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Public Health - Seattle & King County

Catering and home-based food establishments

Catering and home-based food businesses need a food service permit to prepare and serve food to private parties and events.

Note: If you are renewing an existing food business permit (with no changes to ownership, facility, or menu,) you may do so using our online services portal. When changing ownership of an existing catering operation, the new owner must apply for a permit to operate.

Plan Review process Step 1 Food Service Plan Guide
Checklists covering every area of your business
  • Attention City of Seattle Plan Review applicants:

    Beginning May 16, 2011, all City of Seattle food plan review submittals MUST be submitted directly to the Health Department. City of Seattle applicants must submit Two (2) sets of plans — Required for City of Seattle and King County projects. Please check with your local building department for the number of approved Health Department plans required for their building department submittal for special projects.
    • Cover sheet (See Step 2 below)
    • Plan review application (Step 2)
    • Appropriate plan review application fee

Please refer to the Permanent/Catering Plan Review Plan Review above for all other requirements to ensure that plans are complete before submitting to the Health Department.

  • Use of Commissary / Shared Kitchen Agreement
    It is required that the operation of a catering business be based from an approved commissary kitchen or servicing area. (Be advised that commissary kitchen use outside of King County will not be allowed.) The commissary is an essential part of a caterer’s operation and must have facilities for supply storage, equipment cleaning, food preparation and other servicing activities.

  • No food service can be approved in a home kitchen, unless there are two separate kitchens.
    A commercial kitchen must be totally separate from the kitchen used by the people who live there. An approved kitchen in a home would have to meet all of the requirements for any commercial food service. These requirements are detailed in the Food Service Plan Guide.

    As an alternative to constructing your own kitchen, the catering business could be operated out of an already approved kitchen. All food preparation would take place in the approved food service. Restaurant kitchens that are not open all the time or that have extra work space could possibly be utilized. Some church, school or community center kitchens may also be acceptable. The "shared" kitchen situations are evaluated on an individual basis.
Plan Review process Step 2 Plan Review Application
Submit an application for a Plans Examiner to review the proposed plan for your business

Once you complete your final plans of how your establishment will be set up for business according to the Plan Guides in Step 1, you will need to submit them for review along with the Plan Review Application.

Plan Review process Step 3 Food Service Permit Application
After your business plan has been approved by a Plans Examiner in Step 2, the final step is to apply for a food service business permit
Food and beverage handler permits
  • Food Handler Card
    All employees of a catering and home-based food establishment are required to obtain a Washington State Food Handler Card. You can take the class and test conveniently online or go to any of our in-person classes.
Additional resources
  • List of important agency contacts
    You may need to contact several local agencies to find out what you need to do to complete your Food Business Plan including the Fire Department, Building Department, business licensing, liquor permits, sewage hookups, etc. Most agencies have an information specialist who can answer your specific questions. Which agencies you need to contact will depend on your particular business.

  • King County Board of Health (BOH) food codes
    If you wish to reference the detailed Food Codes for King County, click on the link above and view BOH Titles 5, R5, 6 and R6 as they pertain to food service establishments.

  • Washington State Retail Food Code

  • Request for variance from the food code

  • Risk-based inspection program
    Description of the three different risk type categories that can be assigned to a food service establishment.

  • Risk levels and permit classifications
    Permits are now based on risk levels determined by type of food and preparation steps. This information will assist you in determining what food permit to apply for and obtain. The more complex the menu and preparation of foods, the higher the risk level, which in turn relates to more frequent inspection of your establishment.
Plans Examiners

Questions about Food Service Plans ONLY, (Plans Examiners cannot respond to questions about Temporary Event Permits or Farmers Markets.) Contact the Plans Examiner serving the area of King County where your mobile food establishment is located as noted below.

For businesses located within the cities of Burien, Seattle, Mercer Island, Shoreline, Vashon Island, and Unincorporated King County (Skyway and White Center only):

  • Sid Forman: 206-263-8531 or 206-263-9566
  • Pat Murphy: 206-263-8484 or 206-263-9566

For businesses located elsewhere in King County (cities not listed above) and in unincorporated King County:

  • Mike Bratcher: 206-296-9741
  • Diane Agasid: 206-296-9750