Comprehensive Guide to Obtaining Restaurant and Food Truck Licenses and Permits in Florida
Are you looking to obtain a restaurant licenses in Florida, or perhaps you’re interested in acquiring permits for your food truck business in the Sunshine State? In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into all the licenses and permits you’ll need to kickstart your food truck or restaurant venture in Florida. We’ll also provide you with an estimate of the total cost involved in obtaining these licenses. Let’s dive right in!
Florida, known as the Sunshine State, boasts a warm climate and a plethora of attractions that draw in hordes of tourists. From specialty cuisines to Michelin-starred restaurants, Florida’s dining scene is diverse and vibrant. Aspiring entrepreneurs may consider venturing into the world of food trucks in Florida, where food trucks and mobile vendors can be found all around.
Essential Permits for Restaurants and Food Trucks
Obtaining a license for your food business in Florida depends on the type of food operation you intend to run. However, certain common licenses are required for restaurants, food trucks, and catering services in Florida. The process shares similarities with our article on licenses and permits in California.
1. Employer Identification Number (EIN)
The first step you should take is to register with the government to obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN). This registration is free of charge and grants you legal permission to withhold and pay income taxes. You can apply for an EIN at irs.gov.
2. Annual Food Permit
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DOACS) mandates that any facility engaged in manufacturing, packaging, processing, preparing, or selling food wholesale or retail in Florida must hold an annual food permit. This includes businesses involved in manufacturing, packaging, processing, preserving, or preparing food. You can register with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DOACS) at myfwc.com. The annual cost of a food permit in Florida varies based on the type of food operation you conduct. A list of fees can be found at fdacs.gov. New operations must undergo a safety inspection, and the licensing process typically takes about a month.
3. State and Local Registration
You must register with the state to collect state sales tax in Florida. While the state does not have a specific seller’s permit for Florida per se, you can register at floridarevenue.com. You can find more information about potential taxes, including other applicable taxes such as those for amusement machines in your restaurant, at floridarevenue.com.
4. Commercial License from DBPR
The Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) handles commercial licenses statewide. The cost of a DBPR license in Florida varies depending on the type of restaurant and the number of seats it has. You can apply for one at myfloridalicense.com.
5. Commercial Space Layout Approval
Florida law requires that you provide a floor plan for a new seating establishment license. The plan must be approved before proceeding with your license. You can download the application form for this at the time of writing this article. While online applications were not being accepted, that could change rapidly as restaurants prepare for full occupancy.
6. Fictitious Name Registration
In Florida, you must apply for the right to use a fictitious name for your restaurant or food truck. You can submit your application at sunbiz.org. Fictitious business names are the names you operate your business under, such as “Good Eats” or “Jerry’s Gator Gumbo.” You must announce your intention to use the name in a local newspaper at least once and certify that you’ve done so when submitting the application. The registration lasts for five years and expires on December 31 of the fifth year. The registration fee is $50, plus $10 for a Certificate of Status and $30 for a certified copy of the registration. You do not need to file a fictitious name if you are a registered corporation or opt to use your legal name, such as “Chuck Anderson’s Tacos.”
7. Local County Requirements
Florida counties have different regulations for restaurant permits that may apply to your establishment. These include various requirements and permits that may be necessary for your new restaurant. These can include:
- Occupational License: You will need to check with your local county for rules on obtaining an occupational license.
- Coin Machine Licenses: If you operate any type of coin machine, including video games, you must register at floridarevenue.com.
- Signage Permits: Like signage permits in Texas, each locality sets its own regulations for signs. Check with your city or county for details. For example, Orange County, Florida, requires you to submit an online PDF with details about your proposed sign.
- Flammable Materials Permit: If you store flammable materials, you’ll need to obtain a permit from your local fire department. For instance, Orlando requires permits for storing hazardous or flammable materials.
Food Safety Regulations in Florida
Food safety is regulated by three main agencies in Florida:
- Department of Health
- Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR)
- Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
The DBPR handles most of the regulations for granting commercial licenses for restaurants and food trucks. However, you’ll need to obtain your food permit from the Department of Health and secure food handler permits for yourself and any employees. You can find more information about Department of Health requirements at floridahealth.gov. Obtaining a health permit for your food truck or restaurant requires a fee and a facility inspection for food safety.
Every restaurant or food truck in Florida must have a Certified Food Manager present during all hours of operation. Other employees also need food handler permits. These permits apply to catering operations as well. More information on Certified Food Managers and food handler permits can be found at floridahealth.gov.
Special Licenses Required Only for Restaurants
Restaurants can significantly increase revenue by obtaining licenses to serve alcohol. In Florida, obtaining such a license is a crucial part of most restaurant business plans. You will need a license such as the 4COP. What is a 4COP license in Florida? It allows you to sell alcoholic beverages, wine, beer, and package deals. The qualifications include having a reputable restaurant. Requirements include at least 2,500 to 5,000 square feet of space with permanent seating, but this can vary by county. You must derive at least 51% of sales from non-alcoholic food and beverages. A typical example is Broward County, which requires a minimum of 2,000 square feet and 150 seats. The cost of a 4COP-SRX license there is $1,820.
