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Business Ambassador Service for Food Establishments

Are you planning to open a restaurant, bakery, café, butcher shop, a food truck or another type of food business? If so, the City of Ottawa has resources to assist business owners who are starting to plan and operate a new food establishment business.

The Business Information Officer (BIO) is your single point of contact with the City to get all the information you need to apply for the required licences and permits for your new food establishment!

Specifically, the BIO can help you:

  • Apply for applicable licences and permits and follow up as required
  • Outline estimated time and costs
  • Create a personalized roadmap for your new food establishment
  • Connect you with the proper City departments throughout the process

If you are starting a mobile refreshment vehicle, cart or stand, an information package is available, email to receive the package.

Want to meet with the BIO?

Book an appointment to meet with the BIO by completing a short online questionnaire. The BIO can meet you at any one of ServiceOttawa Client Service Centres.

Want to learn more about the Business Ambassador Service? E-mail the BIO at

Online Permit and Licence Application Tool for New Food Establishments

Check out the Food Premises Application tool available on My ServiceOttawa to find out what business licences and permits are required to operate a new food establishment in the City of Ottawa.

You can use the application tool to submit and pay for many food establishment permit and licence applications online using Mastercard, VISA, American Express, Interac Online, Mastercard Debit or Visa Debit.


How to Start a Food Establishment

Getting started

There are many things to consider when starting a business before city services are required, such as developing a business plan, considering a location, planning your space, researching insurance, getting a Canadian Revenue Agency Business Number and registering your business as a corporation. Invest Ottawa and their FAQ is a useful source of information and services for entrepreneurs in Ottawa.

Applying for a Business Number

The Business Number (BN) is a common client identifier for businesses. It is based on the idea of one business, one number. Each business requires one BN for its legal entity. Visit the Canadian Revenue Agency Business Number page to get information to apply for a Business Number.


When starting a new business, it is important to consider the zoning (land use designation) of your potential business start-up location. Zoning policies can affect whether your type of business is allowed to operate at a specific location. Find out how to check the zoning of your prospective business. For more questions on the zoning provisions contact 3-1-1 and ask to speak with a development information office in building code services.

4 Key Phases for Obtaining a Food Premises Business Licence with the City

There are four key steps when getting the needed licences and permits when opening your business.

Phase 1 - Consult

After submitting an online questionnaire and scheduling a meeting, you and the Business Information Officer (BIO) can meet to discuss the required licences and permits you need to open your business. For more questions or if you have any concerns, the BIO can also get you into contact with the appropriate department throughout the City.

During the consultation stage you will:

  1. Meet with BIO
  2. Review questionnaire with BIO
  3. Review:
    1. Generic road map
    2. Application bundle
    3. Checklist of application requirements

Phase 2 - Apply

After the set of required City services are given to you, the BIO can provide you with the bundle of application forms, a custom roadmap explaining the estimated costs, times and a checklist of required steps for each application. Once you have all the requirements met for the application bundle, including fees, the BIO can assist with the submitting of the application bundle to the right city staff.

During the application stage you will:

  1. Receive the Bundle Package: Start-up
    1. Business Licence
    2. Permit to Construct
    3. Health approval
    4. Permanent Sign

Final inspections can only happen after construction

   Receive Additional Applications:

  1. Liquor Licence (Municipal Information Form (MIF) and Agency Letter of Approval (ALA) forms to be completed and submitted with additional documents.  Please note various fees apply.
  2. Encroachment permits
  3. Temporary sign
  4. Parking requirements
  5. APPLY (pay)

Phase 3 - Fulfill

The fulfill step can also be broken down into three sub-stages: review, construction (when applicable) and inspection. During the review stage your plans submitted for the Building Permit, Food Premises Application and the Permanent Sign Permit will be reviewed. It is common for plans reviews to identify deficiencies thereby, requiring re-submission of plans, but by identifying problems at this stage means avoiding costly changes after your business has been constructed.

