What You Need to Know About Getting a Retail Food License

You will need a retail food license if you are operating a restaurant, commercial catering business, food truck, push cart, retail bakery, limited operation, seafood vending or shellfish reshipping/repacking business.

How to Get a Retail Food License
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Determine which license you need.
License Type Is Needed For: 
  • All seated foodservice
  • Anywhere food is prepared and served for onsite foodservice.
Commercial Caterer
  • Takeout-only foodservice (no seating)
  • Food trucks
  • Food trailers
  • Push carts
  • Offsite caterers
Temporary Foodservice
Limited Operation
  • Foodservice limited to hot dogs and/or cold sandwiches.
Seafood Vendor
  • Selling seafood products at retail.
Shellfish Reshipper/Repacker
  • Processing or breaking down shellfish into smaller lots for wholesale or retail sale.
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Contact other state and local agencies.
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Submit a complete application packet.
  • Fill out an online application or print the application and mail it in.
  • Submit the application at least 30 days before you plan to open.
  • Include a copy of the wastewater permit, if necessary.
  • Include water test results, if necessary.
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Pass an opening inspection.
Shellfish Reshippers and Repackers

Businesses that purchase shellfish and either process or break the product down into small lots for wholesale or retail operations should apply for a shellfish reshipper/repacker license.

Read the Requirements: Shellfish Sanitation Rule

Apply for the Shellfish Reshipper/Repacker License   Español

Specialized Processing Methods

Retail food service businesses that use Specialized Processing Methods must apply for a variance and/or prepare and follow a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan before using these processing methods. Specialized Processing Methods may include smoking and curing food, reduced oxygen packaging of food, and acidification of food. 

Read the requirements and apply: Specialized Processing Methods

Download HACCP Templates

Shared Kitchens and Pop-Up Kitchens

The link below has answers to some frequently asked questions about using shared kitchen space and holding "pop-up" events. If you still have questions, contact your public health inspector

Read the Shared Kitchen and Pop-Up Kitchen FAQs

Mobile Units and Push Carts

If you prepare and sell food from a push cart or a mobile unit like a food truck or trailer, you are required to have a commercial caterer license from the Health Department.

Read about Requirements for Mobile Units and Push Carts

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Handwashing Posters

We recently redesigned the handwashing posters! Two sizes — in both full color and grayscale — are available for you to print.

Download and print handwashing posters

Important Resources for You
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Application for License to Operate a Retail Food Establishment
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Health Regulations for Food Service Establishments
More Resources for You
Boil Water Notice Guidance for Food EstablishmentsGuidelines outlining temporary methods that must be followed in order to continue food service operations when a Boil Water Notice is issued
Consumer Advisory Sign Sample sign to warn of the potential health risks from eating raw or undercooked foods
Electrical (Power) Outage GuidanceGuidance for food establishments on what to do when there is a power outage
Handwashing PosterPrintable handwashing sign to post in restrooms
Poultry Inspection ExemptionVermont law allows licensed restaurants to serve uninspected poultry under certain conditions. Know the requirements and submit the necessary paperwork prior to serving uninspected poultry.
Retail Food Employees Training ResourcesEducational materials in multiple languages for retail food employees
Americans with Disabilities Act and Service Animals: Frequently Asked QuestionsRead for more details about service animals and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Americans with Disabilities Act and Service Animals: RequirementsThis publication provides guidance on the term “service animal” and the service animal provisions in the Department of Justice's regulations.
Stool SamplesVideo on how to provide a stool sample as part of a public health investigation into a food-borne illness
Universal Recycling Law and Food Donation ResourcesRead up on Act 148: Vermont’s Universal Recycling Law to see how food service establishments are affected by the new law.
Log SheetsPrint these food safety log sheet templates for use in your establishment. 
Chicken Liver -- Resources for Illness Prevention Find information from the USDA on food safety risks and outbreaks associated with chicken livers, and guidance for industry and consumers. 
Cook Chicken Liver Like It's Chicken (It Is)Proper cooking to prevent illness: an infographic for chefs, cooks and caterers. 
Guidance for Food Establishments for Re-Opening After FloodingFollow these steps after your facility or food stock is damaged due to flooding or power outages. 
Specialized Processing MethodsRequirements and application for using Specialized Processing Methods like smoking and curing, reduced oxygen packaging, and acidification. 
HACCP Plan Templates Use these templates to help develop your HACCP Plan. 
Health Regulations for Food Service EstablishmentsFull text of the food service requirements.


Frequently Asked Questions
Are licenses transferable? Does the facility need to be re-inspected if ownership changes?

A Health Department license is not transferable if ownership changes. A new application and fees are necessary if there are any changes to the legal ownership of an establishment.

Who is my health inspector?
I only operate seasonally. Do I have to pay the full license fee?

Yes. Health Department licenses are valid for one year, and we do not prorate license fees.

Do I need a food handler’s certificate to work in a restaurant in Vermont?

A food service worker must be able to demonstrate knowledge of food safety and sanitation. It is recommended that the Person In Charge (PIC) receive some type of food safety training in order to train employees and demonstrate food safety knowledge.

How many seats can I have in my restaurant?

Seating capacity is determined by the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) on the wastewater permit for the building. Contact a Permit Specialist at DEC with questions or to make changes to the seating capacity of your establishment.

How many bathrooms do I need?

One bathroom is required for seating capacity of 25 or less. At least two bathrooms are required for seating capacity of 26 or more.

What other government agencies should I contact?

Use the Guide to Opening a Food or Lodging Establishment to find contact information for other government agencies involved in the opening of a business.

Stopping Foodborne Illness

Watch the video below to learn about how workers can stop foodborne illness.

Contact Us

Food & Lodging Program

Mailing address:

VT Dept of Health
Environmental Health
Food & Lodging Program
280 State Drive
Waterbury, VT 05671-8350

Phone: 802-863-7221 or 800-439-8550 (toll-free within Vermont)

Fax: 802-863-7483

Email: [email protected]

Find the public health inspector in your area

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