Guide to Laws for Restaurant Owners (and their Customers) in California

Restaurant customer

Most restaurant related laws are made at the state level. However, some are also made at the local level. See our Guides to Laws about Restaurants in the Los Angeles area and the San Francisco area.

1. Health & Safety

Do restaurants have to post their health grades?

Yes, under the California Health and Safety Code, restaurants must display their health grade in a place where everyone can see it.

How do I file a complaint against a restaurant for unhealthy conditions?

Contact your county health department.

Are food servers or preparers allowed to use latex gloves?

No, as of January 2020, food servers or preparers are not allowed to use latex gloves in California.1SB 677 This is because some people are allergic to latex.

2. Pets

Am I allowed to bring my pet to a restaurant?

In California, restaurant owners are authorized to allow patrons to bring their pets to outdoor areas, unless the city or county has specifically prohibited it.2CA Health & Safety Code Sec. 114259.6

3. Service animals

Am I allowed to bring my service animal to a restaurant?

Yes. Federal law requires that restaurants allow people with a disability to bring service animals.328 CFR Sec. 36.302(c) See more info here.

4. Restrooms

Are restaurants allowed to have single-stall single-user bathrooms only for men or only for women?

No. As of March 2017 all restaurants in California must identify single-stall single-user bathrooms as all-gender.4AB 1732

5. Utensils and straws

Is it illegal for a restaurant to provide plastic straws and utensils?

As of January 2019, sit-down restaurants in California are not allowed to serve plastic straws unless a customer specifically requests it. Many cities also ban other plastic utensils. See more at our Guide to Laws about the Environment.

Is it a violation of health code for a customer to bring their own containers and utensils to a restaurant?

It is no longer a violation of health code for restaurant customers to bring their own food containers and utensils, provided that the containers are designed to be reusable.5AB 619 (2019)

Is it a violation of health code for food trucks and other food vendors to provide regular silverware and plates for customers?

The health code used to require food vendors at fairs, festivals, farmers markets, or other community events to provide single-use or disposable utensils to customers. Now it is no longer a violation of health code to provide reusable or “real” regular silverware, plates, and other items.6AB 619 (2019)

6. Fees

Are restaurants allowed to add on fees on the bill?

As of July 1, 2024, these extra fees or surcharges (sometimes called “junk fees”) are illegal in California unless the restaurant notifies you in advance (such as clearly stating them on the menu).

7. Other

Can restaurants offer alcoholic beverages to-go?

Yes, this practice became legal during the pandemic, and a new law allows restaurants to do so at least until 2026.7SB 389 (2021) There are some restrictions: to-go beverages must be purchased with a meal, and customers are allowed a maximum of two drinks per meal.

Is it illegal for restaurants in California to serve shark fin soup?

Yes, as of 2011.8AB376

Is it illegal for a restaurant in California to serve foie gras?

As of January 2019, yes it is illegal to serve foie gras, the French delicacy made from the fattened livers of force-fed ducks and geese. A restaurant caught serving foie gras could be fined up to $1,000. See more about Animal Rights.

Related Pages

Guide to Laws about Health & Healthcare

Guide to Laws about Animal Rights

Guide to Consumer Laws

See all Legal Guides

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