Texas requires that all establishments which handle food, utensils and food service obtain a food handler’s license prior to operating a food business. Texas classifies catering businesses as food establishments; similarly to restaurants, catering businesses must obtain licenses and permits to mitigate the potential health risks to the public. Operating your catering business without a permit is illegal and punishable by law. According to the city of Houston's Department of Health and Human Services Catering Tips, some cities may require multiple licenses or permits, contingent on the type of food service your business provides.
Enroll in an on-site food handler’s class provided by the Texas Department of State Health Services. According to the city of Arlington’s Environmental Health Department, a registered food service manager can teach the course material to you and your staff at your home or catering facility. The course covers topics such as how to keep hot and cold foods at required temperatures, and how to transport food to prevent cross-contamination. At the end of the course, each staff member must pass a 21-question exam to receive a food handler’s permit. As of June 2011, the fee for the food handler’s permit is $16 in Arlington, but fees may vary depending on the city. The food handler’s license is valid for two years.
Obtain a certified food protection manger (CFPM) permit for at least one staff member in your business. Effective June 1, 2000, the Texas Department of Health requires that all food establishments have at least one CFPM responsible for supervising how your staff prepares food and serves it to the public. The selected crew member must complete a special CFPM training program administered or approved by the Texas Department of Health, and he must present his permit to any health inspector or consumer upon request.
Apply for an alcoholic beverages permit with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission if you intend to include alcoholic beverages in your services. Texas' alcoholic beverage code states that this temporary license be used for no longer than 10 days, and you must use each permit for one function. You must include the location, date and time and a brief description of the function to be catered before obtaining a caterer's permit to serve alcohol. As of June 2011, the fee for the caterer's permit is $500.
Schedule an inspection with your local health department to ensure your cooking facility complies with the rules set forth by the state and your local health department. A health inspector will visit your home or your cooking facility to ensure that your establishment allows for proper hand washing, separate areas for handling cooked food and raw food products, and proper methods for keeping food at recommended temperatures, according to the city of Houston's Department of Health and Human Services. Some cities do not require health inspections for in-home catering businesses, so check with your local health department for details.