Home-based food business

If you intend to process, manufacture, and/or sell food from a domestic kitchen in residential premises, you are considered a home-based food business.

The meaning of ‘sell’ is very broad and includes retail sale, child care services where food is provided, catering, market food stall, food given away for advertising or fundraising purposes, bed and breakfast and more.

Cairns Regional Council will only consider applications for home-based food businesses where you comply with the requirements of CairnsPlan 2016 and the food preparation and handling is considered to be low-risk. This includes baked goods such as cakes and cupcakes (without fresh cream) and other foods that are not considered to be potentially hazardous .

Applications are assessed on a case by case basis, taking into consideration the premises and food safety risks of the proposal and must be accompanied by written planning advice.

Licence requirements

Yes – licence is requiredNo – licence not required
  • home-based preparation of food for sale at a market or fete
  • bed and breakfast accommodation
  • motel kitchens that also serve as kitchens for owners or on-site managers
  • cooking demonstrations where the participants supply the ingredients, help with the food preparation and then consume it
  • in-home support services for an individual.

Note: even though a licence may not be required, these types of businesses must ensure the sale of safe and suitable food

How to apply

Step 1: Determine if you need a licence

Check the licence requirements table to identify if you need a Food Business Licence.  If yes, continue to Step 2.

Even if you do not need a Food Business Licence, you must still comply with the other requirements of the Food Act and the provisions of the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code.

Step 2: Check other approvals

Applying for a Food Business Licence does not give you approval to run the food business from your home. Your home-based business operation may require other approvals including:

  • Town Planning approval to use the premises for your intended purpose – confirmation is required from Council’s Development Services Unit. Contact them by email at TownPlanner@cairns.qld.gov.au
  • Building approval to undertake any building works – you will need to contact a private building certifier; and/or
  • Trade Waste approval to discharge into the sewerage system – confirmation is required from Council’s Trade Waste Unit.

You can find out more in the CairnsPlan 2016  Home Based businesses factsheet ( PDF, 0.32 MB ).

All Council units can be contacted on 1300 69 22 47 or by email at council@cairns.qld.gov.au

You may also need other approvals from:

Step ?: Apply for Suitability of Premises approval

The design, construction and fit-out of your home kitchen must be suitable for the food you want to prepare so you will need to ensure that your kitchen complies with Food Act 2006.

Prepare plans and apply

During the application process, Council will assess the plans for your kitchen to ensure the design, construction and fit-out complies with the Food Safety Standard 3.2.3.

The Fixed Food Business Operation and Construction Guidelines ( PDF, 1.6 MB ) will help you make decisions on the design of your kitchen and the construction materials you intend to use. Queensland Health’s Design and fit out guide will assist in correct construction and fit out.

In order to assess your suitability of premises application, two copies of your design plans (drawn to scale not less than 1:50) must be provided with your application. These design plans must include:

  • floor plans including waste disposal facilities and location of equipment;
  • elevations of each food preparation room/area; and
  • details of mechanical exhaust ventilation (exhaust systems must comply with AS1668.2). You must also include specifications of all equipment being serviced by the mechanical exhaust ventilation.
Complete the Suitability of Premises application form ( PDF, 0.06 MB ) together with your plans, pay the relevant fee ( PDF, 0.03 MB ) and return to Council.

After you have submitted your Suitability of Premises application to Council with the fee, an Environmental Health Officer (EHO) will assess it for compliance with the Food Act 2006.

Timeframes for assessment may vary, but in general allow up to 30 days for a full assessment. Further time will be required if the application does not include all the necessary information.


Upon approval, you will receive a conditional approval letter for the construction of your kitchen. Once you receive your approval, and any other necessary permits (eg. building approval), you may begin constructing/fitting out your premises as per the approved plans.

Step 3: Apply for a Food Business Licence

The operator of the food business must be deemed suitable, and have the required skills and knowledge to safely serve food to the public.


You will need to apply for your Food Business Licence at least 30 days before you intend to start trading, to allow us to assess your application in time.

The applicant must be the person or company that intends to operate the food business, not the contractor building the food premises.  The applicant must be a legal entity (a person or company); a business name or trading name is not a legal entity and cannot be the licence holder.

