FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS about Us and Restaurant Plans

Q: What is a Food Facility Plan, and do I need one?

A Food Facility Plan, or restaurant plan, is required for a retail food facility to get permitted for legal operation by a local health department. If you plan to open a new facility or remodel an existing facility, you will probably need to submit a plan. Plans are required for virtually any business that prepares and/or serves food or beverage. Examples include restaurants, delis, bakeries, taquerias, food trucks, coffee carts, etc.

Q: Can I draw up and submit my own plan?

Yes. As long as you meet your county health agency’s requirements, you can do so. However, restaurant plans typically involve knowledge of construction, plumbing, air ventilating and exhaust, knowing the county codes, etc. If you do not have background in this, it is unlikely you can prepare your own plan and get it approved without considerable time and frustration.

Q: Can I have an architect or general contractor prepare my plan?

Some professionals may have the necessary background to do this, but health department requirements are a specialized area in which most architects or contractors don’t have the right knowledge and experience. You will probably need to work with a specialist like Northbay Restaurant Design.

Q: What’s different about Northbay Restaurant Design? Why should I work with you?

Our focus and expertise is on foodservice facility design. Unlike some of our competitors, we don’t sell restaurant equipment. We simply prepare a plan that helps you get your restaurant open as quickly as possible. By not selling equipment it allows the business owner to source their equipment from anywhere they please, incorporating equipment they already own and\or used equipment.  Also to take their plans to full service equipment vendors for competitive quoting, which many do. We share the plans with anyone you choose.

Q: What’s the problem with getting a food facility plan from an equipment supplier?

It’s like the fox guarding the hen house. If their main revenue source is selling equipment, they will recommend plans that help them achieve that goal. That means they may push you into big contracts for equipment purchases and/or steer you away from more affordable used equipment. We don’t do that. In fact, we can often advise you how to minimize up-front expenditures for equipment by buying in phases or working with more affordable used equipment that meets your needs.

Q: What is your firm’s expertise?

Our owners have over 40 years of combined relevant experience in restaurant design, restaurant operations and restuarant construction. See the About Northbay Design page to learn more.

Q: Which local health departments recommend Northbay Restaurant Design?

It is against county health department policy to recommend private businesses. However, we are on the resource list for some local health departments.

Q: What building departments have we worked with?

We work exclusively with the local health department of the county within which the project is located. This includes Sonoma County, Marin County, Alameda County, Contra Costa County, Solano County, and Sacramento County. Since Health Plans are our only focus we do not provide services for getting building permits or other city approvals. Note, though that many times your contractor can pull a permit if you are doing minor work such as a change of ownership health code upgrade. For example, a Plumbing contractor can get a water heater replacement permit for you.

Q: Can you provide professional references?

With well over 800 foodservice facilities successfully designed over the last 2 plus decades, we have numerous owners that can personally be contacted for recommendations. Some of which may be close to you. Feel free to give us a call and we will look for a similar past client for you to talk too

Q: How long does it take to prepare a plan?

Typically plans take approximately 5-10 working days to produce once the agreement and deposit is received. This timeframe is highly dependent upon how many versions of the “preliminary design” phase a project may take.

Q: How long does it take for plan approval?

Health plan approvals can take anywhere from 1-3 weeks to be approved by the local health department. Much of that is dependent on the individual health department offices and their current workload. Northbay Restaurant Design monitors the entire approval process to ensure that things stay on track and that any questions by the plan reviewer are addressed quickly.

Q: Can we work with the building department?

While our plans may be used to help satisfy requirements of a county or city building department, Northbay Restaurant Design is a specialty design company focused strictly on the local health department requirements for food service. This allows us to dedicate 100% of our energy to developing an optimal design for the customer while maintaining health code standards.

Q: Do we need a general contractor or engineer?

Many projects do require contractors and engineers, but not all projects. Your project will be unique to your location, design and existing conditions. With our unique partnership, we have enough experience and knowledge to advise the client what their needs may be and can make design and location decisions based on the individual project circumstances.

Q: Who recommends us?

We are recommended by architects, new and used equipment dealers who don’t have design staff, contractors, engineers and, of course, by hundreds of past clients. (See our list of past projects.)

Q: Can we recommend contractors/engineers to help with your project?

Northbay Restaurant Design is not a construction or engineering company. That said, we do have a number of professionals who have successfully worked on many of our projects over the years, and we are happy to provide names and contact information to the client.

Q: Do we oversee the job or just make the plans?

Our service is to develop the plans for your project and help you get them approved. On-site project management and oversight is generally the responsibility of the client and/or the business owner. It is suggested that you hire a competent general contractor to perform all the work necessary to complete the project and make utility preparations for the equipment as shown in the approved food service plans.

Q: Can you provide any follow-up help once the plan is completed?

Yes, we are available by phone or email for the duration of the project and beyond, during normal business hours, to support the customer, contractors, engineers, and architects for the foodservice portion of the project. This includes help with specifications, electronic versions of the approved plans, equipment substitution assistance, CAD files, etc.