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Anytime food or beverage is served to the public (with or without a charge) a state food license, temporary food service permit, or cottage food registration must be obtained. The only exceptions to this rule are non-profits that serve less than 4 days per year, and people that serve items that are commercially prepackaged which do not require refrigeration like canned soda, bags of chips, wrapped candy, etcetera. If the items are open, or if they must be kept cold or hot for safety, a license must be obtained.
It depends on what you are doing, but for the most part it is always good to touch base with the following to ensure that you don’t have any surprises:
Within the city limits of Great Falls:
County/Outside the city limits of Great Falls:
Many places! You can find any of our plan review applications on our website. You can call Environmental Health Division at 406-454-6950 to have one mailed to you. And of course, you can drop by the CCHD office at 115 4th St S, Great Falls to pick one up in person.
Plan review really is just what it sounds like—a review of your plan. For you, it’s putting your ideas to paper to show that you have everything you need to operate safely and within the rules.
For us, it’s a tool and a service we provide to you. When you turn in your application, we look at whether or not you have the equipment you need to make the menu items you want to offer. Then we look at how the equipment, sinks, hoods, and other spaces work in the facility. Is there ventilation where it needs to be? Are the hand sinks in the right places so that crucial hand washes aren’t missed? Is there enough storage space? Have you located everything so that dirty tasks do not influence food prep areas of the kitchen? The plan review process allows us to interact with you early, develop a relationship, give you pointers, and make sure the facility supports what you are doing before you sink money into it and have make costly changes.
The entire submittal requires the CCHD plan review application, a floor plan with the equipment layout, plumbing and ventilation information, spec sheets on all equipment, a finish schedule, and the proposed menu. Floor plans do not need to be professionally done, but they do need to be neatly sketched scale drawings that are clearly labeled. We recommend using graph paper or layout design software or apps. Equipment spec sheets are preferred, but model numbers are accepted. Bear in mind that model numbers may not give us the information we need to approve the equipment and it may result in delays or us not being unable to approve the unit. The finish schedule can be listed on the floor plans or written in the application packet. Make sure all of the information is included and clear, otherwise your project may be delayed.
Wow… this is a really tough question to answer. Reason being, there is no one size fits all kitchen. The kitchen requirements can vary significantly depending on menu, operation, and volume of food. Think about it… different foods and cooking processes require different kinds of equipment. Different kinds of equipment require different types of plumbing, ventilation, and different amounts of space. Also, different processes may require less equipment, space, sinks than another. However—don’t despair! We can give you the most basic spring board from which to launch.
All kitchens need the following:
It depends on the type of facility and risk category. Mobile Food Establishment (MFE) reviews cost less than standard Retail Food Establishment (RFE) reviews, as they are smaller, have less equipment, and have smaller menus. Low risk category 1 & 2 RFE reviews cost less than high risk category 3 & 4 reviews, as they are less complex and require less time to review. Refer to the Food Service Fee Schedule to view the current plan review fees and other fees associated with food service.
Warning! We charge a $200 expedited review fee if you submit your plan review application less than 30 days from intended open date. Applications should be submitted at least 30 days prior to any construction/remodel or at least 30 days prior to the anticipated open date (if no construction/remodel) so we have sufficient time to review.
Additionally, we charge a $50 hourly rate for reviews that exceed the base rate time (listed next to fees in applications). If there are application deficiencies that require repeated follow up or gaps in information that require us to spend time researching, the review may go over the allotted base rate time. Be sure your application is complete, legible, and accurate, and that all required documents are submitted with the application. This will make the review process quicker, easier, and potentially less expensive.
Establishments are licensed by DPHHS, but the review and preopening inspection are completed by CCHD. Therefore, the fee for the review and preopening inspection goes to CCHD. Once the preopening inspection is complete and we approve the establishment to open, the license fee must be paid to DPHHS. A portion of the annual license fee covers DPHHS operational costs, while the rest is reimbursed to CCHD upon completion of the annual inspection.
No, they are not transferable. Licenses are specific to an owner and location. If there is a change of ownership or the business moves to a new location, a new license must be obtained. Plan review is required to obtain the new license.
