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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 12,500 permanent food businesses that have permits, including: 

A successful plan review approval and preoperational inspection are required prior to starting operations.

How to get a new food business permit

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.

Contact: 206-263-7833 or ehfoodandfacilitiesplan@kingcounty.gov

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.

Mail to:

Public Health – Seattle & King County

Environmental Health

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.

Employee requirements

  • 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.

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