Food Service Permits: Navigating In NYC

food service permits

Article contributed by Rada Tarnovsky, Letter Grade Consulting


When it comes to the rules of food service permits in New York City, the Department of Health requires all food service establishments serving food to the public to have a standard operational permit (H-25). Once a space has an H-25, it must comply with article 81 of the NYC Health Code, which requires (among other things) a 3-compartment sink.

But Here’s The Dilemma…

What if you are a hotel, and have more than one kitchen? Or a food hall with multiple vendors and limited space? These are very common scenarios that many operators are faced with when it comes to food service permits. As per the Department of Health, hotels are required to have an H-25 permit and so does the food hall. Which ultimately means that every kitchen and every stall has to comply with the requirements set out in Article 81. Logistically though, is compliance even possible?

What if the hotel is in a landmarked building with limited construction options, and the allocated space in the food hall is really small? How can they comply with a 3-compartment sink requirement?

The Solution:

For large spaces with multiple independent and compliant kitchens, we recommend applying for more than one H-25 permit. Yes, it is true that every H-25 permit is subject to letter grade inspections, however with only 13 points to spare for an “A” letter grade, it is easier to pass when the permitted areas being inspected are separated.

But what if the kitchens are not independent and overlap with equipment and storage? Specifically establishments like hotels, food halls and schools that have one central kitchen with outlets/stalls? These types of operators can apply for a Shared Space Permit, an H-26. While the H-25 permitted areas must still comply with all other requirements like for example hand washing sinks and food temperature, the H-26 kitchen can share equipment like refrigeration and dishwashing machines/3-compartment sinks. This can be extremely beneficial to establishments with very large overlapping kitchens, establishments in landmarked buildings where construction can be restrictive, as well as places with limited space and multiple vendors. In addition to compliance, having the ability to share equipment reduces operating and construction costs, and while the H-26 kitchen still gets DOH inspections, it is not subject to the letter grade system.

Winter Fancy Food Show October 2018 728×90

We do recommend meeting with DOH to explain your layout and floorplan in order to verify compliance and prevent any potential issues when a DOH inspector conducts an inspection. Once compliance is confirmed, the paperwork requirements for applying are the same for both the H-25 and the H-26.


To learn about food service permits and more, visit Rada’s website.

Rada Tarnovsky is a practicing attorney, who co-founded Letter Grade Consulting to help food service operators comply with regulations set forth by the NYC Department of Health.  Servicing restaurants, hotels, theatres, corporate cafeterias and schools, Letter Grade Consulting provides operators with preemptive solutions, education and training to sustain the highest level of food safety, remain inspection ready and maintain the “A” in the window. Rada can be reached at rt@lettergradeconsulting.com