Division of Hotels and Restaurants
Food Service News
All information on this page is current and was last reviewed by the division on June 30, 2016.
Effective July 1, 2016, food contests and cook-offs held by educational entities and certain religious or nonprofit entities, and food vendors at food contests, cook-offs, and 1-3 day temporary events hosted by certain religious organizations or nonprofit entities are exempted from licensure. Documentation is required to qualify for the exclusion. This basis for this change was the legislature’s passage of HB 633.
New License Type for Culinary Education Programs
The 2016 legislature passed HB 249 which revises the division’s definition of “public food service establishment” to include a culinary education program. This means that a culinary program meeting the definition in s. 381.0072, F.S. is eligible to apply for a food service license with the division. This new law goes into effect July 1, 2016.
Legislature Reduces Fees and Provides Operational Flexibility
The 2015 Legislature passed HB 401. This bill reduces late fees for license renewals and allows licensed food service establishments to operate at any temporary event with no additional license fee. Operators may now choose email delivery of their inspection reports. Additionally, the division will reassess and reclassify each establishment’s inspection frequency as needed throughout the year to reflect changes in risk. This law takes effect on July 1, 2015.
Risk-Based Food Service Inspection Frequency Rule Adopted, Effective July 1, 2014
The division has adopted a risk-based inspection frequency for all licensed public food service establishments in Florida. Beginning July 1, 2014, all public food service establishments will be required to have between one and four routine annual inspections, based upon the risk each establishment presents to the public. Factors considered in determining an establishment's risk level include inspection and compliance history, type of food and food preparation, and type of service. Guidelines for risk level classifications are outlined in the newly adopted Rule 61C-1.002, F.A.C. The division will still be able to inspect as needed, in addition to completing the routine annual inspections.
The rule implements Chapter 2013-147, Laws of Florida, and was developed with industry input throughout the rulemaking process. For more information on the new risk-based inspection frequency, please contact the division by e-mail to DHR.Info@myfloridalicense.com or by phone at 850.487.1395.
License Fee Reduction for Food Service Annual Temporary Events
Beginning February 1, 2014, the food service annual temporary event license fee will cost $456, which is a 55 percent reduction from the previous fee of $1,000. The fee reduction is expected to attract more operators previously unable to afford the higher licensing cost, as well as reduce the workload required of the Department thus creating operational efficiencies.
The Division of Hotels and Restaurants licenses and inspects public food service establishments at temporary events, such as fairs, carnivals, flea and farmers markets and other short-term events. Annual vendor licenses are valid for one year from the date of purchase and allow the licensee to operate at an unlimited number of temporary events throughout the year. A separate license is required for each food service booth or facility. In addition to the annual vendor license, temporary event licenses can be issued for events lasting one to three days as well as four to 30 days.
Risk-Based Food Service Inspection Frequency Required
In just over a year, the inspection frequency for Florida’s licensed public food service establishments will change. Beginning July 1, 2014, all public food service establishments will be required to have between one and four routine annual inspections, based upon the risk each establishment presents to the public. Governor Rick Scott signed House Bill 795 into law (Chapter 2013-147, Laws of Florida) on June 7, 2013.
The Division of Hotels and Restaurants has adopted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's 2009 Food Code, effective January 1, 2013. Licensed establishments must begin following the 2009 Food Code no later than January 1, 2013, but may begin anytime before that date. The division will continue to enforce the 2001 Food Code through December 31, 2012. Printable versions of both the 2001 Food Code and the 2009 Food Code are available on our website.
The 2009 Food Code includes allergen-related training and knowledge requirements not present in the 2001 Food Code. The division is providing licensed establishments a grace period to complete the necessary training. Please contact us if you have questions about the implementation of the 2009 Food Code.
Recent rule changes affect the type of facilities used as a commissary and commissary use requirements. Commissaries must be a food service facility licensed by the division or permitted by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. No other type of facility is acceptable.
However, as of November 1, 2012, self-sufficient mobile food dispensing vehicles (MFDV) no longer have to use a commissary or notify the division of any commissary they do use. A self-sufficient MFDV must have:
- a three compartment sink for washing, rinsing, and sanitizing equipment and utensils;
- a separate handwash sink;
- adequate refrigeration and storage capacity;
- full provision of power utilities including electrical, LP gas, or a portable power generation unit;
- a potable water holding tank; and
- a liquid waste disposal system in accordance with Subparts 5-3 and 5-4 of the Food Code.
The MFDV rule (61C-4.0161, Florida Administrative Code) also now clarifies that MFDVs are not allowed to obtain water from or dispose of wastewater at a private residence, or prepare food; store food products, equipment or utensils; or conduct warewashing or any other activities related to the public food service in a private residence. An approved source must be used to obtain water and for wastewater disposal.
The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) has upgraded its license application process, enabling the majority of applications for food service and lodging establishments to be completed online. The upgrade will have a significant impact on the length of time needed to process applications, allowing online applicants to bypass several components of the paper application system.
“Making the application process easier for licensees and potential licensees is going to help us keep Florida businesses strong,” said DBPR Secretary Ken Lawson. “The industry asked us to improve this procedure, and I’m pleased our technological upgrades have made this new system possible.”
