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You are not the first backyard grill master who has dreamed of making extra money selling smoked meat from home. You’re also not the first to wonder if it’s legal to sell smoked meat from home.
So let’s just start with what you came here looking for, then we’ll explore your options to legally sell bbq meat from home.
To legally sell smoked meat from home you must have to have some form of food license. This is true in every State in America. The type of license and the extent of facilities or equipment required will vary based on your State and even your city or county.
However, many people ignore these license requirements and sell smoked meat from home illegally. We’ll take more about that later, but let’s first explore how to do it legally.
Finding Out What Kind Of License You Need
As I noted above, your problem isn’t unique and there is some government official in your area that has answered this question many times. Now you just need to find that person.
You’ll use Google Search to find you’re the local business regulation expert.
Google “Starting A Business In CITY, STATE” and you’ll probably find a government office that is tasked with helping people start businesses.
Once you find that office, you’ll either email or call to get your questions answered.
Just tell them what kind of business you dream of running and ask them to point you to the person or office that can help walk you through the requirements.
Within a few days, you’ll know just how complicated selling smoked meats from home is going to be for your specific situation.
P.S. Read the rest of this article before you contact these people…it’s going to help you ask better questions and just generally come across as more prepared to start your home-based business.
Two Kinds Of License Requirements
You are going to have some kind of food license to sell barbeque from home and that license is going to require some kind of kitchen facility.
In general, the requirements are going to fall into two general categories.
Home Catering License Required
Some states are going to allow you to get a catering license and prepare food in your residential (home) kitchen. This is the best-case scenario.
Commercial Kitchen Required
Other states are going to require a dedicated commercial kitchen, which is both a pain and expensive. However, there are ways to make getting a commercial kitchen easier and less expensive.
The Easiest and Cheapest Ways To Get A Commerical Kitchen
Building a commercial kitchen in your home for a side-hustle food business is usually not feasible because of space and money. We have a commercial kitchen in our home, but it’s our primary income because we run a Prepared Meal Delivery Business.
A Food Truck Of Wagon
You can ask the regulator to help you figure out what the smallest food truck possible looks like. Armed with that information, you might be able to set up a small food truck or even food wagon in your driveway to act as your commercial kitchen.
Rent A Commercial Kitchen
You can probably rent a commercial kitchen from a local church or club. In most cases, you can get some pretty good deals on kitchens that often sit unused.
How To Get Around Licensing Requirements
First, I want to make it clear that I’m not offering any legal advice here. I am not a lawyer. I’m only sharing my own opinions based on my personal experience.
Now, lots of people do sell smoked meats from home without a license of any kind. And many BBQ restaurants got their earliest start as technically illegal home-based food businesses.
These renegade food establishments come in a number of forms.
A catering license isn’t super expensive, but it isn’t free either. Because of that, a lot of people who are just starting to sell food decide not to get a catering license.
These micro-catering home businesses don’t do a lot of business and they do NOT advertise. Instead, they cook for family and friends. And they only do a handful of catering jobs each year.
As they build a customer base and develop their skills, in time they’ll see the path to scale where actually getting the license makes sense to them.
Another way to dip your toes into selling smoked meat or BBQ from home is to do so as a secret supper club.
A secret supper club (or underground restaurant) is an eating establishment that is run without permits, registration, or licenses.
In a nutshell, a secret supper club offers an intimate dining experience to a small group of people and usually only asks for a donation instead of ‘charging’ for the meal and experience.
The Risk Of Selling BBQ From Home Without Permits
Once again, I’m not a lawyer and I do not offer legal advice. I’m also not suggesting that you sell food without all locally required permits.
That said, I’ve never known anyone who got into big trouble for running a tiny catering business out of their home that only does a handful of gigs a year.
I’ve also never known anyone to get in big trouble for running an underground restaurant until they started advertising those events.
I have heard stories of health departments sending cease and desist letters to both kinds of home-based businesses, and when they do that I’d suggest that you immediately cease and desist.
Likewise, I think it would be foolish to ever consider running a food business under-the-radar as either a growing business or a long-term business.
Everyone I know who has chosen to start their food business in these ways did so as a proof of concept in starting their new business.
Once you know you’re business idea can work, then it’s time to quickly move into a truly legal setup where you comply with all regulations that apply to you in your area.
P.S. If you are considering starting a small business of any kind, I’d like to offer you my “Business Start-Up Timeline” Tool. I know it will save you time, money, and help you avoid mistakes when starting your first business.