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Sandwich Shop Licenses

Sandwich Shop Licenses and Permits Needed in Rhode Island

Jim McCormickAuthor

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When you’re opening a sandwich shop business, you’re going to need to get your licenses and permits in order before opening.

A business license, a food facility health permit, a certificate of occupancy — they all have varying (and sometimes overlapping) requirements, so it’s important to know exactly what you need to get to legally open a restaurant in your particular city or county in Rhode Island. 

There are more than 194,000 quick service restaurants in the US, many of them specialize in sandwiches and grab-and-go options. 

Quick service sandwich operations like Tatte in Boston, offer a glimpse into how the traditional sandwich shop has evolved into a tech-forward, cutting edge business.

One of the reasons why these restaurants have become more popular recently is because they are less expensive to operate than full-service restaurants, and the fixed costs to open initially are far less, at the lower bound even being as low as $80,000 to $100,000.

With the the landscape of quick service sandwich shops continuing to evolve and demand continuing to grow now is a great to to start your own version. To open your restaurant you’ll need to start with the details like figuring out your overall concept, choosing the perfect location, and getting all of your licensing taken care of.

Obtaining all of the required sandwich shops permits and licenses will take patience, organization, and a decent amount of paperwork on your part. Getting approval for each one will take time.

We’ll go through the most common licenses and permits needed in Rhode Island, what they are and why you need them, how to get them, and how much they cost.


Opening a Deli Checklist

So many things go into opening a deli. With this free PDF checklist, you'll set your new business up for success.


How to Open a Sandwich Shop Business in Rhode Island

To ensure that the process of opening your sandwich shop is an efficient as possible we recommend you follow this sequence of steps.

  1. Create your sandwich shop business plan
  2. Find your sandwich shop location
  3. Determine your sandwich shop menu
  4. Order your sandwich shop equipment
  5. Determine your suppliers, cost structure and pricing
  6. Obtain all necessary licenses and permits to operate your sandwich shop, in local compliance

For the last step, every sandwich shop license and permit is unique and has its own application process. And each one takes varying amounts of time to secure, so in the process of opening your sandwich shop you’ll want to leave plenty of time to get the proper licenses and permits in place. 

To simplify the licensing process we have created this guide to cover all the sandwich shop licenses and permits you’ll need in Rhode Island.

Licenses and Permits Required to Open a Sandwich Shop in Rhode Island

  1. Business License 
  2. Certificate of Occupancy 
  3. Food Handler’s License, also known as Food Service License 
  4. Seller’s Permit 
  5. Catering Business License 

1. Business License in Rhode Island

What is it and why do you need it?

A business license is one of the first licenses you’ll need as you start laying the groundwork of your business. Also known as a business tax certificate, it helps your business stay compliant at tax season.

How to get a business license in Rhode Island

In Rhode Island, business licenses are controlled by the city or county you live in. If you operate a restaurant with multiple locations across cities and counties, it’s important to get a business license for each business in different jurisdictions. To get a business license in Rhode Island, you’ll need:

  1. An EIN
  2. To choose what classification of business you’ll be (LLC? Sole proprietorship? Partnership?)
  3. A business name
  4. An address and phone number,
  5. A thorough restaurant business plan
  6. A COI for your business insurance policy

How much does a business license cost in Rhode Island?

Rhode Island business license costs vary depending the county, type and scope of the business. Business licenses in Rhode Island need to be renewed and paid for regularly, so check with your jurisdiction about how often yours will need to be renewed.

License Name



Business License

Varies depending on county

Rhode Island Department of State

2. Certificate of Occupancy in Rhode Island

What is it and why do you need it?

A certificate of occupancy is a document that shows your space is zoned for your type of business, as well as up to code, safe to use, and up to date on its checks and inspections. Not every county will require them for new businesses, and even then, only certain situations require them, including if you’re doing major building work or changing the use of a space from residential to business.

Always get in touch with your local jurisdiction to determine if your project warrants a CoO.

How to get a certificate of occupancy license?

The forms are online, but in order to get the certificate, your business location will need to go through fire inspections, plumbing inspections, electrical inspections, and building inspections. Check your local city or county’s building and safety department.

How much does a certificate of occupancy cost?

Different counties will charge different amounts, and they will also vary by type of business. Fee will vary depending on county.

License Name



Certificate of Occupancy

Fees will vary depending on county

Check your local city or county’s small business department

3. Food Handler’s License in Rhode Island

What is it and why do you need it?

A food service license, also known as an employee health permit, allows restaurants, vendors, or any other type of food business to safely sell and serve food onsite. These licenses ensure that every employee knows how to do their part to keep your diners safe from foodborne illness. They’re often referred to as ServSafe, after the company that administers most food handler’s tests, or as a Rhode Island Food Handler Card.

How to get a food handler’s license in Rhode Island

Every employee who prepares or serves food in Rhode Island must get their Food Handler’s license within 30 days of being hired — chefs, cooks, servers, baristas, and bartenders, to name a few. Bussers and general managers may not be required to do so. 

And if managers have already gotten their Food Protection Manager Certification, they’re also exempt from getting a Rhode Island Food Handler card. Some jurisdictions have their own food safety training programs and standards, so they’re exempt from requiring employees to get a Rhode Island Food Handler card.

To get their food handler’s card, employees must pass a test about food safety and preparation with a grade of at least 70% (or higher in some jurisdictions).

How much does a food service license cost in Rhode Island?

Rhode Island state law requires that the test and license not cost more than $15, in order to make sure anyone working in a restaurant can afford to get certified.

License Name



Food Handler's License

Up to $15 per employee

Rhode Island Food Handler Training

4. Food Seller’s Permit in Rhode Island

What is it and why do you need it?

Any business that plans to sell tangible goods that are subject to sales tax needs a seller’s permit. This permit allows them to charge sales tax.

How to get a seller’s permit?

You can register for a permit online through the SBA License and Permits portal.

How much does a food seller’s license cost?

There’s no fee to apply for a seller’s permit, but you may be asked to pay a security deposit to cover unpaid taxes if the business eventually closes.

License Name



Seller's Permit

$0 (but a security deposit may be requested

SBA Licenses and Permits

5. Catering License

What is the catering license businesses need in Rhode Island?  

Rhode Island catering business license costs vary depending the county, type and scope of the business but typically fall in the ranges listed below. In order to get your catering license in Rhode Island, you should start with the link below.


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Timeline for Opening a Sandwich Shop: Next Steps

Obtaining necessary sandwich shop business licenses is a startup cost you’ll need to invest in. Your permits are most likely going to cost well over $1,000. This cost should be factored into your startup numbers and metrics. Be sure to plan ahead as getting all of your licenses approved can take 2-3 months or longer.

All the details, from a POS system to the sandwich shop permits and licenses you need to have in place before doors open, are an exciting investment into your sandwich shop. They’ll help get you well on your way to opening up your dream business. Start your planning with our free restaurant business plan template.

If you’re feeling ready, go ahead and begin your paperwork now. Find your local requirements for sandwich shop licenses and permits here

Keep in mind that these are just some of the sandwich shop permits and licenses you’ll have to obtain to open and operate in a legal capacity. Laws and regulations tied to each license will vary based on your location.

Be sure to research the different permits and licenses you’ll need for your sandwich shop at all levels — including city, state, and federal. The process might seem overwhelming and time consuming, but with all your Ts crossed and your Is dotted, you’ll be ready to start selling delicious sandwiches before you know it.


Restaurant Business Plan Template

No matter where you’re at in your restaurant ownership journey, a business plan will be your north star. Organize your vision and ensure that nothing is overlooked with this free template.


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