You may also need to have a Food Safety Program (FSP) accredited with Council.  If so, you should submit your FSP together with your Food Business Licence application.

Note: your Food Business Licence application will not be assessed until Council has first approved your design plans through the suitability of premises stage.  If you submit your Food Business Licence application at the same time as your Suitability of Premises application, please contact contact Council’s Licensing and Approvals team on 1300 69 22 47 to begin the assessment process for the Food Business Licence.


During the Food Business Licence application process, Council will assess the suitability of the operator to safely prepare and serve food to the public.

Council will contact you if further information is required in order to consider your application. In this case, an extension of time will be needed to finalise the assessment.

Step 4: Request final inspection

Before you start trading, you need to contact Council to arrange a final inspection of your kitchen to determine if a Food Business Licence can be issued.

At your final inspection, Council’s EHO will check your premises to ensure it has been fitted out in accordance with your letter of approval.

Step 5: Decision

After your final inspection, if Council's EHO is satisfied that your premises have been fitted out in accordance with your approval and you are a suitable person to hold a food licence, you will be issued with your Food Business Licence. You may then start trading.

If you have not met all requirements but Council's EHO is likely to approve your application once you fix minor requisitions, you may be issued with a provisional licence (a short-term licence with conditions that must be met within a specified timeframe).  This will allow you to commence trading.  You can only receive a provisional licence for a maximum of 3 months, and if you don’t attend to the conditions in the timeframe, your Food Business Licence will be refused.

Alternatively, if Council is not satisfied that you have met the requirements of the Food Act to prepare and sell safe and suitable food, your licence application will be refused and you will not be able to trade.

Remember, you can't operate until your Food Business Licence application is approved. A copy of your food licence will be mailed to you within two days of your final inspection.  You must display it at your food premises in a prominent position so the details are easily visible to customers.

Step 6: Renewal

Council will send you an annual renewal invoice for your Food Business Licence. Pay on time to ensure you can continue to operate.

Be ready for inspections. Council’s EHOs can conduct compliance audits and inspections during your operating hours.

Remember to advise Council of any changes to your contact details to ensure you continue to receive your renewals and other relevant communication from Council.

Other approvals

Development approval

Operating a business from a residential location requires assessment in accordance with Council’s planning scheme, CairnsPlan 2016.  In some circumstances, you may need to lodge a Development Application (DA).

This assessment will look at the planning scheme criteria and whether the proposed food business meets those requirements.  The CairnsPlan 2016 may limit the size and scale of the activity. Where a DA is required, Council can impose conditions in regards to amenity and the operation of the activity, such as hours of operation, number of employees etc.

Before you submit your application for a Food Business Licence, you must contact Council’s Development Services Unit to determine if you can lawfully operate from your home under CairnsPlan 2016.  Contact TownPlanner@cairns.qld.gov.au or phone 1300 69 22 47.  You should submit confirmation of this advice with your Food Business Licence application; Council will not start assessing your application until it is provided.

If you want to expand or change the nature of your home-based business over time (eg, you want to employ additional staff), you should first check if you need a DA or, if already obtained, amendments to your development conditions.

Building Works approval

Home-based businesses are generally conducted within existing dwelling houses. However, if any building work is required, you will need to contact a private building certifier to obtain a Building Approval before starting any works.

Advertising approval

Advertising signage associated with your home-based business may require a permit from Council in order to be displayed.

Refer to Council’s Advertising devices webpage for more information. To discuss your specific situation, contact our Licensing and Approvals Unit on 1300 69 22 47.

Food Safety Supervisor notification

You must have a nominated Food Safety Supervisor for your food business at all times.

This person needs to have the experience and skills relevant to day-to-day safe food handling and authority in supervising other staff within the food business.

The Food Safety Supervisor must be reasonably available whenever the business is operating, and they also serve as a point of contact for Council and staff who handle food in the food business.

You must either:

  • Nominate this person when you apply for your licence by including their details on the Food Business Licence application form; or
  • Nominate a Food Safety Supervisor by contacting Council by phone, email or mail within 30 days of the Food Business Licence being approved.

Find out more about Food Safety Supervisors

Last updated: 16 June 2020