Food Businesses

1. Overview

COVID19 Update

Stay up to date with restrictions, State Government Advice and DHHS advice.

Information for businesses, including Government assistance can be found on the Coronavirus - Information for Business page.

Council must ensure all food sold within the Shire is safe and prepared in a hygienic manner by individually assessing each food business application. The title of food business in this case applies to all food operations within the Shire, including restaurants and cafes, home food businesses, and temporary and mobile food stalls.

2. Apply to start a food business

To operate a food business in Colac Otway Shire the first step is to contact the Health Protection Unit on 5232 9400 to discuss the operation of the business and to arrange for an Application to Register a Food Business Form to be sent to you with the appropriate fee for the risk classification of the business.

Applications are held to account by regulations in the Food Act 1984, to ensure the safe sale of food to the public.

There are numerous factors that come into consideration when granting a license to sell food, some of which include the type of food being sold, the premises used, the facilities available and access to utilities.

Follow the links below which have further information about establishing a food business and where your food business would fit in the classification system, as well what you need to do to set up a temporary food operation.

Alternatively, get in touch with the Council’s Health Protection team on (03) 5232 9400 to find out more. You can also find out more at the State Government’s starting a food business page.


3. Food business classifications

For a food business to start operating and selling food it must first be classified under the Food Act 1984. The classification is based on the level of safety risk posed by the handling and consumption of food sold within a premises.


Food businesses deemed to have the highest risk, where potentially hazardous food is served to vulnerable groups.

Examples include hospitals, aged care facilities and child care facilities.


Businesses which handle potentially hazardous foods needing temperature control during handling, cooking and storage.

Examples include restaurants, cafes, fast food outlets, pubs and supermarkets.


Premises which handle unpackaged, low-risk foods or pre-packaged foods which simply need refrigeration to keep them safe.

Examples include milk bars, convenience stores, fruit stalls selling cut fruit and wholesalers distributing pre-packaged foods.


Businesses posing little threat to public health, with mostly pre-packaged, low-risk foods, such as confectionary.

Examples include newsagents, pharmacies and bottle shops.

Establishing a new food business

Before planning any new food business within the Colac Otway Shire there are a number of steps you should carry out to ensure you meet all the relevant requirements.

Steps to setting up a new food business
Step 1 – Obtain all relevant permits
  1. You need to contact the council on (03) 5235 9400 and get in touch with relevant departments:
    • the planning department will determine whether you can conduct business at the intended property
    • the building department if you’re intending to change the fit-out or make structural changes, and obtain requirements for staff and public toilets
    • the local laws department for permits to have small signs, street furniture and trade on Council land.
  2. If the property is in a sewered township, contact Barwon Water on 1300 656 007 for a trade waste agreement and grease trap requirements. 

  3. If the property is unsewered, you will need an onsite wastewater management system. If the anticipated waste water is above 5000L/day (averaged over a week) then you need to contact EPA Victoria on 1300 372 842. Otherwise, contact the Council’s environmental health team on (03) 5235 9400, or complete an application to install a septic tank system -  Application-to-Install-a-Septic-Tank-System-with-credit-and-payment-2019-2020.pdf(PDF, 234KB) .  If unsure of your anticipated waste, contact the Council’s Health Protection team.

Step 2 – Application for food act registration

The Council must determine whether your business will comply with the Australian food safety standards. To do this you must:

  1. Complete the Council’s application to register a food business which will be sent to you after an initial phone consultation. Companies and trusts will be required to provide a full ASIC business extract, showing directors and company office.

  2. Submit plans to the Council before starting any works. This will ensure you comply with the FoodStandards Australia New Zealand - Standard 3.2.3 Food Premises and Equipment. Failure to submit plans might result in Council refusing registration.

  3. Pay the required fee

  4. For class 1 and 2 food business proposals, you must:
Step 3 – Assessment of premises

Contact the Council’s environmental health unit at least one week before the intended opening to arrange a final inspection. The inspecting officer will assess the premises for suitability to trade, looking for the following:

  • fit-out completed and compliance with the food safety standards
  • refrigeration units turned on, verifying they are capable of keeping food at required temperatures
  • sanitising chemicals at the premises
  • all fixtures, fittings and equipment installed
  • a suitable food grade thermometer available at the premises
  • the food safety template is available at the premises
  • a copy of your food safety supervisor’s qualification
  • compliance with department of health requirements for smoking signage.

