Types of food businesses
A food business stores, prepares, packages, serves, or provides food for people to eat. A food business may also directly or indirectly deliver food, such as home grocery delivery or a restaurant takeout order.
A food business may be a:
- Grocery, market or convenience store
- Food stand or food truck
- School or institution
- Vending machine
- Retail bakery
For more about food business definitions, please review License and Consumer Services Food Related License Definitions.
A restaurant prepares or provides service, food, and beverages to customers for more than 21 days a year. A restaurant has 13 or more seats. A food manufacturer has 12 or few seats.
Examples of businesses needing a restaurant license:
- Coffee shops
- Fast food restaurants
- Sit-down restaurants
A confectionary business sells ready-to-eat snacks and beverages such as
- Chips, crackers or popcorn
- Cookies and bulk candy
- Soda, milk or juice
- Ice cream and donuts
- TV dinners
Confectionary licenses are often held by businesses that serve another purpose, for example
- Hardware stores
- Gas stations and car washes
- Dollar stores
- Tobacco shops or video stores
If the business has a hand sink and 3-compartment sink for washing utensils and equipment, they can sell self-serve coffee and pastries. A commercial-grade microwave may be available for customers to heat their food.
Potentially hazardous foods should always be stored and displayed in approved commercial equipment.
A grocery store sells food and food accessories for people to use, make, or eat at home. This may include
- Meat, poultry, or fish
- Bread or baked items
- Cereal and other dry goods
- Fruits and vegetables
- Dairy products
Some grocery stores also sell household items.
A truck selling groceries, meats, and miscellaneous goods in parking lots near commercial, industrial, or high-density residential properties.
An institutional food license is required when you are serving meals in a group setting.
- Charitable dining halls
- Child care centers
- Public and private schools
- Senior Independent Living facilities
- Hospital cafeterias
An institutional food license is not required for:
- Home-based daycare centers
- Lodging facilities with a city license
- Group homes, nursing homes, or veteran homes licensed by the county, state or federal government
A market where growers can sell their goods directly to the consumer.
A food cart is a non-motorized vehicle selling prepackaged or ready-to-eat foods. All food carts must be meet Minnesota Food Code requirements.
- Indoor food cart- Operates on private property.
- Kiosk food cart - Operates on private property and has plumbing. Items for sale are limited to espresso-type drinks and other Time/Temperature Control for Safety (TCS) foods.
- Sidewalk food cart - Operates on city sidewalks or private property. Locations must be pre-approved.
Food truck (Mobile food vendor)
A food truck prepares and/or serves food from a motorized vehicle or a trailer, curbside or on private property, that can be easily moved to another location.
Food preparation and storing must occur at a licensed commercial kitchen.
Licenses are available to non-profit organizations for a discounted fee.
You do not need a separate license to operate at events such as farmers markets or block events but you must have written permission from the event organizer.
Short term food vendor
A food and beverage vendor with a food stand that is disassembled and moved from location to location. A Short term food vendor operates no more than 10 days annually at any one civic event.
Seasonal food vendor
A vendor who sells food and beverages at multiple community events throughout the year. A maximum of two stands can operate for each permit.
Vending machines provide prepackaged food, snacks and/or beverages after inserting a coin, bill, or credit card.
Bottled and canned soda machines do not need a license.
Anyone with a food license is entitled to two free vending machines at their business.
All vending machines must be licensed and must comply with applicable rules and regulations of the:
- National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA)
- National Sanitation Foundation International (NSF)
- State of Minnesota rules