To simplify the discussion, let's say I have a brick and mortar store, like Bath and Body Works. For those unfamiliar, they sell goods like soaps and perfumes.

If I wanted to put a tray of brownies at the register for impulse purchase, would I need a license, or approval from a body such as the health department?

I'm hoping no.

Additionally this would be in the state of North Carolina, but I am curious if this law would differ from state to state.

  • Fresh baked, or factory sealed? Commented Jan 1 at 0:55
  • 1
    Fresh baked and wrapped/sealed Commented Jan 2 at 2:20
  • Ok, well the rules are different for each... Commented Jan 2 at 3:21
  • I am saying they would be both, fresh baked, then wrapped/sealed Commented Jan 2 at 16:30
  • My point is, rules are different if you control the food preparation and packaging. (I.e. operating functionally as a restaurant). It would be far easier to sell prepackaged snacks as many other "non-food" stores do. Commented Jan 2 at 16:36

1 Answer 1


The law would differ not only from state to state, but from one locality to another. Licensing of food vendors and restaurants is normally done at the municipal or county level.

In all likelihood, this would require a license from a local health department. Some local ordinances with have a list of exemptions from its general rules, for example, for packaged food sold in a vending machine by a licensed vending machine vendor. But you would need to review the local ordinance to see what those exemptions were, and whether you could tailor your proposal to fit them. It is quite likely that you could not, in which could you would need a licenses and would be subject to regular local health department inspections.

Most storefronts are leased, and you would probably also have to review your lease to determine if this activity is permitted. Many owners of store fronts in commercial areas lease multiple properties and have leases that restrict their tenants from competing with each other with very similar products in the same neighborhood, or prohibit tenants to engage in activities, like selling food, with higher liability risks.

  • Fresh baked vs sealed, prepackaged "snack food" should make a difference too. (Considering that several local hardware stores include snacks in the checkout area.) Consider adding this to your otherwise excellent answer. Commented Dec 30, 2023 at 16:11
  • @MichaelHall gummy bears and other sweets and ice are usually different from other foods.
    – Trish
    Commented Dec 30, 2023 at 18:52
  • @trish, yes, plus, (i think...) Twinkies, Hohos, etc. Fresh baked are different. That was my point... Commented Dec 31, 2023 at 1:35

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