Do We Need Food Service Licenses to Serve Food in Concessions?

Like any booster club all-star, you want to make sure you have your “i’s” dotted and your “t’s” crossed before you start selling food at your concession stand. As you gear up for the rapidly approaching season, you may have found yourself wondering, “Do we need food service licenses to run a concession stand?”

To help you adhere to local and county regulations, let’s explore some general guidelines regarding concession stand licensing requirements.

Is Food Service Regulated at the State or Local Level?

For the most part, food service processes are regulated at the local level. If you live in a rural area, your county health department may govern food service protocols. 

To find out specific food regulations in your area, you need to contact your local or county health department. They will be able to provide detailed answers to your concerns. 

However, we can provide some general guidelines to get you started. 

When Is a License Required?

Typically, licensing is required only if you are handling prepared food. This makes perfect sense, as your volunteers will be handling food items directly during the cooking process. Some examples of prepared food include:

  • Hamburgers
  • Nachos
  • Hotdogs
  • Boiled peanuts

Additionally, fountain drinks count as “prepared food” because they are not enclosed in sealed packaging. 

The good news is that some states waive food service licensing requirements for nonprofit organizations and schools that are serving prepared food items. If this is the case in your state, your booster club may be able to serve up juicy cheeseburgers and a full lineup of other prepared food without a license. 

If you want to avoid licensing headaches altogether, you can opt to serve only prepacked food. Some concession stand favorites include:

  • Individually packed cookies
  • Candy
  • Bottled water
  • Canned soda
  • Beef jerky
  • Chips
  • Crackers

This is not an exhaustive list. Your concession stand can serve just about any prepackaged food without a food service license.

As an added benefit, some of these items may be tax-exempt in your state. That means you can purchase and sell them without accounting for sales tax.

Obtaining a Food Service Certification

In all likelihood, you won’t need a food service license to operate a booster club concession stand. But if you want to avoid committing any unintentional fouls, you or one of your concession stand MVPs can obtain a certification. 

There are tons of options out there, virtually all of which are offered online. With that being said, if you want to make sure you are learning the latest food service best practices, consider attending a course that is endorsed by the health department. 

When deciding who should attend, select someone who is very active in the club and in concessions, specifically. They can then share what they learned with other volunteers and get everyone up to speed on safe food prep processes. 

Going above and beyond by obtaining food service licensing will help you keep patrons safe and protect your booster club’s reputation.