Experiences Involving Food in California
These information pages can help you get started in learning about some of the laws and registration requirements that may apply to your experiences on Airbnb. These pages include summaries of some of the rules that may apply to different sorts of activities, and contain links to government resources that you may find helpful.
Please understand that these information pages are not comprehensive, and are not legal advice. If you are unsure about how local laws or this information may apply to you or your Experience, we encourage you to check with official sources or seek legal advice.
Please note that we don’t update this information in real time, so you should confirm that the laws or procedures have not changed recently.*
What are some things to keep in mind?
Your guest’s health and safety should always come first. Take your guests to and serve them food from reputable restaurants, food trucks, or professional caterers who keep clean facilities, use fresh ingredients, and have a good food safety track record. Ask your guests in advance if they have food allergies or religious or philosophical codes that may impact what kind of food they can enjoy during their trip.
I’m a foodie. What kind of food experiences can I provide in California?
The following food experiences are unlikely to trigger any regulatory issues:
- Taking your guests to your favorite local restaurants or food trucks
- Inviting your guests to your home or a picnic where you serve food that is cooked in a licensed facility, e.g.,take-out from your favorite local restaurants or food catered by a professional licensed caterer
If you’re thinking of serving home-cooked food, please carefully read our home-cooked food guidance and check with an attorney to make sure you are following your local laws.
I want to serve home-cooked food to guests visiting my home. Are there any specific rules I need to follow?
The key question is whether serving home-cooked food in your private home to occasional guests qualifies as a regulated “retail” activity under the California Retail Food Code (“CRFC”).
If you serve food to guests in your home and don’t charge anything for the experience or trip, the CRFC generally should not apply.
If you do charge for your experience/trip, it’s unclear whether this activity qualifies as a regulated “retail” activity. There is a specific private home exemption under the CRFC, which could suggest that serving a meal to guests in a private home is not meant to be regulated by the CRFC. Some health departments have taken a different view on this, however, so please carefully read about the position health departments take on this matter.
It’s clear, however, that if the food you’re serving is a Cottage Food and you have a Cottage Food permit, you can serve it to your guests. If you charge a fee but donate all of it to a non profit and your food experience is for the benefit of that non-profit, it may fall under the non-profit exemption of the CRFC.
What position do health departments take?
Some California health departments that enforce the CRFC have taken the position that individuals hosting paying guests cannot legally cook and serve meals with perishable foods (things like, but not limited to, fresh fruit, vegetables, eggs, cream, meats, fish, poultry, etc.) in a private home. In short, if you’re thinking about serving home-cooked food to paying guests, you may be at risk of enforcement by the California health department. Please confirm with an attorney or the California health department that the exemption for private homes applies to your trip or experience before you list such a trip or experience.
What is Cottage Food?
There are also a number of non-perishable food items that can be prepared in, and sold both inside and outside, your home as Cottage Food products. To sell these items, the cook needs to get a Cottage Food permit and pass a home kitchen inspection.
What about donating the proceeds of home cooked meals to a non-profit?
Hosts may be able to provide home-cooked meals for guests by partnering with non-profit organizations and donating all proceeds from the meal to the non-profit organization. The CRFC exempts certain non-profit entities from the definition of a “food facility,” so long as they do not host events for more than three days in a ninety day period.
The CRFC also exempts for-profit entities that donate all monetary proceeds from their events to a non-profit organization, so long as they do not host events for more than three days in a ninety day period. While the exact meaning of these exemptions is not clear, they can be interpreted to mean that if Hosts donate all their proceeds from a dinner party to a non-profit, they can host dinner parties without being at risk of being held subject to the CRFC. If you want to host a dinner party in your home by partnering with a non-profit, we encourage you to speak to an attorney to make sure you are correctly interpreting this exemption.
The waivers to be submitted to the San Francisco Department of Public Health for non-profits and for-profit entities that are donating proceeds can be found here.
I’m a great cook. Can I give cooking lessons for a fee to my guests?
If you want to teach a cooking lesson in a private home, please carefully read our guidance on home-cooked foods and speak to an attorney to make sure you are following your local laws.
Alternatively, you may find detailed information about how to obtain Cottage Food permits under your local law. From time to time, Airbnb may also partner with select non-profits who may either provide licensed food facilities for hosts or may otherwise sponsor a food related event.
*Airbnb is not responsible for the reliability or correctness of the information contained in any links to third party sites (including any links to legislation and regulations).
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