Many home cooks dream of opening their own restaurant, but are not ready to deal with all of the legal requirements involved in running a commercial kitchen. If you are thinking of going into the restaurant business, make sure you understand all of the local and federal laws relating to kitchens and kitchen equipment. Unless you are taking over an existing building that has already been used as a commercial kitchen, you might have to budget extra startup funds for upgrading or retrofitting the appliances, ventilation and electrical wiring.
Federal OSHA Requirements for Kitchens
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulates workplaces to keep employees and customers safe. Because of the unique hazards in the restaurant industry, OSHA's guidelines cover vital areas such as food storage, safe lifting procedures and installing blade guards on machines. Workers under age 18 are subject to additional restrictions on the types of jobs they are permitted to perform in a restaurant. For example, minors are not permitted to use power-driven food processing tools such as mixers, grinders and meat slicers.
Applying for Licenses and Paying Taxes
Because you are working with food, public safety is a major concern in commercial kitchens. You must register your company with and obtain a license from the state Department of Public Health. You will receive a certificate that must be displayed in a prominent place in your kitchen. You must also request a tax identification number from the Internal Revenue Service. You can apply by mail, online or by phone. Most states require commercial kitchens to apply for a sales tax license and file periodic tax returns. All commercial kitchens must register with the state and apply for a business license from their local municipality. This requirement applies even if you run the kitchen from your personal residence instead of a commercial building.
Follow Your Local Building Codes
Commercial kitchens are also required to meet local building codes. A Type 1 hood must be installed anywhere you will be using ovens, ranges, smokers, fryers, boilers or any other appliance that produces grease or smoke. Your local building department may also set certain specifications related to parking, disabled access, fire exits and maximum occupancy.
Be Ready for Periodic Inspections
OSHA and your local department of health have the authority to inspect your facility without giving you any advance notice. Inspections typically cover cooking surfaces, food preparation areas, storage rooms, refrigerators, freezers and cooking equipment. Your kitchen will be expected to meet requirements governing cleanliness and sanitation. You might also be required to submit to inspections from the local Fire Marshal to make sure your kitchen does not create a fire hazard. You must have fire extinguishers and a working fire sprinkler system on the premises at all times.