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Retail Food Licensing

If you are thinking of starting a retail food facility in Vernon County, please take the time to review the following information about the licensing process and requirements. All retail food facilities are required to follow the WI State Retail Food Establishment Code: ATCP 75. It is against the law to operate a retail food facility without a license.


  • A retail food license is not the only approval you will need to operate. Your local planning and zoning department must also approve your business.

Plan Review
New facilities and existing facilities that are planning significant remodeling or expansion must submit a plan review prior to the remodeling or expansion.

The following items need to be submitted to the Vernon County Health Department:

  • License Application (if applicable with a new license)
  • License and Pre-inspection Fees (if applicable with a new license)
  • Proposed menu
  • Equipment to be installed (make/model).
  • Floor plan drawn to scale showing the location and label for all equipment, sinks, storage, etc…
  • Finish material for surfaces (floors, walls, ceiling).

An overview for the plan review requirements and the application form can be found below:


Plan Review Requirements

License Types
License type is determined by the food activities and sales of the retail food establishment.
The license types are:
Retail Food Establishment - Serving Meals (More Than 50% Of Sales Are Meals)

  • Transient - Serving Meals
  • Simple
  • Moderate
  • Complex
Retail Food Establishment - Not Serving Meals (Less Than 50% Of Sales Are Meals)

  • Prepackaged
  • Transient - Non TCS
  • Transient - Prepackaged
  • Not engaged in food processing - TCS
  • Simple - Non TCS
  • Simple - TCS
  • Moderate - TCS
  • Complex - TCS

  • Retail Food Establishment: Includes a retail food establishment-not serving meals, a retail food establishment-serving meals, vending machines, micro markets, a mobile or transient retail food establishment-not serving meals, a mobile or transient retail food establishment-serving meals and a retail food establishment serving prepackaged meals.
  • Retail Food Establishment - Serving Meals: A permanent retail food establishment operating as a restaurant where the total meal sales exceeds 50% of all retail food sales.
  • Retail Food Establishment - Not Serving Meals: A permanent retail food establishment where food processing is conducted primarily for direct retail sale of TCS food to consumers at the facility and the total non-meal sales exceeds 50% of all retail sales (e.g., grocery and convenience stores).
  • Transient Retail Food Establishment: A temporary retail food establishment that operates in a fixed location in conjunction with a special event for no more than 14 consecutive days.
  • Time/Temperature Control for Safety Food (TCS): Formerly known as “potentially hazardous food,” TCS requires time/temperature control for safety to limit pathogenic microorganism growth or toxin formation.
  • Processing: Includes repackaging, heating, slicing, opening a package, or altering a food in any way.
  • Meal: Food that is ordered, prepared for, or served to a customer with or without a beverage and is obtained from the retail food establishment in a ready-to-eat form with the expectation of immediate consumption, although consumption may occur at a different location.
  • Non-Meals Include: Beverages such as soft drinks, coffee, juices Ice cream, milk and milk drinks, ices, confections, grab-and-go packaged foods whether cold or from a hot case, deli case items sold by weight or volume, bakery items (breads, cakes, pastry, donuts, cookies, pie), and single-bite sized free food samples or an equivalent portion given away to demonstrate the characteristics of food.

A pre-inspection will be conducted when you are ready to start operating. A pre-inspection is to ensure that the facility has the appropriate design, equipment, and management to comply with the Wisconsin Food Code and ATCP 75.
Once your application and plan review are complete, an inspector will contact you to schedule the pre-inspection.
Keep in mind that a new license, including change of ownership, requires the facility to get into full compliance before a license is issued. This includes all plumbing fixtures, commercially approved equipment, and approved surfaces.
Please review these Food Code Fact Sheets to familiarize yourself with the requirements of the food code.

Your License, Routine Inspections, and License Renewals

  • Your license is valid for one year from July through the following June. If you are licensed in April, May, or June, your license will not expire until June 30 of the following year.
  • You will have at least one annual inspection during the license year (not calendar year). If there are any complaints or foodborne illnesses attributed to your establishment, additional inspections will be conducted.
  • Renewal notices for annual license fees are sent out in May of each year. Annual license fees are due by July 1st.
  • If the license fee is not received or post marked by July 1st, a late fee will be charged.

Certified food Manager
For retail food establishments, a food manager is required if the establishment conducts meal services.
In ATCP 75, Meals are defined as: “any ready−to−eat food served or sold to the general public in individual or prepackaged single portions or servings for immediate on−premises consumption, or transported off−premises in individual prepackaged carryout servings for immediate consumption, or specifically preordered individual or multiple serving portions which are transported to an off−premises location for immediate consumption.”

For more information about Certified Food Manager training and requirements, visit

Additional Documents: