#4 Prepare Your Location

Return to Process Steps

Step #4 Prepare Your Location

(Location Specific Needs & Permits)

Earlier we helped you to identify some of the licenses and permits needed in relationship to a location. At this point, you should have identified the specific requirements and permits needed for your location, you may have already applied for some of those licenses and permits, and now it’s time to prepare the space to open.

It’s time to execute with all effort focused on a successful opening – on time and on budget!

Once you have made a decision about which city, town, and neighborhood you choose to start your business in, you will need to:

  • Prepare the location to meet your business plans and the location requirements
  • Acquire the required permits you specifically identified for your location
  • Execute your project plan to make sure no detail is missed, and you have maximized your chances for success
  • If you haven’t already done so, form your business

A. Municipal Review

(Land use & zoning permits, Building permits)

Land use permits

Once you've decided on your location, you can apply for any necessary land use permits that you may have identified. If you need additional information on land use, building codes, and which requirements apply to you, consider hiring an architect or other building professional for help.

Changing Property or Building Use

If your new restaurant used to be a retail store or used for some other purpose, you may need to record a “change of use” with the local city or town where the building is located. Visit city or town hall to determine if a “change of use” filing is necessary and to obtain the proper forms.

Building permits

Remember a building permit is required for minor interior alterations, remodels, or new construction. Always check with the local Building Official about what permits might be required.

B. Local Fire Code Plan Review

If it has not already been determined, now is the time to verify whether you’ll need to install or upgrade the sprinkler system, fire alarm, or ancillary/exhaust hood system over the stove. Check requirements with the local Fire Marshal in the town where your business will be located. You may also consider hiring a professional in this area for assistance in meeting fire code requirements.

Sign Permits

Sign and awning permits may be required depending on the municipality to install, repair or alter any permanent signs, depending upon the sign location.

Right-of-way permits

Check with the local municipality if you are planning outdoor seating or installing anything that may extend into or over public space.

C. RI Department of Health (RIDOH) Food Business License

As mentioned previously, food business licenses are issued by RIDOH and the specific license(s) you need will depend upon your food concept, menu, food preparation processes, and your establishment meeting health code requirements.

Learn More:

RI State Department of Health Food Service Application Information

Retail Food Business License types from the RI Department of Health, Center for Food Protection. Click on the licensing type below to obtain an application.

Food Service Restaurants Seats
Food Caterer/Commissary 

Guidance to get a Food Service license

First, determine which application(s) you need to complete, depending on your business plan, you may need different applications like: Food Service Restaurant Seating, New Construction, Food Caterer/Commissary, Food Processor Retail/Wholesale, etc. Complete the appropriate application(s) along with the application fees. RIDOH applications can be obtained at the Health website by clicking here.

If there are renovations or new construction where the cost of renovations will exceed 50 percent (50%) of the value of the establishment, then a plan review by the RIDOH staff will be necessary. In this case, in addition to a Food Service Restaurant Seating application you also need to complete a New Construction application and submit plans along with an application fee and a plan review fee. (See Supportive Documents below for other documents you may need to submit with the application.)

Applications and fees can be submitted at:
RI Department of Health
Center for Food Protection
3 Capitol Hill, Room 203 (second floor)
Providence, RI 02908-5097
Make Checks payable to "General Treasurer, State of RI"

If you have a complex situation or are not sure which license(s) you need, you can schedule a pre-application meeting with the RIDOH. Contact the RIDOH, Center for Food protection at: (401) 222-2749 for assistance.

At a minimum, a complete application package should include the following supportive documents:

  • Menu of all foods that will be served. Include a copy of a complete menu from your establishment/facility.

  • Construction Application: As mentioned earlier, if this is a new construction or renovation that exceeds 50% of the value of the establishment, a Construction Application will also need to be completed and submitted along with the Food Service application. The Construction Application can be found at: http://health.ri.gov/applications/FoodEstablishmentNewConstruction.pdf

  • Operational Plan: Submit a plan that describes and identifies the intended menu; anticipated volume of food, proposed layout, proposed equipment, and standard procedures to ensure compliance with the Food Code. 

  • Lease Agreement: If you are renting space at a commissary or incubator kitchen, include a copy of your signed lease agreement.

  • Non-Profit Food Service: For a non-profit food service, include the 501(c)(3) documentation.

  • Proof of Approved Water Supply:
    • For Public Water Service - You may submit a recent copy of the water bill as proof of a public system connection.
    • Requirements for an On-Site Well: If your business is served by an on-site well, please provide a copy of the RIDOH Public Water System (PWS) License.

