Creating a catering business offers an excellent way for cooks to build a clientele if they don’t have the capital to open a restaurant. In order to operate a catering business in Iowa, the owner of the business must submit an application for licensure at least 30 days prior to opening the business. In terms of licensure, catering businesses are classified as a food service establishment (prepares and sells food for human consumption off site). The Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals bases the license fee on the annual gross sales.

Things You Will Need
  • Food preparation area plans

  • Approved food preparation area

  • Application form

  • Licensing fee

  • Iowa Food Code information

  • Successful premises inspection

Submit plans for the food preparation area to the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals (Food and Consumer Safety Bureau) prior to construction for approval. Construction cannot begin until the department has approved the plans.

Construct or modify the food preparation area so that it meets the state's standards. Catering businesses that operate out of the owner’s family residence are required to have a food preparation area separate from the family kitchen. The surfaces should be easily cleanable and all of the necessary and approved equipment need to be in place.

Contact the Inspections Department for the proper application forms. This must be done at least 30 days prior to the opening of the catering business so the department has time to inspect and approve the application. Fill out the form in its entirety, being completely truthful and honest.

Submit the application for approval. Along with the application forms, the business owner must also submit the required fee, which ranges from approximately $30 to $225 depending on the annual gross sales. The Inspections and Appeals Department will furnish the catering business owner with a copy of the Iowa Food Code when the application forms are submitted.

Study and learn all applicable Iowa Food Code regulations that pertain to food service establishments. At the time of inspection, the operators of the business must be able to show a knowledgeable understanding of the Iowa Food Code as a part of the licensure requirements.

Arrange an appointment with a local inspector. The inspector will ensure that the facility meets all Iowa codes for food preparation and pass his findings onto the department.

Receive a food service establishment (catering) license from the state. Once received, this license must be renewed on an annual basis. With each renewal, the fees required will be based on the gross sales earned the previous year.


Periodic inspections are required during the time that the license is valid.