Before beginning construction of your business, you will first need your Building Permit approved. City building inspectors will complete progress inspections throughout the construction stage, resulting in an occupancy permit. Once the required occupancy permit is given and specific restaurant requirements (working appliances, table and chairs laid out) have been established, Property Standards (By-law) Fire Services and Public Health inspections can take place for the Food Premises Business License. If applicable, you must apply and pay for three (3) Agency Letters of Approval, with additional documentation and fees three (3) to four (4) weeks prior to opening. These inspections should occur during the occupancy inspection and the Fire Services and the Public Health inspection respectively.

Steps required at this stage:

  1. Review of application feedback
  2. Building/ fulfilling the requirements of the application and feedback
  3. Inspection of requirements on site
  4. Be present for inspections as required for each permit/licence
  5. Stay connected with the BIO wherever desired:
    1. BIO can be contacted to follow-up on permit/licences progress
    2. BIO can attend inspections
    3. BIO can connect client with inspector for questions
    4. BIO can attend supplementary meetings

Phase 4 - Finalize

Once you receive your Food Premises Business Licence you need to post it where it is visible to the public.

Food Establishment Requirements for Permits and Licences

The Food Establishment package contains permits, licences and services specifically designed for food establishment.

The package includes five items:

  • Construction Permit
  • Public Health Food Premises Review
  • Permanent Sign Permit (if required)
  • Food Premises Business Licence
  • Liquor Licence Supporting Documents (Agency Letters of Approval, Municipal Information Form)  if requested

Applications can be submitted individually and the package is flexible; however, by bundling these applications together, the Business Ambassador Service can ensure that all City requirements are met and are completed in a streamlined manner, reducing time and allow your business to open faster!

Construction Permit

The Ontario Building Code requires that the property owners get a building permit before beginning construction, including renovating or demolishing all or part of an existing building.

A building permit includes reviewing building plans before a permit is approved, followed by inspections during and following construction of the facility.

The following is an example of the approximate costs, time and requirements for the specific permit

Fees (Approximate)

Fit-up (no new gross floor area): $11.00/$1000 or part thereof of the assessed valuation of the work, with a minimum fee of $100

Timeline (Approximate)

First review: 10-15 business days, but could take longer if the application is incomplete or there are any deficiencies noted in the plans.

Summary of requirements

Food Premises Health Review Application

Floor and equipment plans of the food premises must be approved by a Public Health Inspector before to construction. Contact Ottawa Public Health two (2) weeks prior to opening to set up an inspection.

The following is an example of the approximate costs, time and requirements for the specific license or permit

Fees (Approximate)

Currently no fee

Timeline (Approximate)

First review: 10 business days

Summary of requirements

  • Application form
  • 3 copies of your food premises facility plans, including kitchen, equipment list/legend and seating plan
  • Brief description of your proposed operation
  • Menu
  • More information on operating a food premises

Permanent Sign Permit

Many permanent signs on private property need a permit, including new restaurant signs. The application process of a review of the sign plans.

The following is an example of the approximate costs, time and requirements for the specific permit

Fees (Approximate)

Permanent sign:  $408

Timeline (Approximate)

First review: 10 business days

Summary of requirements

Business Licence

If you own or operate a business in the City of Ottawa, you may need a municipal business license (list of businesses that require a municipal licence). A Food Premises Business Licence is needed to own or lease a food establishment in Ottawa. The licence application process involves a series of inspections, including a Public Health and Fire Services inspection. Business licences must be renewed annually.

Ottawa licences businesses to protect the public and entrepreneurs on matters of health and safety connected to their business operation. Licensing fees are established to offset the costs of enforcement and inspection.

The following is an example of the approximate costs, time and requirements for the specific licence 

Fees (Approximate)

Annual:  $273
Change location: $100
Change owner: $50

Timeline (Approximate)

3 to 6 weeks

Summary of Requirements

Liquor Licence

To serve liquor in the Province of Ontario, a Liquor Licence from the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) is required. As part of the Liquor Licence application package, the AGCO needs documents from the local municipality. The City of Ottawa can provide the approval for the three Agency Letters of Approval (from Building Code Services, Ottawa Public Health and Ottawa Fire Services) and a Municipal Information Form (MIF) needed for your AGCO application. Each of the three agency letters of approval requires an inspection.

