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Opening a Food Business

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

Plan Review for Food Service Establishments

Review by The Milwaukee Development Center for Building, Plumbing, Electrical, HVAC, Fire Safety and ADA is independent of Health Department Review.
Visit milwaukee.gov/DNS/permits/info regarding requirements for Occupancy, Zoning and all other Non-Health Department related submittals and questions

When does the health department require plans?
For the examples listed below, Plan Review is the required first step towards obtainment of a Food License. Food Establishment means any food establishment that requires licensing and / or inspection by the City of Milwaukee Health Department.
Wholesale Food Operations such as Food Manufacturers that are licensed by either Wisconsin DATCP, FDA or USDA are not required to provide plans to the Milwaukee Health Department.

Plans are required for...

  • New Construcion of a Food Establishment
  • Conversion of an existing structure for use as a Food Establishment
  • New Food Establishment in an existing location that has been closed for 5 or more years
  • Remodeling of a Food Establishment
  • Change in the type of food establishment such as:
    • Food store changing to a restaurant or restaurant changing to a food store
    • Food Establishment adding processing
    • Food Establishment adding a new processing area
    • Food Establishment adding a buffet
    • Food establishment adding a bar
    • Major changes to menu
    • Any time it is requested by the Health Department

What needs to be included in the plan submittal?

1. Draft menu of the foods to be sold/served

2. Description of the food establishment (such as food store, fast food restaurant, full service restaurant, bakery, school, caterer, etc.)

3. The proposed layout - Provide a floor plan / equipmentplan addressing the following:

  • Include all kitchen/food prep areas, serving lines, customer self- service areas, dish washing areas, bars, service bars, server stations, dry storage areas, any other back of house areas and all restrooms serving the food operation employees and customers. *See Food Construction Fact Sheet for common food service requirements.
  • Identify all food related equipment and fixtures (cooking, refrigeration, hot holding equipment, dish machine(s), food prep tables, etc…) Commercial, ANSI listed equipment is required for all types of food equipment EXCEPT the types listed specifically in the DATCP Equipment handout.
  • Show floor and wall mounted shelving
  • Identify all plumbing fixtures
  • Show footprint of all ventilation hoods.
  • Show lighting fixtures

4 . Elevation (side view) drawings may be helpful but are not required - MHD Plan Review may request elevation drawings in some instances.

5. All drawings must be to scale, show the scale on the drawing - typical scales are 1/4 inch = 1 foot or 1/8 inch = 1 foot. Small scale remodeling projects drawn on graph paper may use 1 square on paper to represent 1 square foot.

6. Finish schedule(s) - Provide the floor, wall, and ceiling finishes for all kitchen / food prep areas, serving lines, customer self - service areas, dish washing areas, bars, service bars, server stations, dry storage areas and all restrooms serving the food operation employees and customers.
*The term finish means the exposed finish material installed in a building such as; Quarry tile floor, stainless steel wall and vinyl coated ceiling tile.

7. Hot water capacity - Provide the following:

  • The make and model number for the water heater unit. If the food establishment will be on a shared system within a larger building, indicate as such. If known, provide the recovery rate for the system.
  • The make of model of all dish washers.
  • The size of the sink basins, in inches (LxWxD) for all 3 or 4 compartment ware washing sinks.

8. Project information / contact info

  • Location - Full address of proposed food establishment. Note; Locations that house multiple food service operations within the same building / address must include a room number correlating to a room number posted on-site at the time of inspection.
  • Date of submittal
  • Name of proposed food establishment
  • Primary contact person mail address and email address (typically architect, engineer or establishment owner that drew the plans)
  • Secondary contact person email address (typically the establishment owner or general contractor)
  • Include name and email addresses for anyone else involved with the project that you would like to be CC’d with the health department plan letter

What formats are acceptable?
Full sized professionally drawn hard copy (paper copy) Plans must be sized with a legible font. Plans that are not legible, including full sized plans reduced to fit on an 8.5 X 11.0 sheet, will be rejected.
Electronic plan submittals may be accepted only at the discretion of the plan reviewer and must be in PDF format.
Note; Milwaukee Department of Neighborhood Services does not accept hand drawn plans for ANY project requiring submittal for Construction Plan Review.
Hand drawn plans may be accepted at the discretion of the health department reviewer only for very small-scale remodeling projects. Graph paper is strongly recommended for hand drawn plans.
Note; Milwaukee Department of Neighborhood Services does not accept hand drawn plans for ANY project requiring submittal for Construction Plan Review.

Is there a fee for health department plan review?
No, Milwaukee Health Department does not charge a separate fee for plan review, the fee is included in the Food License Application Fee collected by the License Division for all Food Dealer License applications. The application fee does not need to be collected before plan submittal.

What are the relevant codes and requirements?
Plans are reviewed for compliance with the Wisconsin Food Code and Milwaukee Health Department policies including acceptable finishes.

Plans may be submitted in person or mailed to:
Milwaukee Health Dept-Permit Center Office
809 N. Broadway Ave, 1st Floor
Milwaukee WI, 53202

Electronic plans may be emailed to [email protected]

Call the Health Department Permit Center with questions regarding plan submittal. Approval of plans is not the same as issuance of a food license. All relevant applications and inspections must be completed before the license is issued and the food establishment may open.

THE HEALTH DEPARTMENT DOES NOT ISSUE FOOD LICENSES. Health Department plan review and inspection is only one piece of the licensing requirements.
Contact City of Milwaukee Licensing regarding all questions regarding food license applications, fees and other requirements: 414-286-2238 or email: [email protected]


A pre-inspection is required prior to opening. Aften a license is applied for and the applicaton fee has been paid, contact the health department to arrange for an onsite inspection. Use the Food License Pre-Inpsection Checklist to prepare for the pre-inspection. 


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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