Home cooks…this is not a drill. It is now legal to start your very own Microenterprise Home Kitchen Operation (MEHKO) in Santa Barbara County. On May 11, 2021, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors approved home kitchen operations, effective June 15, 2021. By following a few simple steps and obtaining the right certifications, you can start legally selling your delicious homemade meals to local hungry customers in your neighbourhood, right from the comfort of your own home kitchen. So don’t fret. This MEHKO guide for home cooks in Santa Barbara County will walk you through step-by-step on how to start your home food business and launch your own home kitchen. Stay with us.
First things first, before we can get rocking and rolling on this MEHKO start up guide for home cooks in Santa Barbara County; download the HomeMade App on Google Play or App Store. Your profile on the app will become your premium portal for connecting with local foodies in your community who want to eat your tasty home cooked dishes. With the HomeMade app, you’ll have a virtual storefront for your home-based cooking business to attract hungry neighbors, plus access to real-time data on sales and earnings which you receive after completed transactions.
The planned menu for a MEHKO must NOT have: raw oysters, prepare dairy products (yogurt, ice cream, cheese, and other dairy products can be served but NOT made in the MEHKO), and cannot make nondairy foods that emulate dairy (can serve nut milks or nut-based cheese-style foods but can’t make it in the MEHKO).
For more info on dos and don’ts, check out Page 6 and 7 on MEHKO FAQs here.
If you rent your home, you will need to reach out to your landlord to make sure it’s okay to have a home-based business at your residence. While you do not need a written statement/proof that you may have a MEHKO at a rental property, you do need to 100% be sure that you can operate a MEHKO at your location.
The business license application must be filled out, printed, signed, and sent with the appropriate Business License Tax payment for processing. The amount of the fee to be paid is based on various classifications as set forth in Chapter 5.04 of the Santa Barbara Municipal Code and as listed on page two (2) of the application. Payment is due on or before the commencement of business and must be renewed yearly. Payment must accompany your application. Allow 5 working days for receipt of your business certificate. Business License Certificates should be posted in a conspicuous place.
To apply for a business license in Santa Barbara county, click here: BUSINESS LICENSE APPLICATION (santabarbaraca.gov)
If you have questions about the amount to submit, contact (805) 564-5346.
MEHKO engaged in business in California must register with the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA) and pay the state’s sales tax, which applies to all retail sales of goods and merchandise except those sales specifically exempted by law.
Click here to obtain a sellers permit: https://www.cdtfa.ca.gov/taxes-and-fees/sutprograms.htm
Before you can sell your first meal, you must take a course in food safety and handling. The course is 8 hours, costs between $50-$90, and the certification is good for 5 years. You can click the link below to find all of the information you need regarding the Food Safety Manager Certification, as well as a list of accredited organizations that offer food safety management certification training.
Click here for more info: Food Safety Manager Certification
You can fill it out online by simply clicking on each box and typing your responses. We know it’s a bit lengthy, but it’s important that you fill out every section accurately to ensure that you can get that certified stamp of approval as a Microenterprise Home Kitchen Operator with minimal fuss. Once you’ve completed the form, save the document as a pdf file on your computer.
You can find the MEHKO Standard Operating Procedures Form here: English Version
Now it’s time to get approved with the Environmental Health Services of Santa Barbara County. Approval of your Plan Check Application is required before you can apply for a Health Permit and open/operate a MEHKO. There’s an application fee (non-refundable) of $255 and a Plan Review and Inspection fees of $161/hour, so make sure so have all your information necessary before filing the application. *Allow 20 business days for the initial review of plans.
Please keep in mind, the following items must be included in the MEHKO plan check application:
- An easily readable floor plan of your proposed MEHKO. These may be drawn by hand and must include all areas used by the MEHKO, such as food storage areas, restrooms, kitchen, food service areas, and refuse/trash areas. Please describe the types of flooring and wall coverings (wallpaper, paint, etc.) in each area, and any equipment/appliances that will be used (refrigerator, freezer, dishwasher, stove, BBQ, etc.).
- Proof of residency at the MEHKO location.
- If you will offer delivery from your MEHKO using a motor vehicle, a copy of a valid driver’s license for your MEHKO’s delivery driver is required.
Click here to begin your Santa Barbara County Plan Check Application.
Before you can sell your first meal, you must pass the Environmental Health Specialist’s inspection first. Prepare your home kitchen for inspection day by making sure that your kitchen is in top notch shape.
Once you home kitchen passes inspection, you must pay all your remaining Plan Check fees before you can apply for a health permit.
Congratulations, you’re officially in business! Now you’re ready to build your very own foodie tribe on the Homemade App by creating a unique menu of home cooked meals that’ll keep nearby customers coming back for more. (How to Create the Perfect Menu for Your Home Based Kitchen Restaurant (homemadefood.app). Once you select your featured dishes, double check that all of your ingredients are MEHKO-approved, and snap some food selfies, you can use the Homemade App to tell the world about your tasty dishes on social media outlets such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
*If you get stuck at any point along the way, feel free to reach out to us with any questions about downloading the app, customizing your menu, or if you just want to find out more information on how to get started. Drop us a line by clicking here.
For more questions on MEHKO start up guide for home chefs in Santa Barbara County and other information about health permit requirements please email EHS at: [email protected]