INFORMATIONAL BULLETIN NO. 30-06-DES 

DISTRICT ENVIRONMENTAL SERVICES DIVISION 

CATERING GUIDELINES

WHAT IS A CATERING BUSINESS?

A catering business provides food for private events such as picnics, wedding receptions, and parties at a location other than a permitted restaurant.  A catering business may not be run from a private residence.  It may only operate through an approved food facility.

WHAT KIND OF PERMITS OR LICENSES DO I NEED?

Existing Health Permit Holder

If you already own and operate a restaurant or other type of food facility approved for food preparation, you may expand your operation to include catering with no additional fees or permit requirements.  However, it is necessary to review and discuss the operational aspects of your catering business such as equipment you intend to use, procedures for transportation, set up, and serving with your Environmental Health Specialist (EHS) to ensure food safety standards are maintained.

Health Permit

If you do not have a restaurant or other similar food facility under permit with this Department then you will need to get a catering permit.  The following steps will apply to you:

   1. Make an Appointment

Call for an appointment with an EHS.  It’s important to make an appointment because they may not be in the office and available to help when you come in.  Once you make an appointment you can then sit down with an EHS to discuss the type of operation(s) you want to run.  The EHS can advise you on sanitation requirements that will be necessary to gain compliance. 

   2. Catering Kitchen Agreement Letter

You will need to bring a catering kitchen agreement letter (attached) with you when you meet with the EHS.  A catering agreement letter establishes an arrangement between you and an approved food establishment stating that you (the caterer) have access to the kitchen and storage areas to prepare and store your food and utensils.  Again, food operations out of a private residence are not allowed so operation out of an approved food facility is the only way you will gain approval.  In addition to the catering kitchen agreement letter, a copy of the menu(s) and number of transport vehicles that will be used for the catering operation must be provided.  

3. Set up an Onsite Inspection

During the initial appointment, the EHS will arrange to meet with you at the proposed catering kitchen.  At this time, the EHS will ensure that adequate space for utensils, equipment, food, and food preparation is available for your catering business.  Make sure the sublet space is clearly marked for your business use and food, equipment and other aspects of the business are easily identifiable.

   3. Permit

   Once you’ve met with an EHS and your catering kitchen agreement letter is approved, you may fill out an application and submit the fees for your Environmental Health    permit.  The fee is renewed annually.  Catering permits expire June 30th each year and must be renewed on July 1st every year.   Be sure to check with the cities you operate    in for any business license fees that may be due.

WHAT ARE THE OPERATIONAL REQUIREMENTS FOR MY BUSINESS?

All food must be stored and prepared at the caterer’s permitted food facility as stated in the catering agreement letter.  Equipment and utensils must be properly washed, sanitized and stored at the restaurant as well.  No food may be prepared or stored at the caterer’s private residence or any other location that has not been approved by this Department.

All food handlers must have a valid “Food Handler Certificate” issued by this Department.  Riverside County Ordinance 567 requires anyone whose job includes the handling of food, beverages or utensils be certified in safe food handling practices.

The caterer shall maintain control over the food at all times including periods of storage, preparation, transportation, and service.  All foods must be adequately protected from contamination and all potentially hazardous food must be maintained at the proper temperature.  Hot foods must remain at or above 135° F and cold foods at or below 41°F.  Use a calibrated probe thermometer to ensure food temperatures are monitored and food is kept at the proper temperatures.

The catering delivery vehicle must be fully enclosed and maintained in a clean and sanitary condition.  All unpackaged food must be stored in approved, food grade, tightly covered containers.  Utensils must be covered, wrapped or otherwise protected from dust and contamination.  A “vehicle time and temperature transport log” (see attached) will help to ensure your food is within proper temperature range.  Catering vehicles are not approved for food preparation.

Toilet and hand washing facilities with soap, hot and cold running water and paper towels must be available for food handlers at each catering function.  These facilities should be located within 200 feet of the food service area.

An “approved catering kitchen event log” sheet (attached) is to be maintained at your catering headquarters.  Include the date, time, and event for which the caterer is using the retail facility.

All dirty equipment and utensils must be returned to the approved food establishment to be properly washed, rinsed, sanitized, and stored.

For more information or to make an appointment, please contact your nearest office.

*Document available in an alternate format upon request
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