Skip to main content
King County logo

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

It is required that a catering business be operated from an approved commissary kitchen. The commissary is an essential part of a caterer's operation and must have facilities for supply storage, equipment cleaning, food preparation and other food service-related activities. Many catering operations lease space at an existing approved commercial kitchen facility rather than constructing a facility of their own. Some examples of facilities that may be utilized: rental kitchens, existing restaurant kitchens with time and space available; church, school or community kitchens. The "shared" kitchen situations are evaluated on an individual basis. Restaurants and other permitted food establishments do not need a separate permit for catering activities, as long as the catering activities are done from the existing permitted kitchen.

Steps to obtain a food catering business permit

  1. Make an agreement with the owner of the shared kitchen. Complete the Use of Commissary/Shared Kitchen Agreement and have the owner of the facility sign it.

  2. Apply for your Food Catering Permit. This is the permit that allows you to operate and open for catering business to the public.
    1. Include a copy of your menu
    2. You may pay for both the Field Plan Review and your permit on the same form. Application for permanent food establishment.
    3. Submit the following items to the Health Department:
      • Catering permit application with payments (permit and field plan review fees)
      • Use of Commissary/Shared Agreement
      • Menu

  3. Request a Field Plan Review by calling 206-263-9566 for the Downtown Office or 206-477-8050 for the Eastgate office. A Field Plan Review is required to ensure that your processes and equipment needs are compatible with the kitchen facility. Your inspector will ask what types of foods you will be preparing, how you will make them, and about the equipment that you will be using. The fee for a Field Plan Review is $459.60.

If you wish to construct your own catering kitchen, please see Permanent food establishment. 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.

Frequently asked questions

See "Steps to obtain a catering permit"section above.

See "Steps to obtain a catering permit"section above.

Completed catering permit applications and payments, use of commissary/shared kitchen agreement and menu may be mailed to either of our offices (addresses below). See "How to get a new food business permit" on the Permanent food service business permit page for complete details.

Downtown Seattle:

Environmental Health Services
401 5th Ave, Suite 1100
Seattle, WA 98104

Phone: 206-263-9566 (answered until 3:00 pm)


  • Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 8:00 am to 3:00 pm
  • Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10:30 am to 3:00 pm


Environmental Health Services
14350 SE Eastgate Way
Bellevue, WA 98007

Phone: 206-477-8050 (answered until 3:00 pm)


  • Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 8:00 am to 3:00 pm
  • Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10:30 am to 3:00 pm

A field plan review is the process in which the Health Department determines the suitability of the commissary kitchen for the permit approval process. Refrigeration, sinks, layout, and all equipment must meet the standards of the Washington State Retail Food Code.

The field plan review is usually conducted by the investigator assigned to the facility, but occasionally may be completed by senior inspectors or other staff as needed.

Food service cannot 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.

Private chefs that do all food preparation at the client's residence for private events and that do not store or prepare any food ahead of the event do not need to obtain a food service permit. If you are unsure if what you want to do needs a permit, please contact us at 206-263-9566.