Checklist for Opening a Restaurant in California

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Opening an eatery in California requires registration and licensing as a business. Research must be completed to determine the county and local laws that apply to your specific type of restaurant. In addition to the traditional business concerns of location, restaurant design and food offerings, food handling at retail establishments requires meeting specific California health and safety standards. Some California cities, including Los Angeles, have so many requirements, restaurants typically require six months or more to open from the time of the first application request.

Menu & Food Offerings

A basic plan for retail food service includes establishing accounts with food vendors and suppliers for dinnerware, glasses and paper goods, such as napkins and take-out food containers. Menu offerings may require a special license, as in the case of alcohol. The California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control must approve a liquor license application.

Restaurant Decor & Design

The kitchen, service preparation areas and interior and exterior customer dining areas all require furnishings and equipment. Stoves, refrigerators and special small appliances must be ordered and delivered for staff training and certification by county officials, as well as the local health and fire departments, prior to the opening. Automated food ordering and checkout equipment must also be ordered and in place for staff training and official inspection before the eatery's opening.

State, County & Business Licenses, Certifications & Tax Laws

Retail food sales must follow the guidelines of the California Retail Food Safety Act, which requires the restaurant to undergo a Food Safety Certification by county officials. For instance, Santa Barbara County mandates completion of Health Permit Application 2016-1a evaluating the structure, design, equipment, zoning and building codes under the initial review. Owners must allow time for this process, since evaluation may take up to 20 days for approval. Prior to opening, the restaurant requires an additional inspection. The health department must also conduct an inspection of the washing facilities, lighting, ventilation, food storage and solid waste storage, as well as food handling areas, refrigeration equipment and restrooms.

Restaurants must also open business savings and checking accounts, obtain a business tax identification number and register for a state, county or local business license to operate the restaurant. Property, guest medical, advertising damages, product, operation and liquor-host insurance coverage must also be purchased to protect you, your restaurant and operations.

Hiring & Training Employees

Hiring employees involves recruiting, advertising and training employees. Restaurateurs must decide the type of chef and serving staff that best meet the restaurant's needs. A host or hostess, cashier and clean up staff may also be required to operate the eatery. Basic dishwashing, custodial and food preparation staff also need to be hired. Advertisements must meet state employment requirements and hiring practices must be nondiscriminatory, according to California state laws.

Under California law SB 602, all food employees must possess a California Good Handler Card. This card demonstrates the person understands basic food safety practices to avoid food-borne illnesses. Employees must be trained to meet additional restaurant standards and supplied with legal paperwork for employment, including state and federal tax forms, state disability and any health insurance options the restaurant might offer.

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About the Author

Lee Grayson has worked as a freelance writer since 2000. Her articles have appeared in publications for Oxford and Harvard University presses and research publishers, including Facts On File and ABC-CLIO. Grayson holds certificates from the University of California campuses at Irvine and San Diego.

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