Ghost kitchens are home-based restaurants that cook and serve home-cooked meals to customers. You can practically start these kitchens in your home, apartment, or commercial building. Home cooks who don’t want the responsibility of running their restaurant choose this route. It is also a good option for customers with dietary restrictions because it allows them to eat food they cannot find elsewhere. In a similar vein, home cooks can touch on an undersaturated niche. The following article will provide all the information you need before starting your ghost kitchen, including which permits to get for your operations.
What You Need Before You Start
First and foremost, you’ll need to treat your kitchen like a commercial kitchen. That means you’ll have to follow the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) principles in handling and storing cooked food and ingredients. By following this guideline, you can ensure you’ll be serving quality meals.
One bright side to ghost kitchens is that you won’t have to pay rent or lease a building for your ghost kitchen. Since you’re strictly a delivery-only business, you can invest the money you will have spent on a physical restaurant in a digital marketing campaign, start a website, and optimize your website for search engines. That way, when people search for “home-cooked food near me” on their search engines, they’ll find you on the top results.
After you’ve got your kitchen and marketing covered, the next you need to take is to get the necessary permits to operate your business.
Food Handler’s Permit
If you cook food for other people, you will need a food handler’s permit. You can get this from your local health department. When you apply, make sure to bring the following: a list of all home addresses where you’ll be cooking and serving food, your home base address, any home-based restaurant licenses you have, and your home license if applicable. The permit is accessible for home cooks without home-based restaurants. You’ll need to pay a fee of $45 per year on average, depending on your state.
Again, handling food means following the same safety standards as commercial kitchens. This means keeping the area clean and the cooking area separate from your home’s living space. You also need to make sure you have a refrigerator and a sink with hot and cold running water inside your home. You can store cleaning equipment elsewhere as long as it’s accessible when needed.
You’ll also need to get a home license from the local health department if you cook food for sale or distribution. This permit includes home-based restaurants, home parties, and home deliveries. You’ll need to supply the home address where you cook and distribute food.
You can’t put anything up for sale in your home without a health permit. The process is simple: fill out an application and pay $40 per year (again, depending on your state). Your home must be your primary residence. If you have multiple locations, create a home base for your home kitchen. This way, you can get health permits for different home-based food businesses rather than having one permit for all home-based operations.
You’ll also need an alcohol permit if your ghost kitchen offers alcoholic beverages on top of food. Just like with the health permit, ghost kitchens must have the home address as their primary business. You also need a food permit from your local health department to get an alcohol permit. Keep in mind that you cannot sell alcoholic beverages without a liquor license, and this is not something you can do underground.
Sales Tax Licenses
Additionally, expect to pay sales tax on your home business. You can get a sales tax license from your state’s department of taxation and revenue. It is free for home kitchens, so you don’t have to pay anything. Sales tax licenses are essential because you’ll be responsible for collecting and paying taxes on meals. Collecting your revenue is easier when you use a point-of-sale system like Square or PayPal.
Even home kitchens need business licenses to sell food, especially if they’re within city limits. City officials might also require you to get a home occupation permit. Contact your local health department and ask if you need a home occupation permit if you’re unsure.
Business licenses are usually free for home cooks, so getting one won’t cost you anything. You can get it from your state’s Secretary of State or Department of Corporations division. You’ll need to fill out an application and submit it. You can do this online or in person if you prefer. You might need home business insurance as well. Once your ghost kitchen is up and running, be sure to file your taxes on time.
Following these procedures will make it easier for you to start a home-based ghost kitchen. With the proper home licenses and permits, you can open a delivery-only restaurant in your home without any problems.