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Permits: Restaurant, Café, Deli

The photo shows a server holding two pies.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.*)

Other Requirements

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.

Plan Reviews

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.