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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.The FDA's Food Establishment Plan Review Guide contains additional guidance information on design, installation and construction of retail food facilities.

Produce Sales: Information on the proper methods of sale for whole and cut produce.

Specific Instructions to Applicants:

  1. Fill out Application.
  2. Provide blueprints & equipment specification sheets.
  3. Include proposed menu.
  4. Provide site plan.
  5. Keep copy for personal records.
  6. Submit to City of Milwaukee Health Department and licensing division for review.

Questions to Consider:

  • Will the menu offer food that requires extensive preparation (washing, cutting, mixing, etc)? The number and placement of hand sinks becomes more important with more complex food preparation. A produce sink is needed for washing fruits and vegetables and for other preparation.
  • What hours will the food service be open? lunch? dinner?, both, 24 hours per day? Increased equipment capacity and storage space should be considered for establishments with extended hours of operation. Highly durable floor, wall and ceiling finishes should be considered.
  • How much food will be cooked and immediately served, or prepared in advance for later service? Preparing food in advance requires more refrigeration space for thawing foods, cooling hot foods, and storing of cold foods.
  • How often will supplies be delivered? The delivery frequency is important in determining the amount of refrigerated, frozen and dry food storage space.
  • What is the maximum number of employees working on one shift? The number of employees is necessary to determine work/aisle space and the number of lockers to provide.
  • Have you or any of your employees been trained in food safety or Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) concepts? Training in both food safety principles and HACCP principles provides you and your employees with insight into the numerous hazards encountered in a food establishment.

What to include on your Plans:

  • Legible plans at minimum of 11 x 14 inches in size drawn to scale (scale - ¼ inch = 1 foot) 
  • Proposed menu, seating capacity, and projected daily meal volume for the FOOD ESTABLISHMENT. 
  • Provisions for adequate rapid cooling, including ice baths and refrigeration, and for hot and cold-holding of TIME/TEMPERATURE CONTROL for SAFETY (TCS) FOOD. 
  • 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 EQUIPMENT that is certified or classified for sanitation by an ANSI accredited certification program (when applicable).
  • Elevation drawings may be requested by the REGULATORY AUTHORITY.  
  • Location of all required sinks: handwashing sinks, warewashing 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
  • A mop sink or curbed utility sink with an area for hanging wet mops


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 Department 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 the 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 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.  Many common code references used can be found in the list below

 Examples of when a Variance may be required

  • Serving raw animal foods without a consumer advisory (WFC 3-401.11)
  • Smoking food as a measure of food preservation (WFC 3-502.11)
  • Curing food (WFC 3-502.11)
  • Using food additives or adding components such as vinegar as a measure of food preservation or to render a food non-potentially hazardous.  (WFC 3-502.11)
  • Packaging Food using a reduced oxygen packaging method except where the growth of and toxin formation by Clostridium botulinum and the growth of Listeria monocytogenes are controlled as specified under (WFC 3-502.12)
  • Preparing food by any other method that is determined by the State to require a variance such as fermentation (WFC 3-502.12)
  • The slaughter and evisceration of any animal or fish, other than MOLLUSCAN SHELLFISH of a species not amenable to inspection under the Wisconsin or USDA meat inspection programs. (WFC 3-502.12)
  • Dogs and outside dining areas (State Policy)
  • Bathrooms accessible to the public
  • No licensed service base (Mobile Page)
  • Person in charge- micro market
  • Molluscan shellfish life support systems 3-502.11
  • 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. There is an operation plan review fee that is required to be paid prior to approval. Contact the License Division of the City Clerks office to submit fee.

  • 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 29) These guides are also available from the City of Milwaukee Health Department, contact your inspector or main office to obtain a copy.
  • Non-continuous cooking of raw animal foods: See the request for non-continuous cooking of raw animal food form MS Word | PDF

 HACCP Plans

HACCP plans are required to be implemented for the following items. For exact code requirements see the code reference next to the items.

  • Cook/Chill operations (WFC 3-502.12)
  • Sous Vide operations ( WFC 3-502.12)
  • Reduced Oxygen Packaging of potentially hazardous foods that will be refrigerated and meet at least one of the following criteria
    • Cheese ( commercially manufactured in a food processing plant) (WFC 3-502.12)
    • Foods with an aw of .91 or below
    • Foods with a pH of 4.6 or below
    • Cured meats or poulties received in the package and produced by a USDA or WIDATCP regulated establishment.
    • Foods with a high level of competing organisms such as raw meat, poulty, and vegetables
  • Selling or serving juice made at the food establishment without a warning label (WFC 3-404.11)
  • Serving juice made at the food establishment or combining raw shell eggs in a food establishment that serves a highly susceptible population (WFC 3-801.11)
  • In most cases with any variance request (WFC 1-104.12)

Resources for HACCP Plans

If you are ready to start working on your HACCP plan, resources can be found below. Note that all templates must be modified to be consistent with your operation's procedures. After the plan has been reviewed, your operation will be inspected to ensure the procedures outlined in the submitted plan are consistent with what is happening in the operation.

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

Special Processes Team Members

  • Julie Hults:                414-286-5746 
  • Pat Doornek              414-286-5182 

Please call or email if you are considering expanding into any specialty food processing and have any questions on the forms or process involved.

Consumer Environmental Health

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

Phone: 414-286-3674
Fax: 414-286-5164

Hours of Operation:

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

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