Skip to main content

What is a catering or home-based food business?

Catering provides food service at a remote site, such as a hotel, office, or event venue. King County requires that a catering business operate from an approved commissary kitchen. The commissary is an important part of a caterer's operation. It must have dedicated areas for supply storage, equipment cleaning, and food preparation.

Many catering operations lease space at an existing approved commercial kitchen facility. Examples of facilities that you can use are:

  • Rental kitchens
  • Existing restaurant kitchens with time and space available
  • Churches
  • Schools
  • Community kitchens

Restaurants and other permitted food businesses don't need a separate permit for catering. But, the catering activities must take place in the existing permitted kitchen.

To construct your own catering kitchen, see Permanent food service business permit.

How do I get a new food catering business permit?

  • Make an agreement with the owner of the shared kitchen

    Print and complete a commissary agreement form, and include it with your application in the next step. The owner of the facility must sign it.

    Download the Use of Commissary/Shared Kitchen Agreement (431 KB).

    We encourage you to reach out to the Plan Reviewer at for more information:

  • Apply for your food catering permit

    This is the permit that allows you to operate and open your catering business to the public.

    • You may pay for both the Field plan review and your permit on the same form.
    • Submit the following items to the Health Department:
      • Catering permit application and payments (permit and Field plan review fees)
      • Use of Commissary/Shared Agreement
      • Commissary kitchen equipment floor plan
      • A copy of your menu
    • This application can only be mailed in, not submitted online. Please complete the Application for permanent food establishment (377 KB) and mail it in with payment. Make checks payable to SKCDPH.

      Mail to:

      Public Health – Seattle & King County

      Environmental Health

      401 5th Avenue, Suite 1100

      Seattle, WA 98104 

  • Request a Field Plan Review Inspection

    A Field plan review and fee payment are required. Call 206-263-9566 for the Downtown office or 206-477-8050 for the Eastgate office. You can also mail all required documents to either office. Currently, any permit application associated with a Field plan review must be submitted by mail or delivered in-person.

    We require a Field plan review to make sure that the kitchen facility will meet your food and equipment needs. Your inspector will ask:

    • What types of foods you will be preparing.
    • How you will make and store them.
    • About the equipment that you will be using.

    All equipment must meet the standards of the Washington State Retail Food Code.

    The fee for a Field plan review is $459.60 (2-hour base fee) + $229.80 per hour after 2 hours.

How to renew an existing food catering business permit

If you are renewing an existing catering food business permit (with no changes to ownership, facility, or menu) you can use the online services portal

Can I use my home kitchen as a catering kitchen?

You cannot use a home kitchen for food service unless there are 2 separate kitchens. A commercial kitchen must be separate from the kitchen used by the people who live there. An approved home kitchen would have to meet all the requirements for any commercial food service. You can find these requirements in the Food Service Plan Guide (970 KB).

Private chefs do not need to get a food service permit if:

  • You do all food preparation at the client's residence for private events.
  • You do not store or prepare any food ahead of the event.

If you are unsure if your food catering service needs a permit, contact us at 206-263-9566.

Employee requirements

  • Food Worker Card
    All employees of a food business must get a Washington State Food Worker Card. You can take the class and test online or go to any of our in-person classes.
  • MAST / alcohol server permits, Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board
    Anyone who serves, mixes, sells, or supervises the sale of alcohol at a business with a liquor license must take the Mandatory Alcohol Server Training (MAST).


Contact us

We recommend you contact a Plans Examiner to discuss this process: 206-263-9566 or 206-477-8050.