This is our second post in the series on how to start a food business in Oakland. This post is written by Matt Johansen, co-founder of Forage Kitchen. Our first is written by co-founder Iso Rabins, and covers the existential crisis of what to decide to focus your business on. Check it out here.
Starting a new business can be hard. And starting a new food business can be downright overwhelming. Working with food comes with a unique set of challenges due to the multitude of permits that can be required by city, county, state or even federal entities. These administrative requirements can stop anyone in their tracks and kill their dream.
I’ve started a number of businesses in my life, ranging from educational non-profits to restaurants. While each one had its own complexities, the food-related businesses by far outweighed the others in terms of the sheer number of rules, regulations, and just plain unknowns that I initially found very frustrating to navigate.
Below is a step-by-step process, with corresponding resource links, that I hope will make it a little easier to chart your course when you venture into your dream of ownership. The bureaucrats don’t make it easy to navigate the labyrinth of permits and licenses (which need to be obtained in a specific order), but following this guide will put you on the right path! At Forage Kitchen, we pride ourselves on being a resource for our chefs, so if you have any questions, definitely feel free to reach out.
CITY & COUNTY PERMITS
Step 1: Business Name & EIN Number
Fictitious Business Name: What’s the name of your business? If you plan on giving your business a name different from your own, you’ll need a fictitious business name statement. If you’re going to use your own name, you are exempt from this step.
1) Below is a link to an overview about how to file a fictions business name in Alameda County. Link: http://www.co.alameda.ca.us/auditor/clerk/filefbn2.htm
2) It’s recommended that you search the fictitious name directory to see if anyone else has the name you have in mind.
3) Once you’ve chosen your business name, here is the form you’ll need to fill out and send in, along with a check.
Employment Identification Number (EIN): Below is a link to the IRS website where you can obtain an EIN number. You will need this if you are applying for a business license in Oakland.
Step 2: California Seller’s Permit
If you are engaged in business in California and wish to sell products, then you are subject to sales tax and you’ll need to obtain a seller’s permit. Please find the link below that will guide you through the process. This is essential if you are applying for a business license in Oakland.
Step 3: Insurance
Insurance is always a challenging thing to figure out. The Food Liability Insurance Company (FLIP) is an inexpensive and straightforward general liability insurance company for new food businesses. Below is a link that will guide you through the signup process.
Step 4: Oakland Business License
Every business operating out of Oakland must have a business license. To obtain a business license, you will need to do two things. First, obtain a Zoning Clearance Number. Second, file an Oakland business license application. Please note that you will need to have a state seller’s number and an EIN number before taking this step.
Zoning Clearance Number: This is required for all Oakland-based businesses and notifies the City of the type of business you are operating. Simply fill out this form and return it to: 250 Frank Ogawa Plaza, 2nd Floor, Oakland.
Oakland Business License: Once you receive your Zoning Clearance Number, head downstairs to the Business License Office and file your New Business application. The link below will give you a rundown of how it works and a link to the application.
Hope that helps you in your journey to becoming a legit business. If you ever have any questions or are looking for kitchen space, feel free to reach out to me directly at email@example.com
Partner: Forage Kitchen
Next up: A step by step on navigating the labyrinth of state licenses.