Opening a Food Business

Food Dealer License Applications are processed by the License Division of The City Clerk's office.

City of Milwaukee Health Department Plan Review is required for all new construction and major remodeling. Download our Plan Review Guidelines for guidance on design, installation and construction of retail food facilities. Plans can be dropped off at our main office or emailed to: [email protected].

What to include on/with your plan submittal:

  • Proposed menu, seating capacity, and projected daily meal volume for the establishment. 
  • Location of all food equipment. Each piece of equipment must be clearly labeled, marked, or identified. Provide equipment schedule that identifies the make and model numbers and listing of equippment that is certified or classified for sanitation by an ANSI accredited certification program (when applicable).
  • Location of all required sinks: handwashing sinks, warewashing sinks, utlitty(mop) sinks, food preparation sinks (if required).  
  • Auxiliary areas such as storage rooms, garbage rooms, toilets, basements and/or cellars used for storage or food preparation. 
  • Entrances, exits, loading/unloading areas and delivery docks.  
  • Complete finish schedules for each room including floors, walls, ceilings and coved juncture bases.  
  • Plumbing schedule including location of floor drains, floor sinks, water supply lines, overhead waste-water lines, hot water generating equipment with capacity and recovery rate, backflow prevention, and wastewater line connections. 
  • Location of lighting fixtures.
  • Contact information, including email addres, for owner and architect, if applicable.


According to Section 1-104.11 of the Wisconsin Food Code any establishment can apply for a modification or waiver that allows that establishment an exemption from strictly following what is written in the food code. When an establishment wants to operate outside the food code limits the department may approve a modification for that establishment if the Wisconsin Department of Agriculutre Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP)  is provided with satisfactory proof that the grant of a variance will not jeopardize the public's health, safety, or welfare. The request for a modification or waiver of requirements should be submitted in writing to the Milwaukee Health Department for review of the documents. The Milwaukee Health Department will review and forward it to DATCP State with recommendations for approval or disapproval. If approved the Milwaukee Health Department shall keep a copy on file and will review yearly with operator.

Documentation justifying a proposed modification or waiver shall be on a form provided by the department and include the following:

  • A statement of the proposed variance citing the relevant chapter section numbers of the Wisconsin Food Code
  • An analysis of the reasoning for how the potential public health hazards and nuisances will be addressed if not following the Wisconsin Food Code by the proposed variance.
  • A HACCP plan may also be required.

State Variance applications must be first submitted to the City of Milwaukee Health Department using state variance forms. 

Examples of when a variance may be required:

  • Curing food
  • Using food additives or adding components such as vinegar as a measure of food preservation or to render a food non-potentially hazardous.
  • Packaging potentially hazardous food using a reduced oxygen packaging method
  • Preparing food by any other method that is determined by the State to require a variance such as fermentation
  • The slaughter and evisceration of any animal or fish, other than molluscan shellfish
  • Sprouting seeds or beans
  • Custom processing animals that are for personal use as food and not for sale or service in a food establishment


Prior approval is required by the Wisconsin Food Code for the following activities:

  • Bare hand contact with ready to eat foods; guidance for obtaining approval can be found in the FDA Employee health and Personal Hygiene Handbook (Pg 27-28).
  • Non-continuous cooking of raw animal foods: Request to be submitted on a form provided by the Milwaukee Health Department.



HACCP plans are required to be submitted prior to perfoming any of the process below and in most cases with any variance request:

  • Cook/Chill operations
  • Sous Vide operations
  • Reduced Oxygen Packaging of potentially hazardous foods such as meats and cheeses
  • Selling or serving juice made at the food establishment without a warning label or wholesale
  • Serving juice made at the food establishment or combining raw shell eggs in a food establishment that serves a highly susceptible population

Resources for HACCP Plans:
Note that all templates must be modified to be consistent with your operation's procedures.

The City of Milwaukee Health Department has created a guidance for creating HACCP Plans.

Consumer Environmental Health

Zeidler Municipal Building
841 N. Broadway, Room 320
Milwaukee, WI 53202

Phone: 414-286-3674
Fax: 414-286-5164
[email protected]

Hours of Operation:

Monday-Friday, 8:00 am-4:30 pm

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