Commercial Kitchen Requirements and Regulations

Commercial Kitchen Requirements and Regulations | FENIX

There are plenty of commercial kitchen requirements you must follow before opening your kitchen. Find out what they are with FENIX for interiors.

Commercial Kitchen Requirements and Regulations

Are you opening your dream restaurant? Or a quirky sandwich shop in your local town? What about expanding into a different region?

If so, there’s more to the commercial renovation process than just designing the kitchen itself. There are important legal and regulatory requirements your kitchen must follow before you can open. To ensure your venue is safe for your staff and customers you must be in code and follow federal, state and local requirements. These regulatory groups can take away your dream of opening your venue due to a single act of negligence, so you need to be up to scratch.

two chefs plating up in a kitchen

So, what are these commercial kitchen regulations? This guide to federal and state regulations should give you a good start in ensuring your kitchen is meeting the proper standards. We recommend working with an industry expert to tick off everything on the list.

Federal Commercial Kitchen Requirements

There are a couple of federal agencies that someone setting up a commercial kitchen must work with when designing and operating their kitchen. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) ensures that the health and safety of employees in the US meet their standards. OSHA and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) set tight regulations for businesses to follow to protect employees and customers.Some of the main concerns you’ll need to consider are listed below.

What are Job Hazards?

The OSHA describes a job hazard as anything at work that is able to physically or mentally harm an employee. Some hazards are visible such as a hot stove, whereas some are less visible, for example lifting heavy boxes can cause back strain in the long run.

They group job hazards together in categories to understand what they could be:

  • Safety hazards: these can cause immediate accidents or injuries
  • Ergonomic hazards: these cause sprains and strains
  • Other health hazards: things that make you sick such as chemicals

It is important for the owner/manager to identify and communicate what the visible and less visible hazards are to help prevent injuries and illnesses from happening in the kitchen.

Most states in the US require the employer to install an up-to-date Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP) in their business.

Fire Detectors, Alarms and Emergency Exits

Commercial kitchens are going to be using open flames or thermal conduction to cook food, meaning every commercial kitchen is at risk of a fire. Therefore it is important to have adequate fire detection systems and alarms.

The OSHA standard 1910.164 states that these fire detection systems and alarms are regularly checked and maintained. They also state that in some cases, you must have an automated fire compression system connected to the cooking station, including the cooker hood and gas line.

They state that the alarms must provide the warning for necessary emergency action that is provided in the business’ emergency plan. 

Since 2021 it has now become necessary to have a sprinkler system in a restaurant, according to the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA)‘s Life Safety Codes, as well as a Class-K fire extinguisher.

As for emergency exits, the NFPA also states that for restaurants with available occupancy of 50 or more, which would classify them as an assembly occupancy, the main entrance must be sized to be able to accommodate at least one half (25+) of the total occupant load. Other exits must be provided to handle the additional capacity with the total number being based on layout and maintaining acceptable travel distances.

OSHA states that venues must place exit signs in both the front of the house and the back of the house. The sign must read “Exit” and be:

  • Written in letters that are at least 6 inches

  • Easily seen

  • Clear of any markings or coverings

  • Illuminated

  • Given an arrow to point to the exit direction (if not immediately apparent)


chef holding a silver bowl of food in the kitchen

Food Code


The FDA Food Code are standards for safeguarding public health and ensuring food is unadulterated and honestly presented when offered to the customer. It is the FDA's best advice for a uniform system of standards that addresses the safety and protection of food offered at retail and in food service and is updated every four years.

Restaurant owners and managers are expected to follow and communicate to their staff the seven basic principles of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) to ensure food is prepared, cooked and stored correctly.

  • Principle 1: Conduct a hazard analysis
  • Principle 2: Determine the critical control points (CCPs)
  • Principle 3: Establish critical limits
  • Principle 4: Establish monitoring procedures
  • Principle 5: Establish corrective actions
  • Principle 6: Establish verification procedures
  • Principle 7: Establish record-keeping and documentation procedures.

State and Local Commercial Kitchen Requirements

Each state and county will have their own regulations for businesses to follow. The specific regulations differ by state-to-state and county-to-county, which you can find on the FDA website.

But most states will usually require you to obtain the following licenses and certifications.

Food service License

Businesses that store, prepare and serve food (not prepackaged food) must be inspected by both state and local health departments to ensure they’re following food safety regulations. The inspection is usually done by the County’s Health Department before your business can open, and then regularly once your business is running.

Food Handling License

Anyone in your business who handles, prepares or serves food is required to complete a food handling certification. This involves taking a course and passing a food safety exam through the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) or Conference for Food Protection (CFP). 

Retail food business license

Commercial kitchens are also required to obtain a retail food business license in which you must undergo a health inspection. During this process, a state-licensed health inspector will survey the venue and kitchen to ensure that the building is meeting standards and that procedures follow health and safety standards. 

They usually check on the following:

  • Ingredients and their storage
  • Refrigeration and storage cleanliness and organization
  • Cold storage temperature ranges
  • Temperature monitoring equipment
  • Storage methods and areas
  • Proper food labeling
  • Thawing methods
  • Produce prep
  • Cleaning
  • Food handling
  • Heating and cooking equipment
  • Cooking surfaces
  • Staff

Certificate of Occupancy

Your business must be stated as a food service establishment in your state or county to be able to operate your commercial kitchen. This is issued upon inspection and depending on your state, could include the fire department, bureau of sanitation, department of city planning and department of alcoholic beverage.

Other Permits Needed For Operation

There are many permits, which we know different between regions, but some others needed for your business to operate include:

  • Employee health
  • Alcohol permits
  • Local business license
  • Resale permit

Always Use a Professional

Designing and running a commercial kitchen is a difficult, long process that is not something you should think about lightly, especially if you have no experience in the field. A food venue requires many health and safety permits and licenses, therefore you should definitely consult with a professional with industry expertise to help you along the way. We hope you found this guide useful. For more information about FENIX on how you can use our materials in your next commercial kitchen transformation, check out our commercial kitchen surfaces page. You can also get a free sample of FENIX NTM, FENIX NTM BLOOM and FENIX NTA today. 

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