Commercial Kitchen Code Requirements in California

a squeaky clean commercial kitchen

Commercial Kitchen Codes regulate how commercial kitchens in California operate. These regulations exist to protect public health and safety. Understanding these codes will help you comply with them when planning your commercial kitchen space or renovating your existing one. Reading the following information can help you understand what the code requires of you as an owner or tenant of a commercial kitchen.

It is important to note that each county has its standards for commercial kitchen operations; make sure to check with your local department of health before leasing or buying a property with a commercial kitchen.

If you own or lease a property with a commercial kitchen, be sure to meet all of the following requirements. If you want to ensure you are up to code without the hassle of learning it for yourself, it is easiest to work with a licensed professional.

What Are the Requirements for a Commercial Kitchen?

Primarily, when designing your commercial kitchen, you need to ensure that you meet all the requirements that the code has.

If your commercial kitchen fails to meet the standards of the code, you could be fined. The code specifies the location and size of the kitchen, how and where you store equipment, the location and size of bathrooms and hand-washing stations, and how you cast off wastewater.

Hiring and consulting different professionals can be beneficial in helping you determine the best layout for your commercial kitchen. This will ensure you meet the requirements that the code has.

Food Handling Certificates and Permits

Depending on the type of food handled, apply and register for a food-handling license with the California Department of Public Health, Food Certificates, Licenses, and Registration. Additional special licenses are often needed, for instance, to sell shellfish and organic products.

Get a Working Business License

A federal tax ID number from the IRS, a business license from the city, the registration of your company name with the Secretary of State's Office, and an application for a sales tax license with the California State Board of Equalization are additional requirements for operating a commercial kitchen in California.

Even though this California law pertains to every business, sales tax only applies to establishments that will provide goods and services for direct payment.

Sanitation Requirements

The sanitation requirements for a commercial kitchen are necessary to prevent food-borne illnesses. To protect the health of the customers and employees, commercial kitchens must have adequate hand-washing and sanitizing facilities.

The California Food Code requires commercial kitchens to have at least one hand-washing station per every nine employees. Additionally, these hand-washing stations must be equipped with either potable water or soap and a method of sanitizing hands.

For every three employees, you need to have a sanitizing sink. It is important to note that the sink used for sanitizing cannot be used for food preparation.

It would be best if you also had a supply of single-use towels or water-soluble cleaning rags that employees use to dry their hands.

Another sanitation requirement is that you have a written maintenance schedule for your hand-washing stations. This schedule should say when the sink, soap dispenser, and towels should be cleaned or sanitized.

Ventilation and Exhaust Fan Requirements

The ventilation and exhaust fan requirements for a commercial kitchen ensure that your kitchen has sufficient ventilation to prevent the buildup of contaminants and odors.

The California Food Code requires commercial kitchens to have a mechanical exhaust system that removes all grease and odors from the kitchen. This system must be equipped with a filter to remove any particulate.

For instance, professionals from Gold Standard Fire Protection offer commercial kitchens the best services when it comes to kitchen hood suppression systems. With a promise of honesty, integrity, and a thoroughly professional job, your kitchen will be treated with the utmost care and safety while conforming to commercial kitchen code requirements.

If your kitchen has a hood and an exhaust system, you need to ensure that it is not overloaded. The code requires commercial kitchens to maintain a minimum air velocity (MAV) of 0.25 m/s when operating the hood. It is based on the fan diameter in your kitchen's exhaust system.

The code also requires commercial kitchens to have a carbon dioxide or oxygen monitor that shuts off the exhaust fan when carbon dioxide or oxygen levels in the kitchen reach a certain level.

This is designed to prevent fires in the kitchen. It is important to note that an automatic timer cannot control exhaust fans for commercial kitchens.

Fire Protection Requirements

The fire protection requirements for a commercial kitchen ensure that the kitchen has an adequate fire suppression system. The California Fire Code requires commercial kitchens to have either an automatic sprinkler system or a fire extinguisher.

On the other hand, it is essential to note that the code does not require a kitchen to have both a sprinkler system and a fire extinguisher. It is up to you to determine which system will meet the fire protection requirements for your kitchen.

However, the code states that commercial kitchens that sell a food item with a high fire risk install an automatic sprinkler system. Typical foods with a high fire risk include flammable liquids, grains, and fats.

If you operate a commercial kitchen and sell one of these products, you must have an automatic sprinkler system.

Electrical Requirements

The electrical requirements for a commercial kitchen ensure that the kitchen has an adequate power supply and that all electrical connections are safe. The California Electrical Code requires commercial kitchens to have a minimum of 208 volts and a 15-amp circuit for each equipment unit.

It is important to note that you can combine circuits while meeting the minimum requirement. The code also requires commercial kitchens to have a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) for sinks and hand-washing stations and a ground fault circuit interrupter for the entire kitchen. This is designed to prevent electrical fires. The GFCI for the sink and hand-washing stations must be a "special" GFCI.

Furthermore, all electrical connections must be in accordance with National Electrical Code (NEC) regulations. These regulations include using the proper gauge of wires and connectors to minimize the risk of fires.


The commercial kitchen code regulates how commercial kitchens in California operate. These regulations exist to protect public health and safety. Each county has its own commercial kitchen operations standards, so check with your local department of health before leasing or buying a property with a commercial kitchen.

Once you've designed your kitchen, you can then work with professionals to create a final design for your kitchen. Looking for support with your professional fire protection system? Call us today for a free consultation.

How protected are you?

Call or text now and
schedule a free quote.

✆ 858-531-8473

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