Public Food Service

In Cattaraugus County, any establishment preparing, handling, and serving food to the public requires a food service permit issued by the Health Department.  Other types of food handling operations may require different licenses from other agencies (see below for more information).

Types of Food Service Permits

There are three types of Department of Health food service permits that are available to potential operators which are outlined below.  Religious, fraternal and charitable organizations may alternatively receive a “Permission to Operate” which allows limited food service on site no more than once a week.  Please contact us for more information.

  • Food Service Establishments

A food service establishment is defined as a place where food is prepared and intended for individual portion service, whether consumption occurs on or off the premises (ex. take-out restaurants).  These types of food service operations are regulated under Subpart 14-1: Food Service Establishments.

Each food service establishment is placed into one of three “risk classifications” based on the type of foods being served and complexity of preparation.  Permit fees and inspection frequency are determined by this risk classification.  A “low risk” establishment serves primarily pre-cooked and no-cook foods requiring little preparation.  A “medium risk” establishment serves “cook and serve” type foods requiring limited preparation.  A “high risk” establishment serves foods requiring more complicated preparation including multiple heating and cooling steps. 

  • Mobile Food Service & Foodcarts

A mobile food service establishment is a self-contained food operation located in a vehicle or movable stand used to store, prepare, display and serve food intended for individual portion consumption.  These types of food service operations are regulated under Subpart 14-4: Mobile Food Service Establishments & Foodcarts.

Like permanent food service establishments, mobile food service operations are also placed into one of the three risk classifications mentioned above.  Food may be prepared in the cart itself, at an approved food service establishment (or commissary), or purchased at an appropriately licensed facility.

  • Catering

A caterer is a person who prepares and furnishes food intended for individual portion service at the premises of the consumer (conferences, banquets, etc.).  These types of food service operations are regulated under Subpart 14-1: Food Service Establishments.

Caterers must obtain a "Food Service Establishment" permit for their commissary (home facility) with a catering add-on to allow service off site.  All catering operations are consider "high risk" food service establishments due to the potential for food to be prepared at one site and transported to another. 

  • Temporary Food Service Establishments

Temporary food service establishments are temporary stands where food is prepared, handled and served to the public that operates at a fixed location in conjunction with a single event not more than 14 consecutive days duration.  Typically, foods will have limited preparation (seasoning and cooking only) and will be promptly served and consumed by the public.  These types of food service operations are regulated under Subpart 14-2: Temporary Food Service Establishments.

This kind of food service is inherently high risk because of the volume of food served and limited facilities. Advanced planning and preparation is critical to ensure safe handling practices.  It is highly recommended that your operation be kept as simple as possible.  Depending on the type of food and the facilities available, you may need to alter your plans in order to comply with Sanitary Code requirements.  Please note that all food must either be prepared entirely on site, or obtained from an appropriately permitted or licensed facility (restaurant, grocery store, or other retail food establishment).

To apply for a temporary food service permit, you must use the custom application.  Please submit your application as early as possible to avoid delays.

Other Types of Food Handling Operations

Food handling operations that do not prepare and serve food directly to the public do not qualify for a Health Department permit.  Most of these operations (retail food stores, food processing & handling facilities, food distribution operations) must obtain a license from the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets.  Specific types of food handling, like slaughtering operations, may require a license from the USDA Food Safety & Inspection Service.

Please contact us if your business will do both public food service and other types of food handling (ex. convenience stores, bakeries that sell both retail & wholesale, etc.) to find out which permit or license is most appropriate for your operation.

Food Handling Practices

Proper food handling practices are essential in ensuring a safe dining experience for your patrons.  Unfortunately, foodborne bacteria and viruses that cause illness are not readily visible to the naked eye.  Since they cannot be detected directly, cooking and holding temperatures must be strictly followed and food must be protected from contamination sources to prevent their growth.  Although good food handling practices should always be observed, it is particularly important for public food service because the health status of patrons is not known.  Some people (particularly the immune-compromised) may be more susceptible than others.

Understanding and following safe food handling practices is the responsibility of the food service operator.  The Sanitary Code contains many requirements regarding food handling which operators are expected to know and to follow.  Failure to understand these requirements may result in violations during inspections and potentially discarded products.

If you are not familiar with current food handling standards and practices, please review the Sanitary Code and the materials on NYS Department of Health website.  There are also numerous private organizations that offer training both online and in classroom settings on the subject.

Facility Requirements

There are many Sanitary Code requirements pertaining to the construction of the food preparation and service areas, as well as the type of equipment allowed for commercial use.  Your facilities must meet all of the applicable code requirements in order to obtain a permit to operate a food service establishment from the Health Department.  A pre-operational inspection is required to ensure that your facility complies with the current code before your permit will be issued.

Please note that any facilities that will be used for your food service operation must be reserved exclusively for this purpose.  Home kitchens are not acceptable for use.  Any food service facilities in mixed-use buildings must be completely separated from other areas by partitioning and solid self-closing doors.  Once a permit is issued, access for inspection must be permitted to any parts of the premises associated with the food service operation during normal business hours.

Additional Requirements for Food Service Establishments with On-Site Utilities

Any water supply used by a food service establishment is classified as a public water system and must meet all applicable regulations.  Sewage disposal systems must be adequately sized to meet the needs of the business and may require an additional SPDES permit from the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation.  New sewage disposal systems for food service establishments will require the services of a NYS licensed engineer for design and certification.

Plan Review & Approval for New Food Service Establishments

New (or extensively remodeled) food service establishments may also require plan review and approval of food preparation and service areas.  This process is intended to identify any potential Sanitary Code issues early on so that they may be addressed prior to construction.  Please contact your inspector to find out if a plan review is necessary for your operation.

Forms & Links

Application & Information for a Health Department "Permit to Operate"

Application & Information for a Temporary Food Service Permit

Additional Requirements for Food Service Establishments with On-Site Utilities

NYS Sanitary Code – Subpart 14-1: Food Service Establishments

NYS Sanitary Code – Subpart 14-4: Mobile Food Service Establishments & Foodcarts

NYS Sanitary Code – Subpart 14-2: Temporary Food Service Establishments

Environmental Health Services Fees

Plan Review & Approval Forms

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