Do I need a food business licence?

If you are opening a food business, you may need a food business licence. Find out what activities require a licence, licence types and what other approvals you may need. 

When you need a food business licence

If you handle or prepare unpackaged food, you generally will require a licence. Examples of unpackaged foods that require a licence are:

  • fruit or vegetable juice that is processed at place of sale
  • cakes or biscuits with fresh cream or custard fillings or icings
  • takeaway food such as hot chips and hamburgers
  • making food by combining ingredients such as jams, sauces, curries or soup
  • bread and bread rolls
  • sandwiches, including toasting sandwiches at a cafe
  • bulk coffee that is repackaged into smaller containers
  • any other unpackaged food that is not exempt.

This is not an exhaustive list and if you still have queries about the type of product you are going to prepare and sell, contact Council.

Find out more about the licensing requirements for child care (Word 858KB) and the licensing requirements for outside school hours care (Word 858KB).

When you do not need a food business licence

You do not need a licence for these activities:

  • selling pre-packaged food only
  • selling whole fruit and vegetables only
  • production of primary produce such as milk or meat at a butcher, with accreditation. Refer to the Food Production (Safety) Act 2000 for more information
  • selling drinks such as tea, coffee, soft drinks and alcohol. You don't need a food business licence to sell alcohol but you may need a liquor licence
  • selling snack foods that are not potentially hazardous:
    • biscuits and cakes
    • carob
    • chocolate bars
    • chocolates
    • churros
    • confectionary
    • corn chips and potato chips
    • crackers
    • croissants
    • doughnuts
    • dried or glazed fruit
    • dried vegetable chips
    • friands
    • meat jerky
    • muesli bars
    • muffins
    • nuts
    • popcorn
    • pretzels
    • puffed rice
    • soy chips
    • toasted corn
  • selling seeds, spices and dried herbs
  • selling tea leaves
  • selling coffee beans and ground coffee
  • grinding coffee beans
  • selling ice and flavoured ice
  • selling the following foods when they are not potentially hazardous:
    • cereals
    • cocoa
    • coconut
    • uncooked couscous
    • crushed, puffed or toasted nuts, grains and seeds
    • edible oil, for example, olive oil, vegetable oil and macadamia oil
    • flour
    • legumes
    • lentils
    • noodles
    • oats
    • uncooked pasta
    • preparations for spreading on bread, for example, honey, peanut butter, hazelnut spread, Vegemite, jam and marmalade
    • quinoa
    • sugar
    • syrups, for example, golden syrup, maple syrup, rice syrup, malt syrup, glucose syrup and coconut syrup.

You may not need a licence for the activities listed but you still need to comply with the Food Act 2006.

Non-profit food businesses

Different rules apply to licensing of non-profit organisations.

  • Non-profit organisations need a licence when meals are served 12 or more times in a financial year. A meal is food that is meant to be eaten at a table with cutlery. Examples of a meal are:
    • casserole
    • roast meat and vegetables
    • curries and stir-fry
    • salad.

    Examples of food that is not a meal:

    • pie and sausage roll
    • hot dog
    • hamburger and hot chips
    • sausage sizzle
    • soup in a cup.
  • Non-profit organisations don’t need a licence for these activities:
    • selling packaged food
    • selling unpackaged food that is not a meal
    • reheating or serving pre-prepared meals, for example, reheating frozen meals or making soup from a packet mix
    • selling food that is not potentially hazardous:
      • tea and coffee
      • biscuits and cakes
      • soft drink
      • confectionary and nuts
    • selling food that has a low risk of causing food poisoning:
      • whole fruit
      • toast
      • cereal
    • selling food that the customer helps to prepare, for example, a carer helping to prepare food at an accommodation facility
    • selling food as part of a training or educational activity, for example, a cooking course where the food produced is served to customers to raise money for the organisation
    • surf live saving clubs – selling meals for a small price when a member of the club helps to prepare the meal.

You may not need a licence for these activities but all non-profit organisations still need to comply with the Food Act 2006. You can find more information in Queensland Health's Food safety in non-profit organisations.

Home based food businesses

Licensable home based food business

Home kitchens can be used to operate a food business. Some home based food businesses need to have a licence, for example:

  • bed and breakfast, e.g. cooking bacon and eggs
  • farm home stay
  • catering
  • preparation of food to be sold at markets
  • motel kitchens that are also used as a kitchen for onsite owners or managers.

You may not be allowed to make potentially hazardous foods in your home kitchen. Council assesses applications on a case by case basis. Read more about home based food business requirements.

When a licence is not required

Some home based activities don’t require a licence, for example:

  • preparation of food for a student boarder
  • preparation of food for a person as part of a home support service, for example, a carer preparing food at the home of a person with a disability or family day care
  • cooking demonstrations, e.g. kitchen product demonstrations.

Development and other approvals for food businesses

Development approval

Your first step when starting a food business is to check if you need planning approval to start your fixed food business or home-based food business.  If you have a mobile business on a property on a stationary basis, you will also need to check if you need a development approval. Contact Council to find out if you need one before you submit your food licence application to avoid any delays.

Other approvals

Building approval

If you plan to construct or fit-out a building, you may need a building approval from a building certifier. You can obtain information about building certifiers from the Queensland Building and Construction Commission.

Plumbing and drainage approval

Making changes to or installing plumbing and drainage may require Council approval. All work should be conducted by a licensed plumber. Contact Council for more information.

Trade waste permit

Trade waste is a liquid waste produced by a business. An approval may be required when trade waste is discharged to a sewer. Contact Council or your local water authority to find out more. 

Advertising signs licence

Some Councils have rules about the type and location of any advertising signs for businesses. Depending on the type of advertising sign, you may need to obtain a licence. Find out more about advertising signs.

Footpath dining permit

You may need a footpath dining permit if you want to use the footpath for outdoor dining. Find out more about footpath dining

Liquor licence

If you intend to sell or serve alcohol on the premises you will need to apply for a liquor licence. Visit the Queensland Government Business and industry portal for information on liquor licences.

Roadside vending

If you want to sell food on public land including roads from a mobile vehicle, you may need a roadside vending approval.

Vehicle registration

Mobile food vehicles need to be registered with the Department of Transport and Main Roads.

Food business licence types

Fixed food business

A fixed food business includes:

  • cafe/restaurant
  • takeaway food shop
  • bakery
  • home business
  • child care centre
  • fruit and vegetable shop
  • food manufacturer
  • caterer.

Mobile food business

A mobile food business includes:

  • food trucks
  • a food business that involves selling hamburgers from a motor vehicle
  • ice cream van
  • pie van (smoko truck)
  • mobile snack trucks
  • mobile food trailers
  • domestic water carriers
  • unpackaged food from a vending machine.

A mobile food business only requires licensing from one local Council area in Queensland from where it is based.

Temporary food business

Market stalls and stalls at fetes are examples of a temporary food business. If you operate your temporary business in more than one local Council area, you are required to hold a food business licence with each of the local Councils where you intend to operate.