We make sure the establishment is constructed/remodeled as specified in the approved plan and that all conditions in the approval are met. Have everything on, at temperature, setup, and surfaces finished as though you are going to serve your first customer the moment the inspector leaves. There should be no equipment missing, not hooked up, or construction going on still. Use the preopening checklist to make sure you have everything in place. The checklist is contained within the plan review application.
Retail Food Establishments (RFE) in Cascade County are generally inspected 1 to 2 times per year. Low risk facilities (risk category 1 & 2) usually have one routine inspection, while high risk facilities (risk category 3 & 4) usually have two. Risk categories are based on the types of food served, the types of cooking processes, the clients served, and inspection history. For example, a convenience store that only sells commercially prepared packaged foods would be low risk, while a full-service restaurant that prepares raw animal foods using complex cooking processes would be high risk. A chart with descriptions of the risk categories can be found in the Fee Schedule.
All Retail Food Establishments (RFE) and Wholesale Food Establishments (WFE) must have one manager or supervisor that is a Certified Food Protection Manager (CFPM). These courses are typically 8 hours long and provide in-depth food safety training. Course topics include personal hygiene, foodborne illness prevention, purchasing and receiving foods, cleaning and sanitizing, safe food preparation, pest control, and facilities and equipment. We highly recommend having more than one CFPM. Having a CFPM available every shift has been shown to reduce food safety violations. Multiple CFPMs also decreases your chance of being without a CFPM should one of them leave your employment. The Registered Environmental Health Specialist (REHS) reviewing your application may exempt you from this requirement if you are a risk category 1 RFE or risk category A/B WFE and determined to be very low risk operation (e.g., convenience store that only sells packaged foods or concession stand that sells candy and popcorn). The REHS will let you know if you meet the exemption.
Food service staff are not required to have food handler cards or certificates. However, these classes are a great training tool. They are very inexpensive (typically around $10) and are typically only 2-4 hours long.
Go to the Food Safey Classes page under the Food Service menu to find information on accredited CFPM and Food Handler courses.
You need a lot of different sinks for a lot of different purposes. All Retail Food Establishments and Wholesale Food Establishments must have an air-gapped 3-compartment sink for warewashing. A 3-compartment sink is still required even if you have a dishwasher. If the dishwasher breaks, the 3-compartment sink ensures you can still properly clean and sanitizer your dishes.
You must have a designated handwashing sink in all food prep, service, and dishwashing areas. 3-compartment sinks, prep sinks, and dump sinks cannot be used for handwashing. This ensures a handwashing sink is always available and not being used for other purposes.
Using residential equipment in a commercial facility is like using a knife blade to tighten a screw; while it may work initially, sooner or later you’ll get to the point where it doesn’t, or it becomes unsafe. The commercial equipment requirement is to ensure you have the right equipment for your situation. For example, commercial refrigerators are larger with shelves intended to accommodate larger containers, they have larger compressors and fans to quickly cool and circulate air, and surfaces are smooth, durable, and corrosion resistant. Residential units have smaller compressors and don’t typically have fans to circulate air, they have less storage space, and they often have surfaces made of plastic or glass that do not hold up well in a commercial kitchen (breaking and chipping can be a hazard).
The NSF certification assures that equipment has been tested and meets public health standards. Other agencies such as UL, ETL, and CE also evaluate and test commercial equipment using equivalent sanitation and health standards. Specification sheets (spec sheets) indicate the intended use and any certifications your equipment has. Providing spec sheets in your plan review allows us easily to determine if your equipment meets standards and is appropriate for your intended use.
Unless your establishment is going to be connected to a septic system, our department does not make this determination. If you will be operating within the City of Great Falls, the Public Works Environmental Division will determine if you need a grease interceptor or grease trap. You can contact the Sector Control Compliance Technician at (406) 727-8390. You can find additional information and resources on their website and in the FOG Manual. If you will be operating outside of Great Falls, you'll need to contact the wastewater operator for your municipality or public water and sewer district.