Health department requirements are unique to food establishments, or in planners’ jargon, bona fide food establishments which is their way of saying any place that serves food or drink.

So, from Lowry’s steakhouse to a peanut butter and jelly concept all must meet health department requirements. For reference, we will use California for definitions and as case study for scenarios presented.



Let’s start by defining food establishments as it will help define submittal requirements later on. Not all cities or counties follow these definitions but they help give you a ballpark for lingo and requirements to expect.


Retail Food Facility

 “A place where food is stored, prepared, served, packaged, transported, or otherwise handled for dispensing or sale directly to the consumer” (California Retail Food Code, CRFC, -113789.) In other words, any place that sells food or where people can eat food. This means that if you own a retail store that has a café you will need to go through the health department before the Certificate of Occupancy is issued.


When Should I  Submit Plans?

The next question is when do you need to submit plans to health? Below are some situations when you can expect to need a health department submittal:

  • Prior to your food establishment being constructed
  • Prior to a remodel of your food establishment
  • When planner has determined you will need at plancheck
  • When there is a change of ownership of existing food establishment and the facility will be modified
  • Prior to food establishment changing it’s operation (i.e. coffee kiosk offering bagels too)
  • When a building permit is required


So, basically anytime you will construct or remodel a restaurant you must go through health.


Where is the Health Department?

As to where health submittals go there is no good rule of thumb; for example, some places, like Los Angeles, have the county health department conduct their reviews while other places, like Florida, the review is done at the state level. A good indicator of where you will send the submittal can be to check where the fire approval goes, sometimes the two departments are analogous. The final note here, is do your homework.


Where in the Building Permit Process Should I Submit?

This depends on the specific process of your jurisdiction. That being said, some areas allow for a concurrent submittal wherein once planning is approved you can submit to health and building at the same time. If this is the case for your area you submit at the same time but must remember sometimes health won’t sign off until building is approved. Which means you need to go back to building and let them know health is waiting on their sign off before they can stamp the plans. It’s a little who’s on first, but it works out.

Other processes won’t allow you to submit health until building has been approved, and in this case patience is the name of the game. A silver-lining is if this is the case you can submit to fire prevention at the same to save some time.
Health submittals can be daunting for experienced engineers as a result of the nuances each jurisdiction has. It’s always best to get a permitting, code consulting, and entitlements solutions firm, like Permit Advisors Inc, to help you with the specfics.


About us: Permit Advisors Inc is a nationwide permit expediting, entitlement, and consulting firm based out of Beverly HIlls, CA. We have established relationships with municipalities nation-wide and implement time as well as cost saving strategies to efficiently complete projects. We provide a project management team to ensure every aspect of the project is given specific attention while maintaining open communication between the jurisdiction, consultants, and our clients. We serve retailers, architects, landlords, tenant coordinators, contractors and franchisees nationwide in the hotel, retail, restaurant, mixed-use, multifamily, entertainment, grocery, and logistical plant development industries. Contact us today for a consultation at