  • Proof of Approved Wastewater Treatment System Type: 
    • For Public Sewer Service - You may submit a recent copy of the sewer bill as proof of public system connection.
    • Requirements for an On-Site Wastewater Treatment System (OWTS) (a.k.a. Septic System):
      • For New OWTS (Septic System): If your business will discharge wastewater into a newly constructed and conformed OWTS, provide a copy of the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) “approved” "OWTS Construction Permit Application" and the DEM "Certificate of Conformance." These documents can be obtained from the DEM OWTS Permitting Program by visiting www.dem.ri.gov/programs/water/owts/.

      • For Existing OWTS (Septic System): If your business will discharge wastewater into an existing OWTS, provide a copy of your DEM System Suitability Determination (SSD) Approval. An SSD application must be submitted to DEM. An SSD Approval will only be issued by DEM if the existing OWTS is adequately sized and "suitable" to treat the wastewater generated by the proposed business. Application forms can be obtained from the DEM OWTS Permitting Program by visiting www.dem.ri.gov/programs/water/owts/.

      • For Cesspools: Cesspools are substandard wastewater treatment systems that typically do not include a soil treatment area (e.g. leachfield). If the proposed business will discharge into a cesspool, the cesspool will need to be eliminated and replaced with a new OWTS. Contact the DEM OWTS Permitting Program for guidance on applying for a new OWTS Construction Permit. Visit www.dem.ri.gov/programs/water/owts/ to get started.

If you have any questions, contact the RIDOH, Center for Food Protection at 401-222-2749
(Monday-Friday 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m./Walk-ins 8:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.)

The next step

Once your completed application package has been reviewed and approved by RIDOH, you should prepare your establishment for a pre-operational/opening inspection. More on this in Step #5 (Final Preparation).

RIDOH licenses will only be granted after the restaurant passes a health inspection. Therefore, it is important to understand the local requirements early in the process to ensure that any planned kitchen or dining room configuration will also be in accordance with the RIDOH, Center for Food Protection requirements. The Rhode Island Hospitality Association can provide information about required permits, licenses, and food safety training certification. Keep in mind, where potentially hazardous food (foods that require time and/or temperature controls for safety) are used, you will need to employ at least one full-time, on-site Manager Certified in Food Safety licensed with the RIDOH, Center of Food Protection, prior to the inspection. As a reminder, at least one Manager Certified in Food Safety needs to be on the premises during food preparation and service.  Obtaining the certification and license is a multi-step process.

Obtaining Certification as Manager Certified in Food Safety:

First, an individual would need to obtain training by successfully completing a food safety certification course that has been approved by the RIDOH in accordance with the Rules and Regulations pertaining to: Certification of Managers in Food Safety 216-RICR-50-10-2, and pass an examination.

Second, submit a RIDOH application for Manager Certified in Food Safety along with the food safety course certificate of completion and required fee and any other necessary documents to:

RI Department of Health
Center for Food Protection
3 Capitol Hill, Room 203 (second floor)
Providence, RI 02908-5097

Once you receive the RIDOH Manager Certified in Food Safety certificate, from the RI Department of Health, you will then be licensed and registered. This certificate should be posted in a conspicuous location at the food establishment you are working for and available for inspection. Certifications are renewable every five years.

Learn More:
To Find a list of RIDOH Approved Food Safety Manager Training Programs/Examinations go to: http://www.health.ri.gov/licenses/detail.php?id=257#online then go to the topic on “Continuing Education/Training/Exams” select the applicable topic under the heading “Approved Food Safety Manager Training Programs.”

Link to Rhode Island Food Code (216-RICR-50-10-1)

Link to Food Safety: RI Department of Health Food Safety Regulations, and most recent adopted FDA Food Code, and Supplement to the FDA Food Code: Click here:

Note: Then go to the "Food Safety" heading on the left side of the webpage, and click on the "Regulation" tab under the "Food Safety" heading to view the:

  • RI Food Safety Regulations
  • FDA Food Code
  • Supplement to the FDA Food Code

Link to RIDOH, Center for Food Protection website: http://health.ri.gov/programs/detail.php?pgm_id=134

Link to RIDOH, Center for Food Protection, Food Safety Resources Library:

D. Consider Hiring an Expert for Help

If you need to hire someone to assist with food safety requirements for your establishment or prepare a Food Safety Operational Plan, check resources at the RIDOH website for a list of Food Safety Plan Development & Consulting services.
[To get to webpage – click on link above, then go to the topic on “Continuing Education/Training/Exams”, under the heading “Approved Food Safety Manager Training Programs” and click on “Food Safety Plan Development & Consulting Services”.]

Return to Process Steps