How to Get a Restaurant Food Service License: Your Ultimate Guide

January 19, 2023
One2 Guide

To become a restaurant owner officially and avoid fines, you must obtain some restaurant licenses and permits. While the laws and requirements somewhat vary based on where you plan to start your business, most states have a similar list of applications to submit. A food service license is one of them. Here, we have got you covered about it. 

What are food service licenses? 

A food service license is one of the restaurant permits required to acquire if the business serves food on-site. It shows that your eatery meets restaurant food safety regulations and has been granted a license to serve food. 

The local health department will pay an in-person visit to your establishment. This is for ensuring you are observing all food preparation, storage, and safety guidelines.

Once you gain this restaurant license, the health department shall also make regular visits to inspect your eatery. So ensure you keep pace with inspection standards. Should you fail an inspection at any time, chances are that you will be stripped of the food service.

Based on your state and establishment, this license can have another name. For example, as food trucks feature no seating, the license may be referred to as a food vendor’s license.

Food service license cost

The food service license cost can be from $100 to $1,000. The fee varies depending on your restaurant's location, the number of seats within the establishment, and the number of staff. You are recommended to check with your local health department.

How to obtain a food service license: The application process

1. Understand the laws applicable to your food service establishment

The location shall impact the requirements you will comply with for a food service license application. There are levels of the local government's guidelines to consider: 

- National laws. Account for food and drug processing laws at a federal level enforced by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

- More local laws. Start by checking out the food vendor's application requirements for your state with the FDA.

After having found and completed the needed requirements, move on to the application process.

Note: Should you be a mobile food vendor (e.g., food truck), review the location guidelines you are going to offer service. 

2. Complete the food vendor's license application

Here are routine steps that may follow:

Get the application

You can find the application on your local area’s website. If you have difficulty finding it, just contact the local government for information on where to access the form. 

Fill out the form

Be prepared to provide information about your business structure and facilities. These may include the restaurant name, owner’s personal information, and permanent kitchen facility address (even if you are registering a food truck).

Pay the application fee

Have you finished the form? Then, pay the fee before you submit it.

Await application approval

Once the application is submitted, wait for review and approval. Some cities give out a limited number of licenses at a time to avoid overcrowding and ensure the local government can handle them as well as possible. If so, do not get surprised that you are added to a waitlist.

Pay permit fees

Upon the food service license approval, you shall pay the permit fees before actually getting the proper licensing. Usually, these restaurant licenses and permits are good for a year.


- You can get this license application from the local health department, either in person or online. 

- Choose to apply for a fixed, temporary, or mobile food service license. 

- Based on your county, you may need to obtain a food handler’s permit or complete a food safety training program to gain the license. 

3. Pass the health inspection from the local health department

Practically any food service license requires a regular health inspection to ensure they are following the health and safety codes. It will include checking restroom facilities, temperatures, food storage locations, whether you have proper sanitation practices, etc. For further information by state, you can read here

Often, there is a fee for the inspection - the licensing fee does not include it. You will have an obligation to pay this fee either when you request an inspection or schedule your appointment.


- In case your eatery fails to pass the inspection, repeat the process. 

- If pass it, you are ready to get the food service license and shift your focus to other restaurant licenses and permits.

Food service license renewal application requirements

Subject to where your eatery is located, your license may expire automatically. So, remember to renew them. The renewal fee is generally lower than the 1st time fee. 

Generally, you must fill out a new application form for:

- Change of ownership

- New establishments

- Change of license type

- Change in your establishment’s physical location

What you should attend to before your restaurant’s grand opening

- Find a point of sale (POS) that should support the current and future needs of your business. Consider its features and capabilities, aside from customer support.

- Hire the right people for the right roles. Make sure that you define skills and personality traits for each position you fill. 

- Build your employee manual to give staff a detailed overview of your restaurant’s specific policies along with other main procedures, guidelines, and staff benefits.

Related questions

1. What other restaurant licenses and permits do I need to get?

Here are licenses and permits that most food service establishments need to avoid any unnecessary penalties in the future:

- Business license

- Employer identification number/Tax ID number

- Employee health permit

- Building health permit

- Valet parking permit

- Food handler's permit

- Dumpster placement permit

- Liquor license/ Wine license

- Music license and live entertainment license

- Health permit

- Official sign permit

- Resale permit

- Sales tax permit/Seller's permit

2. What does One2 bring to the table for my new food business?

A cost-effective technology solution, One2 helps you with:

- Simplified menu management

- Online ordering & fulfillment

- Loyalty & rewards programs

- Menu integration into your current website

- Improved SEO (search engine optimization)

- The best payments experience online

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