Understanding the process for Health Department approval can be daunting for project managers. On Watchdog projects, we start planning for Health Department approval within all stages of design and throughout construction. Regardless of if the space is an office that prepares hot food for employees, a high-end restaurant space or a commercial facility with dining, it is critical to know the in’s and out’s of planning for health department inspections before a project can be approved to operate.  

We have highlighted answers to 7 commonly asked questions that clients have regarding Health Department planning & inspections:

Who should design/draw my kitchen equipment plans?

Watchdog always recommends using a certified Food & Beverage/Kitchen Design Consultant to design the equipment plans. Although an architect can do these drawings, as they are not industry experts, sometimes there can be information missing, “off” dimensions of equipment, or a lack of knowing the latest product lines/pricing. It is always recommended to have the architect send a background of the kitchen layout to the Food & Beverage Consultant to lay out the details.

What aspects should I consider in my design before submitting to plan check?

It is also critical to have the Food & Beverage Consultant do a design brief with the future chef or operator of the kitchen. The design of the kitchen should consider the design of a menu and how functional the kitchen needs to be for the needs of the owner. The Food & Beverage Consultant should always consider the budget of the owner when designing the kitchen. There are typically three tiers of equipment packages, “economy”, “restaurant” and “heavy duty”. The difference between the packages is the lifetime of the equipment you are selecting within your design. For example, if you want your equipment to last a long time, go with heavy duty while if you are OK replacing every 5 years, restaurant grade may be better. Once the kitchen details are flushed out, the architect can submit the health department drawings to the city for approval.

Can I change the design of my kitchen or switch out equipment after I submit my Health Drawings? 

If there are any changes to your health department plans at all, you need to get these drawings updated before final inspections! This includes any changes to the kitchen, including equipment, flooring material and layout. Health Department drawings can expire in the City if your construction takes too long. On longer projects with multiple design changes, it is important to re-submit health drawings a couple months before final inspections to avoid project delays.

  • Example: If the flooring type selected in your initial plans is cost prohibitive and you want to change your flooring selection to a cheaper alternative, you will have to submit a modification of your drawings to the Health Department for their review and approval.

How long does the health plan review process take?

Plans and specifications are handled on a first come, first serve basis. It is important that you allow time for the plan review process before construction. The turn-around time for a plan can vary widely. Typically a review is within twenty to thirty (20 to 30) working days after the receipt of payment.

What comes first in the city: building or health department review? 

You will need to have your architectural and mechanical drawings completed and submitted first. The architectural and mechanical drawings will also inform the final layout for the kitchen design. Once the health department plans are ready, submit three (3) sets of complete, detailed construction & equipment plans to the environmental health plan check for review and approval.

What is the timing of final inspections?  

Before calling for Health Inspections, your contractor will need to obtain final approvals from Building & Safety. Typically, a temporary certificate of occupancy (TCO), certificate of occupancy (CO) and/or signed building inspection card would be an acceptable first step to scheduling your Health Department Final inspection. Once the Health Department inspector deems the space approved, a public health operating permit will be issued.

I have my Health Department Permit, what is my next step towards operating?

Once the final inspections are completed you can then obtain all applicable licenses or permits as necessary, such as business license, seller’s permit, ABC license, etc.

Ashlee Cohen
Project Manager

Ashlee has a well-rounded background in site development, urban planning, and public space design provides an intrinsic value to construction projects across Southern California and beyond. Additionally, Ashlee’s experience managing large-scale architectural designs with complex requirements allows her to provide best-in-class project management services to our clients.


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