Home-based business

Home-based businesses are some of the simplest businesses to set up in San Francisco. Many only require the most basic types of business registration. However, they still must follow the rules set by the Planning Department in the San Francisco Planning Code.

Key Things to Know about a Home Office

  • You cannot have clients coming to the home.
  • You cannot have employees who do not live there coming to the home.
  • You cannot display advertising or any other physical alteration that is non-residential in character.
  • You cannot use more than 25% of the space for commercial purposes.

NOTE: The Planning Department has created a Home Office How-To Guide that walks you through the rules and steps to getting a home office approved.

Food Manufacturing at Home

If you plan on manufacturing food for retail sale, the California Homemade Food Act (often referred to as the Cottage Food Law) allows some businesses to produce from home. However, you must meet certain qualifications. Be sure to check out the California Department of Public Health Cottage Food Operations webpage for additional information.

Who qualifies?

  • Businesses producing “non-potentially hazardous” foods (ie. foods that do not require refrigeration to keep them safe from bacteria that could make people sick)
  • Businesses making under $50,000 in annual gross sales
  • Businesses with no more than one full-time employee outside the immediate family

Who does inspections?

There are two classes of homemade food producers. The class you fall under determines who inspects your home kitchen. Regardless of your class, you must attend a food processing class.

  • Class A (Direct sales): If you only sell directly to the consumer, you may conduct your own health inspections
  • Class B (Indirect sales): If you sell through a third-party retailer such as a market, bakery, or restaurant, your home kitchen must be inspected annually by the county health department. In SF, that would be the SF Department of Public Health

Other requirements

  • Distribution is limited to your county. (ie. You can only sell your goods within San Francisco)
  • Online sales must be delivered in person
  • Labeling requires you to state the food is made in a home kitchen (download PDF for additional cottage food labeling information.)
  • No infants, small children, or pets are allowed in the kitchen during cottage food preparation
Last updated July 12, 2022