Starting a Food Business
Prior to opening a new food service establishment or making changes to an existing food service establishment in Snohomish County, the Washington State Retail Food Code requires that plans be reviewed and approved by the Snohomish County Health Department. This review process will help ensure that your plans and equipment meet state and local health requirements. If you are taking over an existing business, information on the change of ownership process can be found at the bottom of this page.
Plan Review Process
There are five main steps to the plan review process.
1. SUBMITTAL. Submit everything listed on the plan review checklist, along with the plan review fee. Incomplete applications are not accepted. Prior to submittal, applicants are encouraged to contact their local building and planning departments for additional requirements, obtain their business license, obtain water and sewer/septic approval, and review our minimum equipment requirements.
2. REVIEW. The plans are sent to a queue to be reviewed on a first come-first served basis. The estimated timeline for the first review of submitted plans is located under turnaround times above. Exact turnaround times are dependent on the number of applications submitted and the completeness of the application(s) and may be longer. You may have the option to pay for an expedited plan review. Expedited reviews may be requested but will depend on staff availability and number of pending applications. The estimated timeline for the first review of expedited plans is 21 days or half the posted general timeline.
3. RESULT OF REVIEW. The plan reviewer will send a response letter, either approving or disapproving the project. A disapproval letter may be sent for a variety of reasons: missing application items, unclear plans of operation, incomplete or unreadable floor plan, and lack of necessary equipment are just a few examples. You may resubmit at any time, and the resubmitted plans will be reviewed in the order that they are received. Once an approval letter is sent, you may begin construction on your project.
4. PRE-OPERATIONAL INSPECTION. Once the project is completed, you will contact the plan reviewer to schedule a pre-operational inspection. This inspection will ensure that the project has been built, remodeled, or implemented according to the approved plans and approval letter.
5. ANNUAL OPERATING PERMIT. Once the facility passes the pre-operational inspection, you must purchase your annual operating permit prior to opening for business.
We accept applications in person, by mail or online.
Snohomish County Health Department
Attn: Food Section Plan Review
3020 Rucker Avenue
Everett, WA 98201-3900
PLAN REVIEW CONSULTATION
To help save time and help make your permitting process easier, you can now schedule a plan review consultation with one of our reviewers to answer general questions about your project. We understand that every project has different needs and we want to help you succeed. To request a consultation, fill out the application through our online portal.
EXAMPLEs OF consultation SERVICES:
- Change of ownership - Assess the facility you are looking to purchase and ensure that you will be in compliance with the Snohomish County Health Department requirements. This is a popular option for new owners.
- New food service establishment - Help explain and guide you through the plan review process. Assist you with answering any questions or concerns.
- Remodel/revision to approved plan - Determine how the proposed changes will affect your operation and explain any requirements that will need to be addressed.
Our scheduled appointments can be held at our Everett office or your proposed facility location. Once a consultation request has been submitted, the plan reviewer will contact you to set up the appointment time and meeting location. To help prepare for a consultation, we ask that you do the following:
- Become familiar with our minimum equipment requirements for food service establishments.
- Have an idea about what type of establishment you are planning to operate.
- Come prepared with your questions.
General FOOD SERVICE ESTABLISHMENT
A food service establishment is a place where food is provided for service directly to the consumer, whether the food is provided free of charge or sold, and whether the food is consumed on or off the premises.
This includes restaurants, employee cafeterias, bakeries, takeouts, pizzerias, bars, senior centers, emergency food relief organizations, public and non-public schools, or religious, fraternal and charitable organizations.
New food service establishments will need to complete the full plan review application.
MOBILE FOOD UNIT
A mobile food unit is an operation where the food service establishment is movable. Mobile food units are supported by a commissary facility, which is a permitted food service establishment, to ensure food safety requirements are met. This includes food trucks, food cart vendors, and other mobile operations.
New mobile food units will need to complete the full mobile plan review application. Commissary agreements will need to be submitted.
- Mobile Food Unit Plan Review Guide (PDF)
- Spanish Mobile Food Unit Plan Review Guide (PDF)
- Mobile Food Unit Plan Review Application Packet (PDF)
MOBILE FOOD PERMIT RECIPROCITY
A Mobile food unit that is already permitted in another county in Washington.
Submit the items on the following checklist. Work with the primary county to ensure that all required documentation is included. If these requirements cannot be met, apply as a new mobile food unit for review by the Snohomish County Health Department.
A reciprocity permit may only be issued if the most recent routine inspection report for the mobile food unit has no violations.
Tap Room and TASTING room
A food service establishment that does not handle any open food or conduct any food preparation. These facilities are limited to dispensing non-Time/Temperature Control for Safety (TCS) Foods or vending commercially pre-packaged food items.
REMODEL A FOOD SERVICE ESTABLISHMENT / REVISE AN APPROVED PLAN
Revisions include changing the menu, changing equipment, changing the layout of kitchen, changing a commissary or adding catering or specialized processes.
Change of ownership is a process for new owners to operate an existing food service establishment currently permitted in Snohomish County. This includes adding or removing ownership group names or if there is a change in the Unified Business Identifier (UBI) number. Food service establishment permits are not transferable to different owners or locations. No changes to the food service establishment, menu, or equipment can be made to qualify as a change of ownership.
CHANGE OF OWNERSHIP PROCESS
There are five main steps to the change of ownership process.
1. SUBMITTAL. Prior to taking over an existing food business, submit the change of ownership application. A copy of the water and sewer service invoice for the facility will need to be included with the application.
2. CONDITIONAL OPERATING PERMIT. Upon receiving your application and payment, you will receive a conditional operating permit which will expire after 90 days.
3. INSPECTION. Within the first 2 weeks of operation, you will be contacted by an inspector to schedule your first inspection to determine if your facility meets all the current state and local health requirements.
4. RESULT OF INSPECTION. If your facility requires upgrades, these upgrades will need to be completed and approved by the Snohomish County Health Department prior to the 90 day expiration date. Some changes may require plan review approval. Plan review submittal is recommended as quickly as possible to allow sufficient time to work with the plan reviewer and make the necessary changes. If all required upgrades are not completed and approved prior to the expiration date, your conditional operating permit will be pulled, and you will be required to close.
5. ANNUAL OPERATING PERMIT. Once the facility is fully compliant, you must purchase your annual operating permit.