Starting a food business in Philadelphia?

Here is a guide on food safety, licensing and permits in the City of Philadelphia for restaurant owners, caterers, event planners, and food truck operators.

Stationary vs. non-stationary food businesses

The City has two classifications of food industry businesses: stationary and non-stationary. A stationary or permanent food business designation includes a sit-down restaurant, grocery store, bar or food franchise business. A non-stationary food business designation includes a mobile food truck or food stand, or any moveable structure.

 Instructions for “stationary” food operations

  1. First, refer to the city’s comprehensive guide for opening a stationary food business
  2. Inquire about a zoning permit – which is required to utilize any building as a restaurant
  3. A Building permit, which is different from a zoning permit, is required to build a new restaurant  
  4. Obtain a Philadelphia Food Safety Certificate from Department of Public Health - Office of Food Protection
  5. Restaurant specifications – building and space layout, equipment specifications and menu  - have to be approved in a Plan Review process
  6. Electrical and Plumbing Permits must be acquired
  7. Obtain a Certificate of Occupancy
  8. All Philadelphia businesses require a commercial activity license through the Office of Licenses and Inspections
  9. Finally, obtain  Food Liability Insurance

Instructions for “non-stationary food operations

  1. Refer to the City’s Comprehensive Guide for opening a non-stationary food operation  
  2. Obtain a non-stationary location license
  3. Obtain a Philadelphia Food Safety Certificate from Department of Public Health - Office of Food Protection
  4. Apply for a Plan Review for mobile food operation  
  5. All Philadelphia businesses require a commercial activity license through the Office of Licenses and Inspections
  6. Obtain Food Liability Insurance

Event Planners and Organizers

Special Events require different approval processes. If you are an event planner/organizer and intend to serve food and beverages at your events – refer to the City’s guide for events.

If you want to serve food or drinks at no more than three special events per year, you need to submit the temporary special event permit application. Each special event requires a separate special event permit.

If you want to serve food or drinks at four or more special events per year, you need to submit the    permanent special event permit application. A permanent special event permit is good for one year.

Certified Commercial Kitchens

If you are seeking a food preparation space for mobile or event operations, it must be prepared in a certified commercial kitchen space.

A certified kitchen is a shared use space that is commercially-licensed for chefs, bakers, caterers, food trucks, and other culinary professionals. You typically pay for a membership, or by the hour in order to rent out cooking space alongside other food entrepreneurs. You also get to share resources like cold storage, equipment, and cleaning supplies.

Local commercial kitchens for rent:

Professional Associations

Social Media and Food Marketing Resources

Other Food-Related Resources


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Food Service Industry Resources