There are several options for obtaining an alcohol license in Florida:
- 4COP-SRX Liquor License: These licenses allow you to sell liquor, beer, and wine on your premises. You must meet certain requirements, such as having a trustworthy restaurant. Qualifications include at least 2,500 to 5,000 square feet of space with permanent seating, but this can vary by county. You must derive at least 51% of sales from non-alcoholic food and beverages. A typical example is Broward County, which requires a minimum of 2,000 square feet and 150 seats. The cost of a 4COP-SRX license there is $1,820.
- 4COP-QUOTA Liquor License: These licenses are available through a quota or lottery system and apply to businesses that do not meet food requirements, such as nightclubs, bars, and taverns. These are limited by county population, meaning that counties receive one additional license for every 7,500 people. License drawings take place every year, starting on the third Monday in August and lasting for 45 days. It is possible to purchase a quota license on the open market from an existing license holder, but you will likely need the services of a broker to find and close the deal. Costs can become quite high in such cases due to competitive pressure.
- 2COP Liquor License: The 2COP liquor license does not actually permit the sale of liquor at all, only wine and beer for on-site consumption. There are no restrictions on the number of licenses issued by counties. The license also allows for the sale of sealed containers for off-site consumption if allowed by the local county. In South Florida’s Broward County, 2COP licenses are sold for $392.
- 2APS Liquor License: These are mainly used in convenience stores to sell beer and wine off-site.
Local County Regulations
Florida counties have various regulations for special permits that may apply to your restaurant. These include permits for various functions of restaurants, and these are discussed in the restaurant-only section.
Activities That Do Not Require Permits in Florida
According to orlandosentinel.com, home cooks can sell certain items they prepare without obtaining a restaurant license in Florida. The types of foods people can sell from their homes include cookies, bread, cakes, pastries, flavored popcorn, and flavored vinegar. Gross sales are limited to $15,000 per year.
Special Permits Only for Food Trucks
Your Florida food permit application is not the only license you need for a food truck or mobile vendor service. Food trucks must obtain a general business license and a mobile food establishment permit to sell food from a mobile cart or food truck.
This doesn’t mean that food permits are unnecessary if you only plan to sell vegetables, fruits, or legumes at a farmers’ market, roadside stand, truck, or mobile cart. However, a business license is required. You also need to register with the state and federal governments to collect sales tax and pay your state and federal taxes.
Can Food Trucks Sell Alcohol in Florida?
Unfortunately, food trucks cannot sell alcoholic beverages except with a special city permit for festivals, celebrations, and the like.
There are some workarounds that allow food trucks to sell alcohol. You can obtain a temporary city permit for festivals, catering events, etc. If you have a good relationship with government officials, your chances of qualifying for various festivals throughout the year increase.
Another option is to sell food alongside an authorized bar. You can deliver food to people at the bar, but you cannot deliver liquor to the food truck. The third option is to partner with a craft brewery. Breweries often host food truck nights with a variety of foods.
Fire Safety Inspection Certificate
Before starting a food truck in Florida, aspiring entrepreneurs must obtain a fire safety inspection certificate from the local fire department. Without the inspection, you will not be allowed to operate a food truck.
Health Inspections in Florida
Your food truck must undergo a food safety and sanitation inspection before a health permit is issued for food truck operation. Your truck will be periodically inspected by the local health department to ensure compliance with all food quality and safety standards.
How to Get Your Mobile Food Vendor Permit
The licensing process consists of three steps. The first step is reviewing regulations and requirements on fdacs.gov.
The second step is obtaining a Letter of Agreement from the Commissioner. Food trucks must have access to an approved facility for food truck service, sanitation, food storage, and more. The facility can be a kitchen with dining service or catering, a restaurant, or a commissary designed exclusively for serving multiple food vendors.
The third step is submitting an Application for Mobile Food Establishment Inspection. You must have the commissary inspected and obtain your food permit within 14 days of the opening date.
Total Costs of All Licenses and Permits
Understanding the costs associated with licenses and permits for your food business in Florida is essential. The total cost varies based on factors such as the type of food operation, location, and specific licenses required. It is recommended that you consult with the relevant authorities and agencies to get accurate and up-to-date information on the costs involved.
In conclusion, starting a food truck or restaurant in Florida involves navigating a series of licenses and permits. Ensuring compliance with all legal requirements is crucial for the successful launch and operation of your culinary business in the Sunshine State. Remember to stay informed about any changes in regulations and seek professional guidance when needed to make your venture a success.
Article authored on behalf of Bay Area Restaurant Supply – bayarearestaurantsupply.com.