Applicants may apply online for all food service, hotel, motel, and apartment licenses. The department is also offering a complete option for online plan review submittal, including the application, fees and all supporting documents. The Department plans to continue upgrading the applications process to an online system and will add applications for elevator- and escalator- related licenses in the future, as well as applications for vacation rentals.
Applicants for the various licenses can also still apply via hard copy applications, also available on our website. Food service plan review applicants may also submit their documents by e-mail. For questions about plan review or the e-mail submittal process, contact email@example.com.
House Bill 883 changed the division’s disciplinary actions and advisory council membership, and state regulation preemptions. House Bill 883 became effective when Governor Scott signed it into law (Ch. 2011-119, Laws of Florida) on June 2, 2011.
The new law allows the division to require licensees to complete remedial education administered by a food safety training provider with an approved education program. The division will provide more information on this requirement as it becomes available. The law also adds a representative from the Florida Vacation Rental Managers Association to the Division of Hotels and Restaurants Advisory Council and preempts the regulation of food nutritional content and marketing in public food service establishments to the state.
Please contact the division if you have questions about these changes.
The Division of Hotels and Restaurants introduces new application forms for restaurant owners who wish to file for plan review and license at the same time. Applicants for both initial and change of ownership licenses may use these forms. Usually, we recommend applicants apply for plan review prior to building or remodeling, and then apply for license at least 30 days before beginning operations. The combined forms are designed to eliminate steps for those who are ready to begin business, streamlining processing time to help move the licensing process faster and more efficiently. To access these forms, click on the Apply for/Update Licenses link above.
The Division of Hotels and Restaurants has streamlined its food and lodging application forms to remove obsolete requirements and facilitate processing. While the division will continue to accept old forms, we highly recommend applicants begin using the new forms. To access these forms, click on the Apply for/Update Licenses link above.
The Florida Department of Health has informed us that several restaurant managers and owners have contacted them about fraudulent official phone calls. The caller claims to be an inspector from DOH Tallahassee attempting to schedule an inspection, and then requests their federal id number. We join DOH in warning our industry to call law enforcement if contacted by suspicious persons claiming to be inspectors. State inspectors will not call to schedule inspections except during licensing or upon request, and will provide proper identification upon entering the establishment.
Public food service and public lodging licenses may now be subject to penalty for failing to pay outstanding taxes. Changes to the Department of Revenue's laws allow the division to refuse to renew a license or to suspend a license if the licensee has an outstanding tax warrant for three months. Chapter 2010-166, Laws of Florida, took effect on May 28, 2010, when Governor Crist signed House Bill CS/HB 5801 into law. Chapter 2010-138, Laws of Florida, also allows this same license action. The division is implementing these laws and will notify licensees at the time of renewal if the new law impacts your license.
Effective October 1, 2009, the Hospitality Education Program (HEP) only administers the school-to-career grant and no longer provides training programs. Any licensee required to complete a HEP training program as part of a Settlement Agreement or Final Order should contact the division. The law, Chapter 2009-195, Laws of Florida, also made the Dixie Cup Clary Local Control Act permanent, which authorizes local governments to allow dogs in limited, designated outdoor seating area. The initial pilot program was due to sunset on July 1, 2009. For more information, see our Frequently Asked Questions.
Beginning January 20, 2009, all plans are processed in the Tallahassee plan review office. Plans and fees for establishments needing plan review must be mailed or taken to the Tallahassee plan review office. Applicants must submit their completed plan review application, 2 sets of blueprints/floor plans to scale, menu, proof of water/wastewater, and fees to: DBPR, Division of Hotels and Restaurants, Plan Review Office, 2601 Blair Stone Road, Tallahassee, FL 32399-1011.
License applications and fees will continue to be processed in the Department's Central Intake Office in Tallahassee.
If you have any questions regarding this plan review please call 850.487.1395 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Effective July 1, 2008, the division’s licensees do not have to keep a copy of Chapter 509, FS, on premises; food managers have 30 days to obtain certification; and proof of food manager’s certification must be provided upon request, including during inspections. The division may refuse to renew your license if you have past due fines and may file an administrative complaint against your license for failing to comply with a Final Order. The division will not file an administrative complaint for violating fire safety codes, but will note the violation on your inspection and notify the State Fire Marshal or local fire authority of the violation. Requirements for the number of restrooms and restroom signage in a public food service establishment now falls under the Florida Building Code and the local building authorities. The division still inspects restrooms for sanitation and safety issues and will ensure restrooms are provided for both employee and public use.
When disaster threatens Florida, the American Red Cross turns to local food vendors to help supply snacks, drinks, sandwiches and hot meals to individuals and families impacted by the event. An online portal is now available for food vendors interested in contracting with the American Red Cross to provide assistance. Please visit the Red Cross website for more information.
To assist restaurant owners in case of an emergency, the division published updated guidelines for recovery in Industry Bulletin 2005-03. In addition, a special bulletin, Boil Water Notice Guidelines, was developed in cooperation with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and Florida Department of Health to provide procedures observed while a “BOIL WATER NOTICE” is in effect.
Effective July 1, 2006, the Dixie Cup Clary Local Control Act authorized local governments to allow dogs in limited, designated outdoor seating areas of food service establishments. For more information, see our Frequently Asked Questions. Local governments may develop their own applications, however, a sample application is provided.
Industry Bulletin 2006-02 was released to assist the food service industry in protecting ice and ice machines from contamination.