Georgia does not require that caterers hold a license specifically designated for catering operations. To legally operate as a caterer in the state you must make sure that you have completed the necessary paperwork and paid the relevant fees for each separate aspect of your business subject to state and county licensing requirements. You must obtain a Georgia business license and also meet requirements specific to retail food service businesses. If you will be serving alcohol you will need to pay additional fees and submit further paperwork.
Register with the Georgia Department of Revenue. This registration carries with it the obligation to collect sales tax and periodically send it to the department. Obtain a business license from city or county authorities. Requirements vary throughout the state, so contact your local licensing agency and ask them about requirements for operating as a catering business in your area.
Contact the Georgia Department of Human Resources, which licenses commercial food service operations. If you set up your own facility, you will need to work closely with health department officials to ensure that your construction plans and equipment list comply with their codes. Once your kitchen is ready to run, the department will schedule a pre-operational inspection to make sure that your kitchen meets their requirements.
To continue holding the food service permit that entitles you to operate as a caterer in Georgia, you will be subject to regular inspections by the health department. The frequency of these inspections depends on the relative risks and hazards associated with the type of cooking that you do. Operations that cook and hold foods on site receive semiannual inspections, and establishments that simply reheat commercially purchased ingredients are inspected once a year. Critical violations must be corrected immediately.
The Georgia Health Department requires that you have at least one person on staff who has completed a food safety training program approved by the department, and passed a test demonstrating their knowledge of food safety. Accredited programs are available in a classroom format as well as online. This individual must renew their food safety certification according to the requirements of the particular program they have completed.
Obtain local, state and federal alcohol licenses. If you handle alcohol as an occasional part of your catering business, you can obtain a one day or special event alcohol beverage permit, which covers alcohol service at specific catered events. You will also need to complete an Alcohol Beverage Catering Quantity and Destination Report for each event, which provides the Georgia Revenue Department with the information they need to properly tax your sales of alcohol.
Devra Gartenstein founded her first food business in 1987. In 2013 she transformed her most recent venture, a farmers market concession and catering company, into a worker-owned cooperative. She does one-on-one mentoring and consulting focused on entrepreneurship and practical business skills.