Starting a food business
This section gives you all the advice you need to start a food business.
Contact your local authority
Before opening, get in touch with your local authority. They will be able to help you:
- register your food business
- to plan your business
- organise waste and recycling collection
- get appropriate training and tools
Register your business
You must register your premises with the environmental health service at your local authority at least 28 days before opening – registration is free.
Registration applies to most types of food business, including catering businesses run from home and mobile or temporary premises, such as stalls and vans.
If you have more than one premises, you will need to register all of them.
To register download an application form from your local authority websites or use the model application form been produced by the Agency (at the link below).
Checklist for starting up
- Have you registered your premises?
- Do the design and construction of your premises meet legal requirement?
- Are you aware of the main General Food Law Requirements?
- Do you keep written records of all the suppliers that provide you with food or any food ingredients?
- Have you put food safety management procedures in place and are you keeping up-to-date records of these?
- Do you and your staff understand the principles of good food hygiene?
- Have you considered health and safety and fire safety arrangements?
- Have you registered as self-employed?
- Do you need to register for VAT?
- Are you keeping records of all your business income and expenses?
- Are you keeping records of your employees’ pay and do you know how to pay their tax and National Insurance contributions?
- Do you describe food and drink accurately?
- Do you need to apply for a licence to sell alcohol, for entertainment, for selling hot food and drink late at night, or selling food on the street?
Good food hygiene is essential to help prevent food poisoning and protect your reputation with customers. The Agency provides resources to help food businesses produce safe food, including:
- Starting Up: Your first steps to running a catering business
- Safer food, better business (SFBB) is a practical approach to food safety management
- Food hygiene a guide for businesses
More resources can be found in the Catering and retail section.
More in this section
Food safety is very important to childcarers, such as childminders, because children are a vulnerable group, which means they can be more seriously affected by food poisoning than adults.
The Agency has produced guidance for food businesses on selling food for delivery (distance selling).
If you run a business that makes or prepares food, it will be inspected to make sure you are following food law. The inspectors will be enforcement officers from your local authority (or district council in Northern Ireland). Find out what inspections might involve and the action that inspectors can take if they find a problem in your business.
Safer food, better business (SFBB) is an innovative and practical approach to food safety management. It helps small businesses with food safety management procedures and food hygiene regulations.