Blog / June 3, 2024 / Jeff Stumpf / UPDATED June 14, 2024

Food licenses and permits you need in Florida

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    Food licenses and permits you need in Florida

    With over 135 million visitors in 2023 alone, Florida is a hotbed for travel, tourism, and leisure. It’s a haven for beachgoers, snowbirds, and families alike. And luckily for restaurant owners, when tourists enter The Sunshine State, they usually aren’t bringing packed lunches with them.

    That’s why starting a restaurant on Florida’s beaches, boardwalks, and bayous can be such a lucrative and rewarding business venture. To do so, however, you’ll need to obtain the food licensing Florida requires to open up shop.

    There’s actually more than one critical piece of documentation to acquire before you can start cashing in on coastal delicacies and key lime pies. In this guide, we’ll explain how to obtain a Florida Food Handler’s Certificate, Retail Food Establishment Permit, and Seller’s Permit so you can start serving hungry patrons.

    How to get a Food Handler’s Permit in Florida

    Like almost every other state, Florida requires most people who work with, touch, or prepare food to pass a certification course and obtain a Food Handler’s Certificate. The class and exam teach the basics of food safety and test your ability to store, cook, and serve food in a secure, sanitary manner. 

    Some of the key things you’ll learn about include:

    • How to properly wash your hands to prevent transmitting contagious diseases
    • How to safely thaw, reheat, and store food
    • Effective sanitation of countertops, storage bins, and utensils
    • The causes and symptoms of food-borne illnesses
    • Other important hygiene practices

    Standards for Food Handler courses and certificates are set by the State of Florida’s Department of Business and Professional Regulations. There are several providers who offer such courses and, for the most part, they can be completed online in a couple of hours or less. 

    Once you finish the lessons and score at least 75% on your exam, you’ll immediately be able to print your Food Handler’s Certificate. 

    Apply for a Retail Food Establishment Permit in Florida

    Another key piece of certification you need to open a restaurant in Florida is a Retail Food Establishment Permit. They’re necessary for pretty much every business hoping to sell meals, snacks, and beverages in Florida, including:

    • Coffee shops
    • Bakeries
    • Juice bars
    • Sit-down restaurants

    Retail Food Establishment Permits as issued by The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS). In order to obtain one, you must:

    • Review the minimum construction standards – To earn a Retail Food Establishment Permit, you must ensure your establishment is up to code and have it inspected. To make sure your building meets minimum standards, compare it against the rules set forth in The Food Establishment Minimum Construction Standards. It contains legal guidance on how different aspects of your business should be constructed—from the plumbing setup to your building materials and even the equipment you use to process food.
    • Obtain water and sewage documentation – For restaurants running on a municipal water supply, a copy of your water bill or application for water sewerage will be sufficient. If you’re on well water or using a septic tank, additional documentation may be required.
    • Acquire further documentation – Before submitting your application, you’ll need a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) plan and an FDACS-approved Process Alternative document based on the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Food Code.

    After getting all your documentation together, you can apply directly to FDACS online or by mail. They’ll then come to inspect your restaurant and, if everything is up to code, issue your Retail Food Establishment Permit within 21 days. All applicable fees are according to the type of food activities you’ll be carrying out in your space.

    Getting a Seller’s Permit in Florida

    Much like an overstuffed Cubano, Florida’s version of a seller’s permit is quite the mouthful. It’s called an Annual Resale Certificate for Sales Tax and pretty much all businesses—whether they’re in the food service industry or not—must obtain one to operate.

    You’ll automatically receive an Annual Resale Certificate for Sales Tax when you apply to pay sales tax through the Florida Department of Revenue. It allows you to keep track of the goods you sell and, for certain kinds of transactions, write them off for tax purposes. 

    Some potential restaurant items that may be tax-exempt under Florida revenue laws include:

    • Disposable food containers
    • Paper napkins
    • Plastic eating utensils
    • Beverages

    Skip the line and start serving hungry Floridians faster with CloudKitchens

    All these certifications, licenses, and permits can take a long time to obtain—especially if you need to bring a building up to code or train a lot of staff. But, what if you could skip past most Florida food licenses and permits and start serving your customers sooner?

    With a ghost kitchen from CloudKitchens, you can start dishing out mouthwatering delicacies to hungry Sunshine Staters in weeks, not months. CloudKitchens are shared commercial kitchen spaces that contain all the essentials to optimize a delivery-only restaurant. They’re up to Florida building codes and, since they don’t have front-of-house staff or a long line of prep cooks, they require minimal training and certification to get started.

    We currently have CloudKitchens in Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami waiting for talented chefs like you. Take a tour of one of our spaces to start serving up your specialties as soon as possible.

    Explore ghost kitchen locations across the US:

    DISCLAIMER: This information is provided for general informational purposes only and the content does not constitute an endorsement. CloudKitchens does not warrant the accuracy or completeness of any information, text, images/graphics, links, or other content contained within the blog content. We recommend that you consult with financial, legal, and business professionals for advice specific to your situation.

    Sources: 

    Columbia Broadcasting System. Florida saw fewer visitors in 2023. https://www.cbsnews.com/

    Responsible Training. Florida Food Handler’s Certificate. https://www.responsibletraining.com/

    Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Retail Food Establishment Permit. https://www.fdacs.gov/.

    Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The Food Establishment Minimum Construction Standards. https://ccmedia.fdacs.gov/.

    Florida Department of Revenue. Annual Resale Certificate for Sales Tax. https://floridarevenue.com/.