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Local Regulations for opening a Chocolate Shop. Kitchen- Yes or No?

My wife and I are looking at leasing real estate to open our chocolate shop. The question is this: Are we bringing in a "kitchen." We will be producing our products onsight with bulk chocolate. Our equipment will include tempering machines, enrober, reach-in fridge and freezers, microwave, 3 sink cleaning station, work tables, etc. We are looking at an approx. 1000 sq ft space with 150 sq ft of showroom and the remainder for production. If this is classified as a kitchen then the regulations will be that of a restaurant and more costly.

I would like to hear if anyone has gone through this process and your thoughts. We understand that each city has different regs but general info might help as we get set to meet with the officals.

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This is going to change state to state, county to county. Being classified as a kitchen usually takes ovens and gas stoves. I think Clay has said (and of course correct me if I'm wrong) you can get around the stove top by going induction.

You're going to want to talk with your areas health department to find out what defines it all.
Thanks Andy.

We have already planned on the induction burner option.

We have had some informal talks with the health dept. but they seem unclear on where we would be, so asked us to justify our position. There are no other facilities in the area to use as a model.

Pete
In New York, anyway, the answer is yes (YMMV) - you are setting up a kitchen because you are preparing food products for retail sale and consumption.

This is especially important (in NY, anyway) when you wholesale to someone who resells at retail. There are different rules (county-by-county) for when you make products to sell/donate directly - only - in part to accommodate making baked goods for charity bake sales.

The regulations requiring stove top vs induction have more to do with ventilation and fire suppression. If you don't have an open flame (again, this is in NY), you don't have to have fire suppression and ventilation. Also, most induction burners are portable so when they're not in use they can (and should) be put away, out of sight of inspectors.
Hi, Pete,

I've been going through almost the exact same process with you. I don't know where you are planning to open your shop but, here in Texas, it is classified as a commercial kitchen - which requires to meet several health department rules (e.g. a grease trap). As Clay mentioned, a kind of stove decides the ventilation. With an induction stove, the ventilation is not required (in my county). Gook luck with your new business.
God I love the grease trap argument. If all you deal with is cream they still want you have a grease trap. At least that's here in NC.
I met with an architect that works with the county here in Arizona and he agrees that it will be considered a kitchen. However, he believes that we may be able to stay away from the grease trap and special wall covering and ceiling tiles required for a restaurant. He also believes that I should emphasis selling retail out the front of the shop rather than telling them I will primarily be doing wholesale.

Challenges are what makes life fun.
First off -- congratulations and best of luck to you! I hope you get your kitchen up and running without a hitch.
I'm going through this right now, and in my county (and all others I've worked in), any facility where you produce food for public consumption is considered a commercial kitchen, requiring all sorts of approvals before you can even bring in your equipment. I'm currently about a month behind schedule (missing Valentine's day!!!) because my kitchen plan was approved without the grease trap (I was originally told I didn't need it); but when the plumbing inspector came to look at the rough-in, he wouldn't approve us without the grease trap. Unfortunately, the grease trap footprint has required us to do some redesign, which means another plan review. And another delay.
So I cannot recommend strongly enough that you get all your reviews and approvals finalized and double-checked before you try to build your kitchen. Your local health inspector should be able to point you toward the guidelines. And if you're getting advice from someone other than the official inspectors, make sure you check that advice. Sometimes you luck out and can get by without meeting the official requirements. But sometimes you don't.
And if you're wholesaling, you might want to check jurisdictional permits. In Washington, I needed a WSDA permit for my wholesaling, but a King County permit for my retail shop. Different requirements, different permits. And for wholesaling, you're also supposed to register with the FDA's bioterrorism department. It's absurd, but .... I know tons of wholesalers who've done neither of these and haven't had a problem. But I have pretty low risk tolerance. :-)
Thanks for the info. We have started the process and YES we will need a grease trap. Amazing how when you talk with the property broker they tell you what you want to hear. Fortunately, having had much help from people like yourselves, we kept asking the questions and not signing documents until we were sure we knew what we were looking at. We have adjusted our property search more towards restaurants and have found a number of potential sites. When We get frustrated I keep telling myself "It will all be alright once we start making chocolate."

