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  • Writer's pictureTandelyn Daniel, GAHFN CEO

Catering 101 FAQ’s

Oct 7, 2020

GAHFN helps foodservice entrepreneurs solve business challenges with best practices for success.

A few basic questions always come up when my team and I are working with catering clients and members from start-ups to established restaurateurs. Below you will find a listing of FAQ’s and best practices for caterers. The answers are based on information found in the Georgia Food Code.

What is catering? I cooked for a friend's small wedding. She paid me, so am I a caterer?

The Georgia Foodservice Rules and Regulations, Chapter 511-6-1 defines “catering” as the provision of a specific menu and quantity of food for service to a consumer, pursuant to a contract, at a site such as a consumer’s home, motion picture filming location, or other event site. Food served during a catering operation may be prepared all or in part at the base of operation and transported to the service site, or it may be prepared and served at the service site.

A foodservice permit would not be necessary if a party giver or friends participating in the party prepare the food.

When is a foodservice permit required?

A foodservice permit is required whenever food is prepared and served to the public. A Foodservice Establishment under Georgia Law is defined as a public or private establishment which prepares and serves meals, lunches, short orders, sandwiches, frozen desserts, or other edible products directly to the consumer either for carry out or service within the establishment. This term includes restaurants; coffee shops; cafeterias; short order cafes; luncheonettes; taverns; lunchrooms; places which retail sandwiches or salads; soda fountains; food carts; itinerant restaurants; industrial cafeterias; catering establishments; and similar facilities by whatever name called.

Can I just cook out of my house? When is it okay to cook out of my house? Food that is prepared, cooked and served at a private home to residents of that private home or home environment where residents take part in preparing and serving their own meals or to guests in that private home, or participants in a pot-luck dinner, covered dish supper, or similar event in which the food is prepared or contributed by the participants would not require a foodservice permit.

A foodservice permit is required when the food that is prepared is offered for sale or service to anyone in the general public that did not participate in the preparation of the food.

What is the difference between a personal chef, a cottage license and a catering permit?

A personal chef is an individual that is hired by someone to come into their home (or to a party location) and prepare food for them. The person that hires the personal chef provides the food (or money to buy the food items from a list), dishes, cooking space and any equipment needed by the chef. The chef merely shows up and prepares the food using what is there. This is different from a caterer who is hired to provide a specific menu that is prepared whole or in part at another location using the caterer’s equipment and then transported to the event or requested location by the person who hired them.

A caterer may also prepare food at the event location; however, typically a caterer will purchase the food ahead of time and charge the cost to the person that hires them as part of the service. A caterer is required to have a foodservice permit from the health department in the county where the caterer has their base of operation.

A Cottage Food License is issued by the Georgia Department of Agriculture and not by the local health department. Food items allowed to be prepared under a Cottage Food License are non- Time/Temperature Control for Safety (TCS) foods such as baked goods (e.g., cookies, breads, cupcakes, etc.), jams and jellies.

I have a restaurant. Can I say that I am a caterer?

If you have a foodservice permit from the local health department, you will need to contact them to let them know you want to cater. The local Environmental Health Specialist (EHS) will evaluate your menu and equipment to determine if you have all the necessary capabilities to safely cater events. If, for some reason, your operation is lacking in anything, the EHS will let you know what additional space or equipment is needed.


GAHFN is a membership-based community of foodservice operators, educators, service providers & consultants delivering growth-focused operations solutions for the business challenges faced by owners.

Based in Georgia, our team helps local & national brands achieve bottom-line growth. GAHFN works with independent operators, franchise groups, mom & pops, concessionaires, multi-unit restaurant operators, hotels and chains.

Call us at 404-465-9902 and we can put together a game plan to help your foodservice operations business grow.

Yours in Service,

Tandelyn T. Daniel

Georgia Hospitality & Foodservice Network

CEO |Chief Hospitality Consultant & Connector | | 404-465-9902