Experiences Involving Food in Seattle
These information pages can help you get started in learning about some of the laws and registration requirements that may apply to your experiences on Airbnb. These pages include summaries of some of the rules that may apply to different sorts of activities, and contain links to government resources that you may find helpful.
Please understand that these information pages are not comprehensive, and are not legal advice. If you are unsure about how local laws or this information may apply to you or your Experience, we encourage you to check with official sources or seek legal advice.
Please note that we don’t update this information in real time, so you should confirm that the laws or procedures have not changed recently.*
What are some of the basic principles?
Your guest’s health and safety should always come first. For example, make sure you take your guests to (or otherwise serve them food from) reputable restaurants, food trucks, or professional caterers who keep clean facilities, use fresh ingredients, and have a good food safety track record. If your experience involves you cooking or handling food (including storing or serving food prepared by others), be sure you handle, prepare and serve food safely and with good hygiene. We encourage you to review the USDA’s tips for handling food safely. Also ask your guests in advance about any food allergies they may have, or religious or philosophical codes that may impact what kind of food they eat.
I’m a foodie. What kind of food experiences can I provide in Seattle?
The following food experiences are unlikely to trigger any regulatory issues:
- Taking your guests to your favorite local restaurants or food trucks;
- Inviting your guests to your home or a picnic where you serve food that is cooked in a licensed facility (for example, take-out from your favorite local restaurants, food catered by a professional licensed caterer, prepared or prepackaged food from your favorite market).
If you are thinking of serving home-cooked food, please carefully read our home-cooked food guidance and check with an attorney to make sure you are following your local laws.
I want to serve home-cooked food to guests. Are there any specific rules I need to follow?
The key question is whether serving home-cooked food in your private home to occasional guests qualifies as a regulated activity under the Washington State Retail Food Code. The Retail Food Code applies to “food establishments.”
According to the Retail Food Code, a “food establishment” is, with some exceptions, any “operation” that prepares, serves or sells food to a consumer or otherwise provides food for human consumption. Unless an exemption applies, all food establishments must be permitted by the King County Department of Public Health.
Note that, for a variety of reasons, residential kitchens generally cannot be permitted as “food establishments.” In addition to the strict requirements a “food establishment” kitchen (referred to as a “commercial kitchen”) must meet, a commercial kitchen must be totally separate from the kitchen used by the people who live at that home. In other words, in order to run a food establishment from your home, you would need two separate kitchens.
However, the Department of Public Health has provided guidance that a private chef who does all food preparation at a “client’s residence” and does not store or prepare food ahead of the experience does not need to obtain a food service permit. This suggests that:
- A Host can hire a personal chef to cook for a private party of guests who book in advance, or
- A Host can cook and serve food in a private home (other than her own) to guests who book in advance.
That said, this is a tricky area and we encourage you to call the Department of Public Health directly or speak to a lawyer to describe your Experience and make sure you are correctly interpreting this guidance and are following your local laws.
There are also a number of non-perishable food items (like breads, candies, and jellies) that can be prepared in, and sold both inside and outside, your home as Cottage Food products. To sell these items, you’ll need to get a Cottage Food permit, which requires:
- A food handler’s permit;
- Completion of the online permit including a floor plan, list of products and recipes, and a cleaning and sanitation plan;
- $230 application permit; and an
- Initial and annual inspection by the Department of Agriculture (the Department notes that a $125 inspection fee may also be assessed).
I’m a great cook. Can I give cooking lessons for a fee to my guests?
If you want to teach a cooking lesson in a private home, please carefully read the section above on home-cooked foods and speak to an attorney to make sure you are following your local laws. If you simply demonstrate cooking without serving the food, that should be okay to do without a permit.
From time to time, Airbnb may also partner with select non-profits who may either provide licensed food facilities for hosts or may otherwise sponsor a food related event.
*Airbnb is not responsible for the reliability or correctness of the information contained in any links to third party sites (including any links to legislation and regulations).
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