4. Renovating an existing food business

Before renovating a new or existing premises to operate a food business, a proprietor must ensure the premises complies with requirements of the Australian food safety standards.

Steps to renovating a food business
  1. Submit a floor plan of the premises to Council’s health department detailing the fixtures, equipment and working surfaces, together with a description of the types of food to be prepared or sold. This should take place before any renovations start at the premises.

    The Council will respond with a letter, detailing any items you’re required to incorporate into the design. This will save time and money. All premises need to comply with the FoodStandards Australia New Zealand - Standard 3.2.3 Food Premises and Equipment.

  2. The proprietor must submit to Council a food safety plan, which can be completed using a food safety program template, and also ensure an adequate number of staff have received food handler training before the premises can open.

    The Council cannot legally register or transfer a premises until this requirement is completed. Proprietors who operate unregistered can be sued by customers and prosecuted by Council if an unfortunate food event occurs.

Registration is valid for 12 months and the renewal application must be made in the month before registration expires. For further information, contact the Council on (03) 5232 9400.

5. Home-based food business

Preparing or storing food in home or domestic kitchens which you sell to the public is considered a food business. This means you require registration with the Council and must meet legislative requirements of the Food Act 1984.

The Council uses the Food Act 1984 when determining a proposal for a home-based food business. Stringent safety requirements and regulations on equipment and buildings means there are many things to consider in applying for a home-based food business. Some of these include kitchen fit-outs, water supply, waste water disposal, food storage and transportation, and sanitisation.

For general guidelines on the requirements of a home-based food business, please refer to the Council’s setting up a home-based food business guide -  Home-based-business-info.pdf(PDF, 236KB)

Alternatively, contact the Council’s health protection team on (03) 5235 9400 for further information.

6. Temporary and mobile food operators, including community groups

Anybody wanting to operate a mobile food van or temporary food premises must register with Streatrader, an online registration tool for businesses and community groups selling food from a food stall, truck, van or cart.

To ensure food offered at street stalls, festivals and events is safe for human consumption, it’s important every person involved in food preparation, packaging and storage understands and complies with Council’s guidelines.

Perishable foods are those that can spoil quickly and support the growth of harmful bacteria likely to cause food poisoning. Examples of perishable foods are:

  • milk and milk products, including custard, cheese, cream and yoghurt
  • cakes with cream fillings
  • meat, poultry and fish
  • sandwiches containing meat, eggs or mayonnaise
  • cooked rice and casseroles.
  • pies, pasties or sausage rolls.

Council recommends the sale of non-perishable foods, however perishable foods can be sold if appropriate temperature control measures in place, such as:

  • storing cold food below 5 degrees celsius, either on ice or in a refrigerated container.
  • keeping hot food above 60 degree celsius after cooking, either in a pie warmer, bain-marie or on a gas burner.

Foods, such as cakes or trays of biscuits, must be kept covered.

7. Street food stall or events

Please take a look at the following resources for further information on operating a street food stall or event:

8. Mobile food vans

Structural standards required to fit a kitchen in a mobile food vehicle are dependent on the nature of the food business, potential risk factors and frequency of use. A complete list of structural requirements can be found in the Food Standards Australia New Zealand Food Premises and Equipment legislation.

In general, the food van proprietor must display their name and contact details on the vehicle and ensure this is maintained in a readable condition.

The following requirements apply to mobile food premises where food and beverages are prepared and offered for sale:

  • all fittings, equipment and utensils must be constructed of impervious (waterproof) material capable of being easily cleaned
  • a minimum of one sink supplied with hot and cold water for cleaning utensils and equipment used in the preparation of food.
  • a dedicated hand wash sink supplied with hot and cold potable (drinkable) water, liquid soap and paper towel
  • water heating devices such as urns, kettles or similar are not acceptable
  • a waste water holding tank is provided for water from sinks and hand basin
  • adequate mechanical ventilation provided above cooking appliances
  • adequate refrigeration to ensure cold foods are stored at or below 5 degrees celsius and frozen foods at or below minus 15 degrees celsius
  • hot food holding devices, such as bain-maries, must keep food above 60 degrees celsius.

For more information about operating a mobile food van, see the State Government’s food safety page on mobile food premises.

If you want further information on food safety or operating a mobile or temporary food outlet, contact the Council’s health protection team on (03) 5232 9429. For more information on starting a food business, visit the Starting a Business page of our website.