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Food Service

Licensing-Related Information

In conjunction with RIDOH, CommerceRI and the Department of Business Regulation have created a general overview and road map of how to navigate entrance into the restaurant industry, including guiding users through obtaining necessary local and state permits and licenses.  Access the information at 'How to Open a Restaurant in Rhode Island'.

You need a food service license if your business serves food. Follow our license guidelines for new food establishments. The specific license(s) you need depend on your business.

  • Eat-in restaurants are licensed by the number seats they have. Establishments who provide food through take-out or delivery are required to obtain this license as well.
  • Food trucks should use the “Mobile Food Service” license application
  • Caterers or anyone who prepares food one place and serves it in another needs a caterer/commissary license.
  • Food sold in a vending machine requires vending machine license.
  • Temporary food services should complete the “Mobile Food Service” license application and select “Temporary Event.”

Food Safety Managers

If you prepare food through processes such as cooking or hot-holding, you must employ at least one full-time on-site food safety manager. If you employ ten or more full-time equivalent people to prepare food you need at least two food safety managers. Establishments who primarily serve the elderly or individuals with diminished immune systems must have a food safety manager certified in food safety present whenever hot food is prepared. The certificates for the food safety managers must be prominently posted next to the license to operate. (Certificates must be removed if the person longer works there).

Food Trucks

After you submit your Food Mobile Service application call us at 401-222-2749 to schedule your required inspection. You will need to schedule at least two weeks for the inspection, and cannot open your business until you pass.

Moving Locations

If your restaurant moves to a new location you need to reapply for a license.

Food Business Applications that Involve On-Site Drinking Water Wells and/or On-Site Wastewater Treatment Systems

This pre-application should be completed by applicants who want to start a business that is not serviced by a municipal water system and/or a public sewer system. Staff from the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) or Department of Environmental Management (DEM) will contact you to provide further guidance regarding what steps may be necessary to get your business approved. The purpose of this pre-application is to provide general guidance about the scope of your project and the requirements under current regulations and laws.

Continuing Education/Training

Make sure all Food Safety Managers fulfill their training requirements.

Professional Resources

Food Safety

All businesses that serve food are expected and required to keep that food safe. These businesses are diverse and include: restaurants, caterers, retail food establishments, cafeteria, healthcare and residential facilities. Though the licensing requirements vary all business must ensure that:

  • Hot foods are kept hot;
  • Cold foods are kept cold;
  • Food equipment, particularly meat slicers, are kept clean;
  • Food handlers practice good hygiene;
  • Food handlers that have symptoms of norovirus must stay home from work until symptoms have stopped for at least two days more;
  • Food Safety Managers are trained, hired and retained as required; more
  • Food-related illnesses are reported to the Health Department.