Permanent food service business permit
Learn how to get a new food business permit, renew an existing permit, or change ownership of a food service business.
What is a permanent food business?
A permanent food business operates at the same location for more than 21 consecutive days. Food business owners must submit plans for review before construction, remodeling, or changing ownership takes place.
Review the Food Service Plan Submittal Tip Sheet (287 KB) before you start the process.
In Seattle and King County, there are about 11,000 permanent food businesses that have permits, including:
- Food and espresso carts
- Coffee shops
- Donated Food Distributing Organization (DFDO)
- Fresh food sections of grocery stores
- School kitchens
A successful plan review approval and preoperational inspection are required prior to starting operations.
How to get a new food business permit
Review permanent food service plan guide
Review the Plan Review and Permitting Guide (970 KB) if you are starting a permanent food business. This guide includes a checklist of items you will need to include in your final food service plan review. The checklist will make sure you cover every area of your business.
- View a sample plan drawing (536 KB)
- View kitchen equipment drawings (216 KB)
- General plumbing requirements for food businesses (208 KB)
Submit plan review application
Once you complete your final business plans, you will need to submit them for review along with the Plan Review Application. The preferred and most efficient way to submit your plans and application is online.
View instructions for submitting a permanent food plan review application online.
If you can’t submit online, please complete and mail in the following documents:
- Plan review submittal cover sheet for permanent food service businesses (372 KB)
- Plan Review Application for permanent food business (304 KB)
Mail to: Environmental Health Food Protection Program
- For Seattle/western King County, address: 401 5th Avenue, Suite 1100, Seattle, WA 98104
- For Bellevue/eastern King County, address: 14350 SE Eastgate Way, Bellevue, WA 98007
Once the plans have been stamped and approved, the Plans Examiner will email the approval letter and supporting documents to you.
Note: Due to current application volumes, it may take up to 6 weeks for a Plan Reviewer to complete an initial review.
Pay your operating permit fee
Contact the plan reviewer at 206-263-9566 or 206-477-8050 for current fee information and how to pay the permit fee.
When you are ready to open, submit the "Application to Operate a Permanent Food Service Establishment (377 KB)" and pay the permit fee at least 10 business days before scheduling the Pre-operational Inspection.
The operating permit fee is separate from the Plan Review fee that was initially paid when the equipment floor plans, equipment list, menu and documents were submitted.
Schedule a Pre-operational inspection
After the Application to Operate a Permanent Food Service form and fees have been submitted, contact the Plans Examiner to schedule the Pre-operational Inspection at least 1 week in advance before opening your business. Refer to the Pre-operational inspection checklist for details.
Download the Pre-operational inspection checklist (56 KB)
The food establishment operating permit will be approved and issued after a successful completion of a Pre-operational inspection. A Pre-operational inspection is required before starting operations. Opening without completing a Pre-operational inspection may result in closure of the business and fees, including 50% of the annual permit fee.
How to renew an existing food business permit
If you are renewing an existing food business permit (with no changes to ownership, facility, or menu) you can use the online services portal.
How to change ownership
You are strongly encouraged to contact the Food Plans Examiner before a change of ownership.
Phone: 206-263-9566 or 206-477-8050
When changing ownership of an existing food business, field plan review may be required. The original owner does not receive any refund of paid permit fees. The new owner must apply for a change of ownership permit and pay required fees to operate.
These applications can only be mailed in, not submitted online. Please complete the application for change of ownership permit (324 KB) and mail it in with payment. Make checks payable to SKCDPH.
Public Health – Seattle & King County
401 5th Avenue, Suite 1100
Seattle, WA 98104
Note: If the business has been closed for more than 1 year, a plan review will be required.
To request copies of the previously approved plans, submit a public record request here.
- Food Worker Card
All employees of a food business must get a Washington State Food Worker Card. You can take the class and test online or go to any of our in-person classes.
- Meat cutter license
If you cut fresh beef, veal, lamb and/or pork, you will need to pass an exam to get a meat cutter license along with the food worker card exam.
- MAST / alcohol server permits, Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board
Anyone who serves, mixes, sells, or supervises the sale of alcohol at a business with a liquor license must take the Mandatory Alcohol Server Training (MAST).
What is a menu risk level?
The risk level of a menu determines the annual permit fee and rate of future inspections. There are 3 risk levels for menus. We base these on the types of food offered, and the complexity of food handling processes. You will receive a permit classification based on this.
Risk level 1:
This risk level is assigned to a permit that allows limited preparation steps of Time/Temperature Control for Safety (TCS) foods* includes sectioning of melons, scooping ice cream, heating of individually pre-packaged ready-to-eat foods for immediate service with limited opening of the package (venting only), and preparation of espresso and/or blended drinks and hot holding commercially prepared hot dogs.
It also includes cold holding of commercially pre-packaged ready-to-eat foods, such as sandwiches, without opening of the package (except for venting only).
Risk 1 does not include hot holding of food (except commercially prepared hot dogs).
Mobile cart operations with espresso are included in this risk category as are mobile trucks with frozen foods or meat.
These types of operations are inspected once a year.
Risk level 2:
This risk level is assigned to a permit that allows food processing steps such as receiving, storing, preparing, cold holding, and serving TCS foods.
It does not include hot holding of food. It includes limited preparation steps, such as baking bread, frying donuts, and grilling or toasting sandwiches for immediate service.
Examples of this type of operation include on-site baking, making smoothies with raw ingredients (fruit, eggs, etc.), cooking waffle cones or cake mixes. Grocery stores with pre-packaged raw meat, poultry, or seafood are also included.
These operations receive one routine inspection and one educational visit each year with the exception of National School Lunch Program schools which receive 2 routine inspections.
Risk level 3:
This risk level is assigned to a permit that allows operations with complex food preparation steps, including thawing, cutting, cooking, cooling, cold holding, reheating, hot holding, time as a control, approved HACCP and serving of TCS foods.
It includes all operations that provide cooking or hot holding of foods, including meat and seafood markets and mobile trucks.
These operations receive 2 routine inspections and 1 educational visit each year.
*Time/Temperature Control for Safety (TCS) foods include meat, poultry, cooked starches, sliced melons, sprouts, fresh herb and garlic-in-oil mixtures, dairy products, cut leafy greens, cut tomatoes, and cooked produce.
- Cook Chill Reduced Oxygen Packaging application checklist (258 KB)
- Dried Fermented - Cured Meats application checklist (167 KB)
- Smoking for Preservation - Cured Meats application checklist (166 KB)
- Sous Vide - Reduced Oxygen Packaging application checklist (258 KB)
- Vacuum Packaging - Reduced Oxygen Packaging application checklist (260 KB)
- Important agency contacts
- King County Board of Health food codes
- Request for variance from the food code (105 KB)
- Risk levels and permit classifications
- Risk-based inspection program (210 KB)
- Outdoor dining permits in Seattle city limits
- Washington State Retail Food Code