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California Welcomes First Home Restaurant in the U.S.

The term “homestyle” is taking on a whole new meaning for at least one restaurant.

Meghan McConaghy Chane of Riverside County, CA is the first person to be granted a permit to open a home restaurant in the U.S.

“I was too afraid to work on a food venture before this,” said Chane. “We’d talked about a food truck, catering, or a restaurant. The fear of the financial risk and the money you need up front, as well as all of the regulation and hoop jumping, felt really overwhelming.”

Chane learned about the opportunity to open a Home Restaurant when she received support from the food-focused startup, Foodnome. Foodnome is a platform that helps home cooks navigate the legal waters to become permitted.

“We believe home restaurants will have a large impact on our economy by empowering everyday people to make additional income through their passion,” said founder of Foodnome Akshay Prabhu.

According to homerestaurants.com, a home restaurant is “the chance for anyone who likes to cook to turn their home and their kitchen into a restaurant, opening occasionally for friends, acquaintances, and perfect strangers (travelers above all), who will be able to sample the original dishes of the places they go to regularly or during a trip.”

However, unless you live in California, don’t get your hopes up about getting the green light on your business just yet. California is the only state in the country to legalize home restaurants with the passing of bill AB626 earlier in 2019.

The Homemade Food Operations Act is the widest-reaching “cottage food” law in the U.S., reported The San Francisco Chronicle (Jan. 2). It extended the state’s 2012 California Homemade Food Act to allow home cooks to sell prepared foods such as hot stews and frozen dumplings in addition to jams, candies and other “low-risk” foods.

When the bill passed, Assmblyman Eduardo Garcia—who introduced the act—said he saw AB626 as an economic opportunity, particularly for low-income and immigrant cooks who lack the capital to rent commercial kitchen space and pay for equipment. The law targeted small operations by limiting the amount of money home-based culinary businesses could gross to $50,000 per year.

However, it requires county and city environmental health departments to choose whether or not they want to conduct inspections and issue permits. Opting in requires local boards of supervisors to pass an ordinance.

Back in 2015, online restaurant reservation service OpenTable welcomed home restaurants in San Francisco to its networks through startups Feastly and EatWith. The companies list dining experiences hosted by a chef or home cook, some in the cook’s own home but occasionally in other communal spaces.

Noah Karesh was inspired to start Feastly after traveling to Guatemala and failing to find a single Guatemalan restaurant. He asked a local avocado seller where to go, and with a wide smile he replied, “My mom’s house!”

“A few thoughts came to my mind: Why was it so hard for me to find? Why couldn’t she do what she loved to do and be able to share that with people and maybe make extra income doing it?” he said. “That was really the genesis of Feastly: we built out this platform that allows for any chefs to be able to offer and serve food to anyone whenever they want.”

Currently, Feastly is live in Washington DC, San Francisco, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and Portland, while EatWith is active in 100+ cities across the world.