People wishing to start a restaurant in Florida must obtain a general business license from the Division of Corporations, a subdivision of the state of Florida. Although this license is the only required license to become a registered business entity, a food service license from the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation is needed before a restaurant opens. Additional considerations, such as hiring employees, selling alcohol and liquor and preparing food in a safe manner, must also be addressed.
The U.S. Small Business Administration states that all business owners who conduct business in Florida must register their business names with the Division of Corporations. The registration is completed by entering required business information into the online fictitious name registration portal. This must be done whether the restaurant is operated as a sole proprietorship, a partnership or a corporation.
The IRS issues an employer identification number, or EIN, to businesses that operates in Florida with employees, such as a restaurant. The EIN is a substitute for a social security number, which is the identification usually used by one-person businesses or sole proprietors. Restaurants in Florida must fill out an application on the IRS website to get a EIN. Although it is not considered a license for operation, it is required to file restaurant income tax and to hire employees for the restaurant.
All restaurant owners must obtain a food service license from the Florida Division of Hotels and Restaurants, which is a division of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. This must be done before the facility opens, according to Florida law. A facility plan and property specifications must be submitted to the division if it is newly constructed, reopening after a year of closure, converted from other use or remodeled. In addition, a public food service license application package must be completed and submitted to the division. An application fee of $50 must be paid in addition to the licensing fees, which differ according to county and restaurant features, such as seating and catering services. A sanitation test is conducted after the plan is approved by the division. Additional health inspections are conducted periodically to ensure the safety of restaurant visitors as a part of license renewal.
Having a restaurant business license does not permit sales of alcohol or liquor on the restaurant premises. An alcohol license is required to sell beer and wine on a consumption-on-premise basis, which means that alcohol cannot be sold to leave the premises for private consumption or further sale. Selling liquor requires an additional license that allows the restaurant to sell liquor in specific servings or amounts. These licenses are obtained through the Florida Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco.
Florida does not require business owners to obtain additional licenses to hire staff for the restaurant in question. However, restaurant owners are responsible for hiring individuals that have been authorized to work in the United States. Restaurant owners must complete an I-9 form for each hired individual to protect the restaurant against illegal workers and aliens. The I-9 filing is free and is submitted to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which is a subdivision of the Department of Homeland Security.
Owners must avoid signing any leasing agreements before the restaurant property has been approved by the zoning, building and construction departments in the given county. Regulations in a county or municipality may prohibit food service facilities in certain areas. Restaurant owners must follow health procedures outlined by the Florida Division of Hotels and Restaurants to ensure the food is prepared in a healthy and safe manner. Although it is not a legal requirement for employees to wear gloves when handling food, it is expected that all employees follow food service procedures when preparing meats, vegetables and poultry. A certified food manager certificate proves your knowledge of food safety and preparation in the kitchen.