Permits: Restaurant, Café, Deli
Restaurants, cafes and delicatessens are considered “retail food service establishments” under South Carolina law regardless of whether or not they charge for the food.
To operate a restaurant, café or delicatessen in South Carolina you will need to get a Retail Food Establishment Permit (pdf) from DHEC. (See exemptions.*)
To operate a restaurant, café or delicatessen, you will also need:
- A business license
- To allow DHEC inspectors access to your facility and food handling processes for inspections designed to protect public health
- To meet all food safety and quality control standards for retail food services in South Carolina, as written in S.C. Regulation 61-25 — Retail Food Establishments.
We strongly recommend that you submit plans for your new or remodeled facility to our Plan Review staff before purchasing materials and equipment or starting construction. A plan review can save you money. Learn more about how to set up a DHEC Plan Review.
*Exemptions that Do Not Require a DHEC Permit
If your restaurant, café or deli falls under one of the following categories, you do not need a S.C. food service permit:
- Food service activities operated by churches or charities, so long as the organization holds no more than 12 events on their own property in a 12-month period involving food service to the public
- Federally regulated food establishments located on U.S. government property or operated by the U.S. government
- Food establishments or facilities serving solely as commissaries for interstate carriers
- Food establishments or facilities on vehicles or common carriers for hire such as airplanes, trains (including maintenance crew cook cars), ships, and similar conveyances
- Motels and hotels that rent rooms and prepare only non-potentially hazardous breakfast food or serve prepackaged food
- Taverns that are primarily engaged in the sale of alcoholic beverages and do not engage in extensive preparation of non-potentially hazardous food or preparation of potentially hazardous food.
- Boarding houses when food service is restricted to residents only.