How to Start a Food Business in Calgary and Surrounding Areas

starting a food business

As you are probably aware by now, there are a lot of useful resources available to business owners in Canada.  If not, you should check them out before you continue. You should also go through this checklist for starting a business in Canada. If you are planning to start a food business, this guide is for. You will learn about what is required to start a food business in Calgary and surrounding areas.

Step 1: Define your business

The first thing is to define the basics about the business you would like to start. Since your focus is the food industry, you should looking at the following

  • Type of business (caterer, take away, sell off site, restaurant, food store, food truck)
  • Type of food being prepared or sold
  • Location and space details
  • Restriction of minors and/or serving alcohol

Step 2: Incorporate Your Business

As a business owner, it is important that you incorporate your business. There are a lot of benefits for doing this. When it comes to incorporating your business, there are many options available to you. So, decide on the right structure for your business.

Step 3: Secure Your Funding

Running  food business requires some form of capital especially if you will be opening a location. Even if you will be using your home, you might need cash for some operations. So, the next critical step is to secure your funding. This can come from your personal savings or from your family and friends. And if you are looking to get a loan, you need to put together your business plan and approach the lenders. There are consultants that can help you with this process.

Step 4: Contact the Municipal office

When you are ready to start, contact the City of Calgary on the phone (3-1-1) or visit their website. Please note that if your business will be outside of Calgary, you need to contact your local municipal office. The City of Calgary will be able to assist you in determining:

  • Suitability of location for your business
  • Permits you will need
  • Most suitable business licence for your business

The municipal office will direct you to the departments you need to contact.

Step 5: Review documents and legislation

Some businesses are required to operate within strict regulation. And it is your responsibility to ensure that you comply with all applicable legislation. The legislation will include zoning bylaws and building, fire, electrical, plumbing, ventilation and licensing codes. For Environmental Public Health you must comply with the following:

  • Alberta Food Regulation
  • The Alberta Food Retail and Food services Code
  • Alberta Dishwashing Standards

You can find more information on these under Information for Your Business/Legislation.

Step 6: Develop your plans

The Environmental Public Health and the City of Calgary require the floor plans for approval. The City of Calgary may also require site plans. Plans should be drawn to scale and comply with the Alberta Building Code. They can be hand drawn or professionally developed, but they must show accurate metric measurements. Permit applications for businesses located in the City of Calgary can be downloaded from their website.

All plans for building or renovating a food establishment must identify the following, when applicable:

  •  floor dimensions in metric, floor dimensions of waiting area
  • total number of seats, number of seats in dining area
  • hot water tank and capacity, fume/exhaust hoods
  • ceiling, wall and floor materials
  • floor drains, mop sink(s)
  • handsink(s), pot and prep sink(s), drain board and shelving
  • dry storage room/shelves
  • washrooms
Equipment to start a food business
  • walk-in cooler(s) and freezer(s), coolers and freezers
  • grill, stove, fryer, donair machine(s), coffee/cappuccino maker(s), ice machine
  • dishwasher and/or dishwashing sink(s)
  • food preparation table(s) and materials
  • buffet table(s) – cold and hot

Step 7: Submit your completed plan(s)

Once your plan is ready, submit your completed application and plans to apply for your plan approval and your City of Calgary business licence. As mentioned earlier, if your business is outside the City of
Calgary, contact your municipal office to submit your plans. It is advisable that you submit your your application and plans in person at the city hall. They are open between 8:00am and 4:00pm, Monday to
Friday. This ensures that your application and plans are pre-screened while you wait to ensure that all necessary information are included. You will pay your City of Calgary application fee at this time.

As soon your plan is ready, you should book an appointment to submit your application. The City will circulate a copy of your plans to the Environmental Public Health Program. You may check the status of your application online or by phoning 403-268-5311.

Step 8: Obtain a building permit, if necessary

After your applications and plans are approved by the various departments, including Environmental Public Health, you may receive a building permit. You may proceed with building or renovating your food establishment. If you make any changes to your plans, you will to request new approval from the appropriate departments. In Calgary, you will receive your building permit in your mailbox or you can pick up in person at City Hall. You should call the City of Calgary at this time to start your business licence application.

Step 9: Register in food safety training

Section 31 of the Food Regulation requires food facilities where food is prepared for and/or served to the public employ staff holding a food safety certificate recognized by Alberta’s Minister of Health and Wellness. The trained staff must have authority to control how food is prepared and served.

Food facilities must generally have:

  • At least one person with an approved food safety certificate. The trained person may be absent when 5 or fewer food handlers, including wait staff, are working on the premises.
  • At least one person with an approved food safety certificate present when 6 or more food handlers, including wait staff, are working on the premises.

Step 10: Obtain Health Approval

You must call Environmental Public Health at least two weeks before opening your business to book an appointment for an approval inspection with the district public health inspector. The approval inspection normally takes place one or two days before opening. Everything must be in order to receive health approval. The City of Calgary may also require a fire inspection and HVAC inspection  at this time.

Step 11: Obtain and post your business licence

If your your district inspector grants your health approval, he will fax it to the City. Once you meet all requirements from other departments, the City will then print and mail your business licence that must be posted where customers can see it. You will need to renew your business licence yearly. For businesses outside the City of Calgary, please contact your municipal office for details on how to receive your business licence.

Step 12: Open Your Business

If everything is in order, you can open your business. Now, you can attending to customers.

Step 13: Pay for, receive and post your permit

As a food vendor, you will need to have a Food Handling Permit issued by Alberta Health Services. This permit is valid for one year and you will pay for it every year. After you have health approval, you will receive the invoice for your food handling permit. You will receive the permit in the post after you make the payment. You must post the permit in a conspicuous place and protect it with a glass or another transparent material shield.

Step 14: Ensure Good Food Safety

Getting the required permit is a great milestone but it is your responsibility to comply with all applicable legislation. Changes in legislation do occur and it is your responsibility to carry out any necessary changes in your operation. To have a well run food business you should always practice good food safety and keep up to date with trends, concerns and information related to your business.

More information on what is required to start a food business in Calgary is available at under Information for Your Business/Food Facilities.

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About Emmanuel Oluwatosin

Co-founder & Publisher of AfricaX. He is interested in: Technology | Media | Startup | Business | Education. Emmanuel currently lives in Calgary, Canada with his family.

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