What Permits Do I Need to Start a Restaurant Business?

by Mary Jane; Updated September 26, 2017

Starting a restaurant business requires legal permits and licenses. These are needed to operate legally in any given state in the United States. Restaurant owners must apply for these permits during the business registration at the Secretary of State’s office or Department of Revenue. The permit application can differ for each state, so do some research for your given state before starting the process.

Restaurant Registration

Restaurant owners must register the restaurant business with the state where it is located and operating. Depending on the given state, the registration can occur either with the Secretary of State’s office or with the Department of Revenue. During the restaurant registration, the owner must also get a food service establishment permit that allows the health department to inspect the property. A liquor license is distributed by the state, so the business owner must also apply for a liquor license if the restaurant will serve alcohol.

Restaurant Permits

Restaurant owners must apply for additional permits for the actual restaurant and its location. For example, the restaurant owner must apply for a building permit if she wants to make changes to the property. A signage permit allows the owner to market the restaurant by using signs around the city and local premises. The alarm permit protects the restaurant from burglars and fires, as the county police and fire department are notified if these occur.

Employee Permits

Restaurant owners who wish to hire employees must use the proper forms to apply for employee permits. These forms include the W-4 form for federal income tax for employees, the W-2 form for tax statements and federal employee wages and the I-9 form, which is the employee eligibility verification form. The I-9 form must be completed by each individual hired to work at the restaurant.

Additional Forms and Considerations

Additional considerations must be made if the restaurant owner hires waiters, waitresses and cooks. These considerations include disability insurance for workers, unemployment insurance tax in case the restaurant has slower periods and worker’s compensation applications in case an employee is hurt on the job.

About the Author

Based in Toronto, Mary Jane has been writing for online magazines and databases since 2002. Her articles have appeared on the Simon & Schuster website and she received an editor's choice award in 2009. She holds a Master of Arts in psychology of language use from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.