Washington food manager license and insurance requirements

Washington food manager license and insurance requirements

Ashley Henshaw
By Ashley Henshaw
Mar 16, 2023
9 min read

The Evergreen State is a picturesque place to start a restaurant. As you prepare for opening day, remember to check that your employees have the proper food safety training and certification.

According to state law, restaurants and food businesses in Washington State must have at least one certified food protection manager (CFPM) on staff. To become a CFPM, employees must complete an approved food safety certification course and exam.1

CFPMs perform specific supervisory duties at Washington restaurants and food service businesses, including training each person in charge (PIC) and monitoring other food workers. If the CFPM acts as a food worker at their place of employment, they must also have a Washington State Food Worker card.2

To learn more about how to become a certified food protection manager, Washington State restaurant owners can check out this guide covering the following topics:

Who needs a food manager license in Washington?

All food establishments in Washington State must have at least one certified food protection manager on staff. You must hold a food protection manager certification if you do not have any employees.

The CFPM does not need to be on-site during all hours of operation, and they can act as the CFPM for more than one establishment (such as a restaurant with multiple locations).3

A few types of food businesses are exempt from this requirement, including those which:3

  • Serve or sell only prepackaged food
  • Prepare only non-TCS (Temperature Control for Safety) food
  • Heat only commercially processed, ready-to-eat food
  • Serve food temporarily at short-term events, like fairs and festivals

If the certified food manager stops working for your restaurant or food business, you must have another CFPM on staff within 60 days.1

Food manager vs. person in charge

Washington restaurants and food businesses must have a person in charge on-site during all hours of operation. The PIC can be the owner or other designated employees.

Each PIC must be capable of demonstrating their knowledge of food safety to health inspectors. They may fulfill this requirement in one of the following ways:

  1. Having no violations of key risk factors during the inspection
  2. Responding correctly to the inspector’s questions about food safety
  3. Being a certified food protection manager

The CFPM is responsible for training any PICs who don’t have a food protection manager certification. This training must prepare them to successfully demonstrate their knowledge of food safety practices during inspections.1

Food manager certification vs. food handler license

In Washington, all food workers must have a Washington State Food Worker card before handling or serving food to the public.4 

Workers who are typically required to meet Washington food handler license requirements include kitchen staff, servers, bussers, hosts, bartenders and other food service employees.

Certified food protection managers must also have a food worker card if their job involves handling or serving food in any capacity.2

If you provide on-site food safety training, employees can work up to 14 days before getting their official card. Otherwise, your employees must have this certification before working at your business.

Employees can get a Washington food worker card by completing a training program through their local health department and passing a corresponding exam. The state also offers one approved online training option.

Food handlers, food managers and persons in charge all help to protect your business. Their training in proper food preparation and handling techniques reduces the risk of foodborne illness.

How to get Washington food manager certification

To obtain food manager certification, Washington employees must complete a food safety training course accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). You can find a list of approved courses here.

CFPM courses cover a number of topics related to proper food handling, such as:

  • Duties of the person in charge
  • Demonstration of knowledge by the PIC
  • Microbiology basics
  • Foodborne illness prevention
  • Hygiene and sanitation
  • Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP)
  • Time and temperature
  • Food safety regulations

Participants must pass an exam on the covered food protection course topics to obtain their certification. 

Washington food manager license fees

Typically, the Washington CFPM course and exam costs around $100. 

You or your employees can complete Washington food manager courses entirely online or through in-person courses as long as the training and exam are provided by an ANSI-accredited program. 

Restaurant owners are not required to cover the cost of the food safety manager certification. A certification is considered the employee's property, and they are permitted to use it at other food establishments if they change jobs.

How long does it take to get a food manager license in Washington?

Typically, you or your employees can complete the training course for food manager certification within eight hours. The exam takes about one to two hours to complete.

After successful completion of the exam, certificates may be issued instantly or sent by mail.

Washington food manager certificate verification

Restaurant owners are responsible for keeping a copy of their food protection manager's certification on-site. This certificate must be displayed or kept on file and made available upon request during health inspections.

If the certificate is lost or damaged, the food manager can contact the examination provider to get a replacement.

Food manager certificate renewal requirements

Renewal is required every five years for a certified food protection manager. Washington State employees must retake the training course and exam to renew their certification.

Washington certification reciprocity 

If an employee has been certified as a food manager outside the state of Washington, they may receive reciprocity if they obtained their certification from an ANSI-accredited program.4

Insurance requirements for Washington restaurants

To help protect your business from everyday risks, consider getting Washington business insurance. Many restaurants owners in the state consider the following insurance coverage options:

General Liability insurance

General liability insurance can help protect your business financially if a covered accident causes property damage or a third-party injury. 

Food service general liability insurance can also include restaurant-specific coverage for risks such as foodborne illness. If customers get sick from food that is contaminated or prepared incorrectly, this coverage may help cover related costs.

Restaurants with their liquor license may also want to consider Washington liquor liability insurance, which can help protect your business from risks associated with serving alcohol.  

Workers’ Compensation insurance

Workers’ compensation insurance can help cover lost wages or medical expenses if an employee is injured on the job. Nearly every Washington business with employees must carry workers’ comp insurance.5

Commercial Property insurance

Commercial property insurance can help pay for repairs or replacements for your business’s physical assets if they are damaged by a covered event, such as an electrical fire or burst pipe. Some business assets this insurance may cover include commercial buildings, equipment, inventory and furniture.

Commercial Auto insurance

Commercial auto insurance can help provide coverage for medical expenses, property damage and other related costs if you or an employee gets into an accident while driving a work vehicle.

In Washington State, all vehicles must meet minimum insurance coverage requirements of $25,000 per person, $50,000 per accident and $10,000 for property damage.6

How NEXT supports Washington restaurant owners

NEXT is 100% dedicated to helping small businesses thrive. We provide tailored Washington restaurant insurance policies designed for small businesses and self-employed business owners.

It only takes about 10 minutes to get a quote, review your coverage options, choose your policies and download a certificate of insurance

Our team of licensed insurance advisors is standing by to assist you if you have any questions along the way.

Start an instant quote online today.


1 Washington Administrative Code Chapter 246-215

2 Certified Food Protection Manager

3 Frequently Asked Questions: Certified Food Protection Manager

4 Washington Department of Health Food Worker Card

5 Employers’ Guide to Workers’ Compensation Insurance in Washington

6 Washington State’s Mandatory Auto/Motorcycle Insurance Law

Washington food manager license and insurance requirements


Ashley Henshaw
About the author

Ashley Henshaw was a contributing writer at NEXT. She specializes in small business topics, covering everything from insurance and branding to web hosting and cryptocurrency.

Her work has appeared in The Huffington Post, AOL City's Best, Citysearch, USA Today, The San Francisco Chronicle and Livestrong.

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