Catering Establishment License

Can an applicant with a fully equipped kitchen use outside professional food caterers to prepare and deliver the food ready to serve at catered functions on its premises?

Yes; it is not necessary that the food served at any function, occasion or event held on a licensed catering premises be cooked or prepared on the premises, provided that the premises has suitable and adequate facilities for the service of such food and that all monies and charged for event be paid to the licensed catering establishment. (Divisional Order # 672, June 24, 1974). It is the presence of the food preparation (kitchen) facilities that is crucial, not their actual use in the delivery of services by the catering establishment to its customers.

Thus, many on-premises licensees contract with a nearby food establishment to prepare the food and deliver it to the licensee who pays for it and then resells it at retail to customers. Taverns often do this rather than hire a full time chef, stock perishable food, and construct an extensive kitchen facility.

What constitutes “suitable and adequate facilities” for a catering establishment is somewhat ambiguous, but a food preparation area generally should have facilities to refrigerate and heat foods. In our experience, a refrigerator and some microwaves will probably suffice. Since a catering establishment must be able to serve more than 50 patrons, a single microwave will most likely be insufficient.

The SLA will most likely require that there be a written contract outlining the details of the arrangement between the caterer and the food preparer. The will look to see that food is ordered in advance, not “on demand” and that the food is being purchased at “wholesale” and resold to customers “at retail.”

Another issue that will play a role is whether the serving containers and dishware will be disposable. If dishwashing is required, the health department will look for multiple sinks and commercial dishwashing equipment.

If you are opening a new catering business, be sure to understand the necessary requirements for your licenses before you sign on the dotted line. Some rules and requirements can be waived, but other cannot. The costs to make some required changes could be thousands, or even tens of thousands of dollars. Do your homework and have appropriate contingencies in your contacts. If you are changing your current business’ method of operation, you will need to amend your application with the SLA. An experienced liquor license attorney can help you make the necessary changes to be in compliance.