This is an interesting question I received as a member of the AllExperts panel under the category of “Running a Restaurant” that I thought I should share… The question was posed as to if even an operation such as a “Hot Dog” shop needed to get a permit from the health department. This is an area of specialty for Mise Designs so I was more than happy to provide my thoughts below on the beginning stages of their running a restaurant. You can also view the question on AllExperts by clicking the link below.
I’ve been told by a friend of mine that I don’t need to contact the health department to open up a hot dog shop. Is that true?
As a general rule, you should always contact your local health department when starting a new or renovated food and beverage operation.
Every town in every county, in every state will at this point unfortunately have different regulations as to how a business must apply for a health and sanitation certificate. In Pennsylvania specifically, depending on where you are located, you may need to contact your county health department, or towards western PA, you may need to apply with the county department of agriculture.
As a designer who works all over the US and internationally, one of my biggest challenges is finding out exactly what the process of application is based on the location. Although, if you are new at the development of a food service business and you just want to put together the minimum requirements for submission yourself, I recommend you follow the FDA guidelines for commercial food service establishments. Your town may have specific plumbing requirements that you must adhere too, but overall, the FDA tends to be a bit more strict in their recommendations then many health departments so regardless of where you area, if you follow the FDA, you will probably meet or exceed your local requirements.
We always recommend to every client that whether they utilize the restaurant consultant services we provide or from another firm that new restaurateurs always work with a consultant to make sure they are aware of all the potential surprises they may encounter before they begin to start running a restaurant.