You have decided that you would like to start your own food business – great work! It is a dynamic, fun and hard working industry that you are entering, and one that is driven by the passion of business owners such as yourself.

But you have a few questions… When do you need a food business licence? What is the process for applying? What other approvals must you have to trade? We have these questions covered in the following.

When do you need a licence?

You need a food business license if you are going to trade as a cafe, restaurant, take away or other food business in a fixed location, and are going to prepare or handle un-packaged food for retail sale.

What is the process for getting a licence?

Have your approvals ready

Before you apply for your food business licence you may need to have or have a current application in place for the following approvals from your Local Council:

– Planning approval
– Building approval
– Plumbing and Drainage approval
– Trade Waste Permit (note: this may not be your Local Council, you may need to speak to your utilities provider regarding this)
– Footpath Dining Permit

Submit your design application

You will need to submit all your plans to your Local Council for approval. These will show whether or not your application meets the Food Act 2006 and also food safety standard requirements.

Your Local Council will have further information on the types of plans needed, but they will likely include site plans, floor plans, sectional elevations and mechanical exhaust ventilation plans.

State Government websites will also have further information on guidelines for the design and fit-out of food businesses. Common requirements are:

– Allocating adequate space for activities, food and equipment within your proposed footprint
– Ensuring all structures, fittings and equipment are fit for purpose and easily cleaned or sanitised
– The design prevents pests, dust, fumes, smoke and other contaminants from entering your space
– Setting the direction and flow of food in and around the kitchen, throughout the business and to the customer to avoid the risk of contamination

Design assessment and approval

Assessment of your design application may take up to 20 business days. During this time, your Local Council may request information at any point.

Following the assessment, you Local Council will let you know whether your application has been approved, refused or approved with specific conditions. You should not start any fit-out or construction works until your design has been approved.

Food safety qualifications and training

Concurrently with your design approval, you will need to complete or prepare your evidence pieces to show that you have completed any relevant food safety qualifications. These may include training in food safety, food handling, a food safety supervisor certificate or a food handling certificate.

The Australian Institute of Accreditation is your one-stop-shop for food safety and food handling certification and will be able to provide further information on appropriate training courses.

Submit your food business licence application

Once all your approvals have been granted, you can submit your food business licence application. This will be done through your Local Council and will take up to an additional 20 business days to complete.

When submitting your food business licence, you will need to show if your food outlet will be in a fixed location, or if it will be mobile, e.g. a food truck. There may be some slightly different considerations for each, so this is an important piece to call out.

This is also the stage where you will need to submit your food safety or food handling certificates and qualifications to underpin your food business licence application.

Food business licence assessment and approval

The assessment of your licence may again take 20 business days. Your qualifications, knowledge, skill, experience and those of your staff will be considered. In addition, a premises inspection will be carried out to make sure it meets the Food Safety Standards. This will need to be carried out after all of your construction work is completed.

Once your assessment is complete you will be notified of approval, refusal or approval with conditions. If approved, you will receive a food business licence certificate that you must display in a place that is highly visible to all customers and visitors to your premises.

You may also receive a food safety star rating (this is dependent on your individual Council and their processes, though). If you receive a star rating, you should display it with your food business licence.