Starting a Food Business
The Snohomish Health District wants to help you get your business up and running with all of the proper requirements to ensure your food establishment meets state regulations for food safety.
The multi-step plan review process helps ensure that your plans and equipment meet state and local health requirements before you begin construction of your business. Early communication with the Snohomish Health District is key to ensuring that costly mistakes are prevented and your business ultimately meets code requirements. Our Food Safety program performs plan reviews and pre-operational inspections for the following types of food establishments:
- New, remodeled, and reopened restaurants
- Mobile food service
- Food stand concessions
- Limited grocery
Before submitting your restaurant or food establishment plans, make sure you also:
- Contact your local building, planning, and zoning departments for additional requirements
- Obtain your Washington State business license
- Obtain water or septic/sewer approval
What Would You Like To Do?
Open a new restaurant (including reopening a former food service establishment with different menu or equipment)
Reopen a former food service establishment (includes taking over an existing food service establishment with no changes to menu or equipment)
Open a mobile food vehicle
Open a food concession stand or push cart
Limited grocery plan
The plan review application must be submitted with all necessary documents, including the nonrefundable plan review fee. A checklist of these documents is provided for each type of plan review.
- Do not purchase equipment or begin construction until written approval is obtained
- Make an appointment for a consultation (highly recommended)
- Applications are accepted by mail and in person Monday through Friday, 8am - 5pm.
Application review and approval
- Your submitted application will be reviewed to ensure that it is in compliance with state and local codes
- Our goal is to review and respond to complete applications within 30 days
- Notification of approval or request for additional information will be sent to the contact listed on your application
Once you receive application approval, you will then need to verify the accuracy of the operating permit information and pay the annual permit fees. A copy of the approval letter will be sent to the Building Department and Washington State Liquor Board, if applicable. After the plan review is complete, and all approvals and permits are issued, you may start construction.
When construction is complete, contact the Environmental Health Division for a pre-operational inspection, which will allow food inspectors to verify that the construction of the establishment matches the approved plan review.
Am I ready for a pre-operational inspection?
- All construction must be complete, including floors, walls, ceilings, and indirect drains
- All equipment must be installed and functioning (for example, refrigerators must be at or below 41°F)
- Hot and cold water must be plumbed to every sink and functioning
- Hand-wash sinks must be fully stocked with soap and paper towels
- The dishwasher or 3-compartment sink must be stocked with sanitizer
- Food worker cards must be up to date and visible or easily accessible
No food storage or preparation is allowed in the establishment until after approval to open is granted by the Snohomish Health District. A small amount of food product may be allowed, if needed, for proper temperature verification on equipment (for example, soft-serve ice cream and yogurt machines).
- Submit the food establishment operating permit application and permit fee
- Once received, post your permit in a location in your establishment that is conspicuous to consumers prior to opening for business WAC 246-215 Part 8 Subpart C 08350 (1)
- Permits will not be issued until after the pre-operational inspection.
As most establishments require at least one follow-up inspection, we recommend that you schedule the first inspection with sufficient time for any deficiencies to be corrected and a reinspection to be conducted. Note that your plan review fee only includes one pre-opening inspection; all subsequent inspections will incur fees.
If your facility is found operating without pre-operational approval, you will be subject to enforcement action and additional fees.
Ownership and other changes
In Snohomish County, food establishment permits do not transfer to the new owner. After an ownership change and prior to reopening the business, the new owner will need to go through the plan review process and submit an application for plan review before a permit will be issued. The Washington Administrative Code (WAC) 246-215-08310 requires ownership changes to take place 30 days before the date planned for opening a food establishment.
Snohomish Health District’s review and approval is required for many of your food establishment changes, including:
- Change of menu
- Change of food preparation processes