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What Licenses & Permits Do You Need for a New Restaurant?

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December 19, 2019

Opening a new restaurant is no small feat. You’ve poured your heart and soul into the perfect restaurant concept and developed a delectable menu. However, before you even open your doors, there is the painstaking process of obtaining all of the required licenses and permits. Food handling permits and operations licensing requirements and fees vary by city, county, and state, but there are some things every new restaurant needs before opening.


Not sure where to begin? Make the process easier on yourself by having a plan in place. Start by researching basic local licenses and permits required by your city in order to determine which ones you need to prepare for your restaurant's opening.

1. Business License

Before you have your restaurant business plan fully solidified, you’ll want to obtain a business license. Required by all new businesses, this license permits you to operate your restaurant legally. Depending on your location, the process for acquiring your business license differs.

Business license requirements are contingent on your location and city/state policies, so there isn’t a universal guideline. Fortunately, you can visit theU.S. Small Business Administration website for guidance. They provide valuable information on how to secure a business license in your geographical jurisdiction. Reaching out to the county planning department or county commissioner's office is also a good first contact early on in the process.

2. Food Service Licenses

Much like your business license, your food service license is crucial to starting your new restaurant. Getting this license also depends on your state and city regulations and the type of eatery you are opening. Take-out-only establishments and food carts might need a food vendor’s license. Dine-in restaurants might be licensed based on the number of seats they have.

Food service licenses are issued through your local state health department. Start the process by researching application requirements via theU.S. Food and Drug Administration. From there you can easily apply online. All you need is the location and name of your restaurant. This license does require an in-person visit from the health department to evaluate your compliance with restaurant food safety rules. Be aware that the health department will stop by at random to ensure you are following health regulations.

3. Food Handler Permits

Speaking of food safety, you’ll want to make sure all your employees acquire their food handler permits. Having this permit demonstrates that your food service professionals have learned the proper procedures for food safety. How to obtain this permit varies by state, but the gist is universal. You’ll want to research your state requirements and have employees complete food handler training. These permits will have to be renewed periodically, so keep track of expiration dates and have your staff retake the course as needed. 

Ready to take food safety to the next level? Ensure your restaurant has a food safety plan.

4. Employer Identification Number

Think of an employer identification number (EIN) as a social security number for your new restaurant. This important license allows the IRS to track your restaurant’s tax reporting.  You’ll also need this for payroll and donation purposes. Obtaining your EIN is easy. You can apply by fax, phone, or regular mail - although online applications are the easiest. Simply visit, click on their EIN link, fill out the form, and submit.

5. Liquor License

If your new restaurant plans to serve adult beverages, you must get a liquor license. The logistics involved in obtaining this license can be all over the map — It can depend not only on your location, but also the type of alcohol you are serving, and if you plan on selling alcohol on-premise or offering alcohol to-go. A beer and wine-only establishment would apply for a different liquor license than one with a full bar. 

The type of bar you have might also dictate what type of menu you create, or what your operating hours might be. Your best bet to figuring out your state’s unique law is to start with your ABC’s, orAlcohol Beverage Control Board. This is the organization you will work with to understand the state laws, discern the cost of your license, and determine the exact process to get your official license. Once you have all the info, you can then apply for the license. The process is a lengthy one, so get your applications in as early as possible. This is not one to wait until the last minute on! 

We’ve covered a few of the necessary licenses and permits required to open your restaurant, but you’ll likely need other ones as well. Once you have all the paperwork out of the way, you can feel confident in embarking on your culinary adventure.


Navigating the world of licenses and permits for your new restaurant may seem daunting, but with the right knowledge and resources, you can ensure a smooth start to your culinary venture. At US Foods CHEF’STORE, we know new restaurant owners have a lot on their plates. That’s why we make shopping effortless. 

Check out our business tools and resources tailored for new restaurant owners, save time with the convenience of third-party grocery delivery services, or browse our wide variety of bulk foods and supplies perfectly suited for your restaurant's needs.


Restaurant Permit Checklist

The information materials and opinions contained in this blog/website are for general information purposes only, are not intended to constitute legal or other professional advice and should not be relied on or treated as a substitute for specific advice relevant to particular circumstances. We make no warranties, representations, or undertakings about any of the content of this blog/website (including, without limitation, as to the quality, accuracy, completeness or fitness for any particular purpose of such content).

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