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How to Become a Licensed Caterer in Michigan

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To become a licensed caterer in the state of Michigan, individuals should gain education in the culinary arts, practice and hone their techniques under the guidance of an established caterer and follow proper protocol for licensing as a food-service establishment. There are no certification requirements for caterers in the state of Michigan though individuals should possess an understanding of safe food preparation to meet the requirements of the Michigan State Department of Agriculture and the local county or city public health department. The licensing process varies depending on where food preparation is conducted, so caterers should create a business plan to determine the types of licensing or fees required for operation.

Get food preparation and business operating education by completing a culinary arts program. To start, aspiring caterers should possess a strong understanding of food preparation, cooking techniques, safety and meal planning. The Great Lakes Culinary Institute at Northwestern Michigan College features a Culinary Arts Program that prepares students in food preparation and business operation as a hospitality service.

Gain experience in the food service business. After completing a culinary arts program, you should learn more about the hospitality components of the catering business. This will help you work on the social interaction skills required for working with the public as well as experience with the business responsibilities associated with running a catering business.

Create your catering business plan. As you gain experience in food service business management, begin building the framework for your catering business by establishing a business plan. Specifically, you will want to consider where you prepare your food as this impacts the types of licensing and fees you will incur as a professional caterer. Michigan does not grant licenses to caterers who wish to prepare food in their own homes, as this does not meet state regulation requirements. Consider locations where you will prepare food and the cost to rent or use those locations for your business.

Apply for a food service license through the Michigan Department of Agriculture, Food Division, Food Service Section or the local public health department. The application will require you to indicate the type of license you would like to use for your business. Temporary licenses, issued by the State Department of Agriculture, are given to food-service providers that plan to prepare food at a temporary location for distribution onsite or in another location. A fixed license, issued by the local county or city public health department, is given to food service providers who prepare food at a consistent location for distribution onsite or in another location. Licensing through the public health department will include going through a site inspection prior to license approval; consult your local department for specific licensing requirements.

Establish your catering business by networking with former clients, hospitality business associates and friends. As you start your business, seek first clients among friends and your professional network to establish a reputation and market your business.


CL Hardy is a communication professional based in Austin, Texas. In addition to writing corporate newsletters, proposals and technical white papers for Fortune 500 clients for more than 12 years, Hardy has been published in "Black Collegian" magazine; her articles on human resources, business and art topics can be found on eHow. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a B.S. in communication.

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