Catering business

If you want to operate a catering business you will need a food business licence from Brisbane City Council. A food business is defined as catering when you prepare and serve the food to the customer either on-site or at an off-site venue. Simply delivering food to customers is not considered catering as it does not involve serving.

If you are planning to sublease an existing licensed kitchen for catering, you still need to apply and hold a separate food business licence for your business.

On-site catering

On-site catering refers to preparing and serving food that has the potential to be hazardous to consumers at the premises where the food business is carried out. Usually the food is:

  • of an agreed type
  • for a set number of persons
  • served at a prearranged time
  • for a predetermined cost.

Examples of on-site catering include a:

  • wedding reception centre that operates for wedding receptions only and is not open as a restaurant during the week
  • hotel which operates a restaurant where customers can order off the menu, but also has a function room where the hotel caters for events and functions.

On-site catering usually requires a Food Safety Program to be developed and accredited by Council.  An exemption for the requirement to hold a food safety program exists where on-site catering is not the primary activity of the business. You are not required to submit a Food Safety Program for accreditation where on-site catering is the secondary activity and you provide on-site catering:

  • on not more than 11 occasions in any 12 month period; and
  • for fewer than 200 persons on each occasion.

On-site catering does not include:

  • preparing and serving food at a restaurant, cafe or similar food business that involves the preparation and service of food for customers that order and eat it straight away
  • preparing and displaying the food for self-service, for example preparing food for consumption from a buffet at a restaurant.

Off-site catering

Off-site catering refers to a business serving food that has the potential to be hazardous, at a place other than the principal place of operation for the food business. If the caterer is an off-site caterer, they would need to be licensed with the Council at the principal place of business.

For example, a spit roast caterer stores their equipment and conducts food preparation from a food business in Logan City Council area prior to a function. The caterer then conducts a catering function in the Brisbane City Council area, where all they do is heat and serve the food. As the principal place of business is located in Logan City Council's area, the food business would need to be licensed with Logan City Council.

Off-site catering does not include:

  • delivering food under an arrangement with, or on the order of, a consumer, for example, delivering pizzas from a takeaway pizza shop or delivering platters of food for a morning tea.
  • the sale of food from mobile premises or temporary premises, for example, the sale of ice creams from a mobile ice cream van.

If you are transporting food you must advise Council of all the food transport vehicles involved in the catering operation.

All off site caterers require a Food Safety Program to be accredited by the local government area that approves their food business licence.


As a general guide for new catering premises, fees that may apply for the 2018-19 financial year include:

Table showing size of premises, design application fee, food licence fee, food safety supervisor fee and food safety program fee.
Size of premises Design application Food licence Food safety program
Less than 250 square metres $380.85 $770.30 $655.25
250 square metres to 1000 square metres $622.95 $1052.15 $749.90
Over 1000 square metres $826.25 $3287.80 $1159.75

These fees do not attract GST.

How to apply

There are a number of steps to the application process. You can complete them all online using the Application for Food Business Approvals online form.

Before submitting an application, review helpful hints about preparing an application and common application problems to avoid.

The food business licence roadmap (PDF - 61kb) follows two stages. Stage 1 is a design assessment and stage 2 is the food business licence assessment.

Step 1: Design Assessment

Application for design assessment

  • this is the application where the principal place of business will be, for example, a commercial kitchen where storage and food preparation will occur
  • this application must be lodged first, and will take approximately 20 business days to be assessed
  • make sure you have design plans ready, then you can lodge a design assessment using the Application for Food Business Approvals online form and pay with a Visa or Mastercard
  • further requirements for a licensed kitchen are detailed in the design and fit-out guide for food businesses located on the application process and assessment page of the Local Government Toolbox website
  • if the principal place of business already has a current Food Business Licence with Council, this design assessment application may not be required
  • you can phone Council on 133 BNE (133 263) to confirm if the premises has design assessment which has already been approved and is current.

Step 2: Food Business Licence Assessment

Application for Food Business Licence

  • after the design assessment is approved and fit-out has started, an application for a food business licence must be submitted no more than 30 days before the desired start date of operation
  • you can lodge the food business licence using the Application for Food Business Approvals online form and pay with a Visa or Mastercard
  • before you can start operating, an Environmental Health Officer will conduct a final site inspection
  • the Food Business Licence will be issued when the completed fit out has been approved.

Food Safety Program Accreditation

  • If a food safety program is required for your catering business, it should be submitted for Council accreditation at the same time as the food business licence application
  • use the Application for Food Business Approvals online form to apply for the Food Safety Program Accreditation at the same time as you lodge your food business licence application
  • find out more about Food Safety Programs.

Food Safety Supervisor Notification application

  • all licensable food businesses in Queensland must have a Food Safety Supervisor. You can nominate this person when you make you licence application using the Application for Food Business Approvals online form
  • otherwise you can nominate a Food Safety Supervisor by phone to the Business Hotline on 133 BNE (133 263) within 30 days of the permit being issued
  • find out more about Food Safety Supervisors.

Alternatively you can apply by completing the hard copy forms.

Preparing for Council inspection

Before you start trading, a Council Environmental Health Officer will conduct a final inspection of the food premises to ensure it is constructed in accordance with the approved design plans. To arrange your final inspection, contact Council approximately one week before construction is due to finish to schedule a suitable date and time.

To limit delays, use the Food Business Final Inspection Checklist (Word - 134kb) to confirm that essential works have been completed before the date of your final inspection.

Application Assessment

Prior to the food business licence being issued, Council will conduct a full Eat Safe audit of the premises.  Find out more information about Eat Safe Brisbane.

More information

The Local Government Toolbox provides helpful tools and resources.

You may also require planning approvals for restaurants and home business.

Council has developed a food business checklist (Word - 110kb) to assist in considering approvals that may be required to start and operate a food business in a fixed location.

For further information, phone Council's Business Hotline on 133 BNE (133 263), 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Last updated:13 May 2019