A food business is anyone preparing, cooking, storing, handling, distributing, supplying or selling food whether for sale for profit or charity. All food business operators must ensure that their business is complying with the relevant food safety regulations to ensure that food is safe for consumers.

If you plan to start a new food business it is advisable to contact the Food Safety and Port Health Team before you start as they can provide advice and guidance to help meet legal obligations. More information on the requirements to start a new business can be found on the Food Standards Agency website. We also have guidance for new food businesses.

Once registered, you may be inspected by your local authority; this is usually within 28 days of opening. Preparing thoroughly for inspection means your business has the best chance of getting a top rating (5) in the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme.


When starting a new food business or taking over an existing business, you must register with your local authority at least 28 days before opening but preferably no more than 2 months before you are ready to trade. If you’re already trading and have not registered, you need to do this as soon as possible. Registration is free and only needs to be done once unless there are any changes of circumstances (such as a change of food business operator or in the type of food handled or prepared). Your registration cannot be refused.

Who needs to register

Registration applies to food business such as:

  • shops and retailers including online sales
  • restaurants, cafes and take-aways
  • catering businesses run from home, mobile catering and temporary businesses
  • food stalls, food pop ups and food vans
  • distance selling, mail order and food delivery
  • nurseries
  • companies involved with food distribution or supply that operate from an office should register - even if no food is kept at the premises

If you operate more than one premises, you need to register each premises with the local authority where it’s located.

You may be fined, imprisoned for up to 2 years or both if you run a food business without registering.

During this registration, you may come across a few specialist terms, which we have described below.

Food business operator

The food business operator (FBO) needs to complete the registration form. The operator is the person or people, charity or company who makes the decisions about the food business. They decide what is serves and how it operates. If there is a change of management of the business then a new registration is not required, but please inform the Food, Safety and Port Health team envhfoodsafety@dorsetcouncil.gov.uk


The establishment is the location or site of your food business. If it is a mobile food business, please use the location where it is normally stored overnight.

Give us your business address so we can allocate to the right team. Enter your postcode to select the address and follow the link. For mobile traders this is the home address or place where you keep your mobile vehicle.

Childminders providing food

If you’re a childminder and provide food for the children you look after, the details you provide to Ofsted or a childminder agency will be used to register you as a food business. Your details will be available to Dorset Council and you will not have to register separately.

Approval for a food business

Some businesses that process products of animal origin (making cheese, meat and fish products) may need approval from the local authority food team to operate. Therefore, contacting this service at an early business planning stage is encouraged.

These types of businesses do not need to register but should complete an application for approval.

Register a food business in Dorset

You can fill out our form to report a missing address.

Will tacit consent apply?

No, it is in the public interest that the authority must process your application before it can be granted.  If you have not heard from the local authority within a reasonable period, please contact your local authority food team.

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