Opening a Food Establishment

This section applies to brick and mortar structures only. See specific links in Consumer Health Services Bureau for mobile food units. 

For temporary food establishments, produce-only stands, and certified farmer’s markets, visit our permit document search page.

Food Inspection Plan Submission Checklist

If you are considering building, remodeling/altering, or taking over an existing food establishment, you may be required to submit plans. The Houston Health Department Consumer Health Services Bureau can help you in making your business venture a successful one.

    Plans must be submitted for the following:

    • Construction of a food establishment.
    • Remodeling of an existing space not previously a food establishment.
    • Remodeling involving a room addition, expansion, or removal/addition of walls or floor-mounted equipment.
    • Remodeling involving changing the scope of the food service operation.

    Plans may not be required when:

    • Taking over an existing permitted food business without any of the modifications described above.
    • Based on their inspection findings, the inspector will determine if plans are required.

    Plans must be drawn to scale and include:

    • A floor plan, including the proposed equipment layout.
    • Equipment specifications.
    • Elevations of all food service equipment and plumbing fixtures.
    • Room-finish schedule including material types and colors.
    • Plans for remodeling should include existing, demolition, and proposed floor plan and equipment layout.

    Note: The Public Works & Engineering Department enforces building code regulations. For all construction, trade-related inquiries, please visit the Houston Permitting Center.

    Submit two sets of plans and specifications to:

    Houston Permitting Center - Commercial Plan Review Section
    1002 Washington Ave.
    Houston, Texas 77002
    Phone: 832-394-8810

    Office hours 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

    The Health Department Plan Review Section is located on the 3rd floor.
    Phone: 832-394-8848

    Construct or modify according to approved plans. During construction, if the need to vary from the approved plan arises, obtain approval on modified plans before proceeding.

    Schedule a pre-operational inspection: Call the Consumer Health Services Permit Office at 832- 393-5100 from 7:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

    Preparing for the inspection:

    • When scheduling appointments, provide contact information (name, phone number, email address) for the certified food manager who shall be on-site for the inspection appointment.
    • If plans were required, have your approved/stamped set on-site for the inspector to review.
    • The assigned inspector will contact the representative prior to the appointment.
    • A fee is assessed for each pre-opening inspection.

    During the inspection:

    • A pre-operational inspector will inspect the premises to ensure that all required construction corresponds to the approved set of plans. If the establishment complies with all ordinance requirements, an invoice for all required HHD permits will be issued.
    • Even with approved plans in place, final approval is subject to field inspection.

    Purchase Food Permit using invoice created at final pre-opening inspection.

    • Bring your invoice to 8000 North Stadium Drive.
    • Pay the invoice at the environmental permit office on the first floor.
    • Company check, Visa, Discover, MasterCard and Debit Cards are accepted. (American Express cards are not accepted).
    • If you make payment for any health permits at the Houston permitting center, or on-line, the permits are processed/printed at 8000 North Stadium Drive location only.
    • Pick up in person or receive by mail.
    • No person may operate a food establishment without a valid/current food dealer’s permit.
    • Permits are not transferable from one address to another or from one person to another.
    • Permits must be posted in the view of the public.
    • Permits remain the property of the Houston Health Department.
    • Permits must be renewed annually.
    • It is the responsibility of the permit holder to contact the Houston Health Department if the invoice for permit renewal has not been received.

    Follow these guidelines in order to CHANGE OWNERSHIP of an existing food establishment in the City of Houston. Contact us before you purchase/lease the facility. This will save you time and money.

    Anyone desiring to rent, lease, purchase or re-open an existing food establishment may request a review of the food establishment’s file, (via an open records request), or an inspection (call 832-393-5100 for an appointment). If the food establishment has no structural or equipment deficiencies, it may be possible to obtain a food dealer’s permit to operate. A Health Department inspection must occur to determine compliance with the Houston Food Ordinance.

    • Food establishment inspection reports containing a documented history of food ordinance violations, including structural or equipment defects, may be required to submit plans and specifications for remodeling and/or additions to bring the establishment up to existing standards.
    • All existing violations will be documented on the inspection report. After all corrections have been completed, a re-inspection must be performed prior to operating.
    • Once an invoice for a food dealer’s permit is issued by the health officer, it must be paid at the Houston Health Department permit office at 8000 North Stadium Drive prior to operating.
    • Enforcement action may be taken for operating without a valid food dealers permit, changing ownership without the required pre-opening inspection approval, or remodeling without submitting plans as required.