Pierre
Pierre;

One thing you want to keep in mind is that nobody will tell you what the various regulatory agencies will require in order for you to get your property past initial inspection. Your real estate salesperson is in business to sell/rent the space, and that's it. Your equipment salesperson is in business to sell you equipment. What you do with the space and equipment afterward is none of their concern, and none of their business.

Understanding that up front will save you tremendous grief, and frustration in the planning process of your new business.

In 2008 I opened my first food related business (Choklat), having had no professional culinary training, and absolutely no experience in designing commercial kitchens. Yet in spite of my lack of experience, I passed ALL regulatory inspections with the regional health authority, the city planning department, AND our federal food inspection agency on the first round.

Here's how I did it:

I first took a food safety certification course (required here in Canada for anyone who wishes to run a commercial kitchen)

I then went to each agency and asked for ALL regulations pertaining to commercial kitchens and food related businesses, then sat up late, over a couple of evenings with a lot of caffiene, and read each document from cover to cover, making notes with a pen and a piece of paper, as I was reading.

THEN, after making the notes, I began designing the kitchen, right down to the type of washable paint, the washable ceiling tiles.... EVERYTHING.

Once the drawing of the space (including space allocation and labelling for equipment) was complete, and footnotes were included, I returned to the City Planning department and obtained a building permit based on the "blueprint". I was in and out in 30 minutes.

Since that time, Choklat has run 100% trouble free. In fact we have been commended by many inspectors of how well the business is run and how clean our premises are.

Having spent a career building businesses, and designing workflow software for large companies, the best piece of advice I can give you is the following:

THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAILS.

Do lots of up front planning, and pay attention to even the smallest detail. If you do this, you will save a tremendous amount of grief, money, and time wasted when a cranky inspector refuses your permit because of an "oversight" and forces you to repaint your entire shop with a washable paint.

DON'T TAKE SHORTCUTS WHEN DESIGNING YOUR KITCHEN. You are dealing with salaried, overworked beaurocrats who don't give a pinch of poop that you used a different tile than you should have because it saved you $8 per tile. If you get the wrong inspector (and lord knows there's lots out there!) you'll have your permit held until the tiles are replaced. Follow the regulations to a "T" and you won't end up owning two sets of ceiling tiles, or having to repaint your shop.

Cheers, and the best of luck in your new venture!

Brad Churchill
Choklat.
Brad,

WOW. Thanks a lot for all the info. We have started the process that you described and it is a lot of work, but it's also an education that we will use in the future.

I know what you are talking about with the sales and real estate people. One offered the services of their kitchen design architect. They will do the kitchen layout for $2,800.00 but will not guarantee that it will pass code.

This town has a bad rep when it comes to Business Development, but what I hear from others, we are no different that most locals.

Thanks again for your info and more importantantly you insight that we can make it happen if we work through the pricess and paperwork. I will keep you informed.

Pierre
An interesting note about grease traps in my small metropolis: I was pricing these over the last few days, and I noticed a very large difference in price between the metal and plastic ones. Both are NSF approved, similar designs, identical capacities. But oddly, none of the plumbing suppliers in my area stock the plastic ones. After a few phone calls and conflicting info, I finally talked with the fire marshal, who it turns out, will not sign off on a kitchen with a plastic grease trap. There's no actual rule or regulation about this. He just doesn't like them.

So yet another thing for you to check on, if you haven't already.

And I share your optimism that everything will, indeed, be alright once we start making chocolate.
Elana,

Thanks for the info. That is key.

Another twist came up yesterday. Depending on the landlords, they have their own contractors to do the work, so you can not get competative bids. Then the contractor will only use parts and equipment (sinks, grease traps, etc.) that they buy and they must be new for warranty purposes. Nice profit margins for them.

Not all landlords are like that, but it's something you should ask up front.

Pierre

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