rent a commercial kitchen and file extra paperwork is to sell non-hazardous foods. These can include bagels, cookies, breads, and cakes that can be sold en mass. You call also use an approved commercial kitchen that's not yours, such as your local charity or non-profit organization to help you.

Remember, it's important to make a catering business plan complete with a menu, budget, and marketing strategies. Catering business startup costs can range form $10,000 to $50,000, so plan accordingly in your budget.

Learn how to legally start a catering business from your home. We discuss licensing requirements, laws, and more.

Heather Brookshire

The Cake Whisperer


My business would not be the same without my Castiron website! It is an easy setup with lots of customization and tons of support! I am so glad I set up my shop last year before the holidays — it really helped increase my sales!

Amanda McMonigle

The Whimsical Cookie


Castiron provides me a professional site to my customers increasing my credibility and value while giving me the tools to effectively market and manage my business in an easy, user-friendly manner.

Kim Sims

Wesley's Treats Hallie's Sweets


Castiron has made my cottage bakery shine, and my business easy to manage. As a platform they care about my business as much as I do.

Katie Maschoff

Mill City Cooking Company


Before Castiron, I was taking orders really manually, through emails or texts or Facebook. Now I can send customers straight to my website, and I don’t have to worry about missing any details.

Daniella Smith

Oso Good Clean Eats


I couldn't run my business without the Castiron platform. It made it so easy to get my shop up and running — it truly removed a massive barrier to me getting started!

Ali Serpe

Kultured Kombucha


I realized that the barrier of having to DM or text me to order was holding a lot of potential customers back.

Now that I have a professional website and a simple ecommerce checkout, I'm seeing a huge increase in new customers and they appreciate how easy Castiron makes ordering.

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