What are the implications of reselling food? Is it legal?

What would happen, for example, if in the US I buy Little Caesar's pizzas (with no delivery service) and sell them on another place? What are the implications of restaurant delivery services as GrubHub or OrderUp?

  • Caterers do this all the time - pizza might be uncommon, but other third party baked goods are extremely common. What's the specific question or scenario? – user662852 Oct 13 '15 at 0:50
  • @user662852 Well the scenario it's a simple one: Buy pizzas and without processing them at any level, just sell them. Is that legal? Who holds the liability in case of food poisoning? – Mauricio Oct 13 '15 at 22:45

There are two scenarios presented:

  1. Buying prepared hot food, holding it hot in inventory, and selling it a la carte.

  2. Providing a delivery service.

In 1, you are a food service business. It is a common business model for street vendors, caterers, or concessionaires to buy prepared hot food from third party commissaries. Food service businesses tend to have specific local and state regulations about food handling, occupational licesnse and food safety certification, inspections, equipment requirements and maintaining temperature logs to be legal, and in the event of food poisoning, anyone in the handling chain could have responsibility. Contact your specific city or state heath department.

There is also the question of if Little Caesars etc. wants to be your commissary but that is their business decision. Another answer discusses the intellectual property of their logo and marketing, so I defer to that answer on the question of if they could positively stop you, assuming they don't care to sell into your commissary channel.

In number 2, does GrubHub or similar actually ever own the food? They are providing several agent services: on a person's behalf, placing an order as directed. As an intermediary, collecting and transferring payment. As a contractor working as directed by the owner of the food, collecting and transporting it to the owners location when ready. In general the pickup task is something the owner could do and should be able to freely delegate, though I would not be surprised to learn of the existence of at least one city ordinance treating this delivery task as a food handling job subject to health and safety regulations.


If you CHANGE the food at all, you have to repackage it.

EDIT: There IS a term for this, it's called "reverse-palming-off." There are limitations on what you can do, in the absence of a contractual agreement with the original manufacturer.

My original comment related to the idea of buying a "Ceazar's pizza," adding something (say...salt, feta, basil), re-baking it. Then it is no longer a Ceazar's pizza and you can't remarket it as such.

There are certainly also many examples of people who re-sell packaged food: Businesses that put together "gift baskets" which contain a variety of specialty items, such as cheeses, mustard, crackers, wine, etc.

The legal issue is two-fold: "are you representing some product made by another purveyor as your own?" And the converse: "are you adulterating/changing some other purveyor's product and still representing it as being their product?"

One of the early cases on this discussed taking a cask of whiskey and breaking it down into smaller bottles. Can you still market it as "Jim Beam(TM)" whiskey? The court decided you could. If however, you watered it down (adulterated it) then you could not.

  • Even if you don't change it, you'd probably have to repackage it if the packaging displays any trademark. – phoog Oct 12 '15 at 23:49
  • Can you provide any support for this answer? – feetwet Oct 13 '15 at 0:17
  • And define change. And repackage. – jqning Oct 13 '15 at 1:44
  • And what happens if the food isn't changed? – Mauricio Oct 13 '15 at 22:46
  • 1
    By the first sale doctrine, if you don't change it you should be able to sell it in the same container. If you do change the food, you could argue that the container is yours, you bought it and you are free to sell it. – Viktor Oct 14 '15 at 12:56

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.