The following is an example of the approximate costs, time and requirements for the specific license

Fees (Approximate)

MIF: $0

  • Building Code Services: $439 + HST
  • Ottawa Fire Services: $206.79 + HST
  • Ottawa Public Health: $0

Timeline (Approximate)

15 days

Summary of requirements

Additional Items

Many other City services may be required in the process of starting a new business, such as:

Business Ambassador Service - FAQ

What is the Ambassador Service?

The service is an initiative which was identified from the Finance and Economic Development Committee (FEDCO) Report Outcomes for 2013.

The purpose of the Ambassador Service is to improve the overall experience for business entrepreneurs who seek services from the City when starting to plan and operate their new business. Entrepreneurs will be provided with:

  • The opportunity to have one point of contact with the City when obtaining required permits, licences and services related to the restaurant segment;
  • In-person guidance, direction and guidelines using a dedicated ‘case manager’ approach; and
  • The ability to book an appointment with a Business Information Officer, who will provide them with documentation, checklists and a detailed roadmap for City licences and permits required to open their business.

 This service will address the following deliverables identified to Council on November 06, 2012:

  • “Implementing a corporate “Ambassador” function pilot project for new and existing entrepreneurs where they will be able to meet with designated staff members and on line to obtain information, guidance and direction with respect to starting and operating their business (es).
  • ‘improving the ability for businesses in Ottawa to do business online 24/7 by developing a “How to start a business guide” for the City, which articulates the process required to start a business, including the standard processing times for permits and licences”

What types of businesses are eligible to participate in the Ambassador Service?

All business owners/entrepreneurs starting a food business in the City of Ottawa.

What can I do if my business is not eligible to participate in the Ambassador Service?

Other entrepreneurs will be able to contact the BIO for information and guidance on City departments/lines of business that process their specific / type of request. They can be reached at

How do I register for the Business Ambassador Service?

Entrepreneurs can start the process and benefit from this service by booking an appointment online with the BIO.

 What is the Business Information Officer (BIO) role?

The role of the Business Information Officer (BIO) is to:

  • Act as a single point of contact for business entrepreneurs starting a food business who are looking for information on applying for licence and permits within the City;
  • Provide each restaurant entrepreneur with information, documentation and a roadmap to help successfully open their business when applying for licences and permits;
  • Offer assistance to entrepreneurs during their licence and permits application process; and
  • Help solve any issues that may have come up by contacting City departments involved in the process.

 How can I get into contact with the BIO?

You can contact the BIO by booking an appointment.

Where can a Business Entrepreneur meet with a BIO?

A Business Entrepreneur can meet with a BIO at four Client Service Centres:

Monday to Friday 8:30 am to 4:30 pm

City Hall
110 Laurier Avenue West
Ottawa, ON K1P 1J1

Ben Franklin Place
101 Centrepointe Drive
Nepean, ON K2G 5K7

Orléans Client Service Centre
255 Centrum Blvd
Orléans, ON K1E 3V8

By-law and Regulatory Services
735 Industrial Avenue
Ottawa, ON K1G 5J1

Ottawa Public Library, Beaverbrook Branch
2500 Campeau Drive
Kanata ON  K2K 2W3

If one of the five client service centres does not work for the entrepreneur, the BIO can meet with you at an alternate public facility.

Can I meet with a BIO in French and English?

Yes, you are able to meet with a BIO in both official languages upon request.

What are the benefits to the Business Entrepreneur?

Support for business entrepreneurs that are considering or opening a new business

  • One single point of contact for business client communication
  • Consistent, timely and accurate information specific to their business start-up
  • Better understand the process when applying for or renewing a permit or licence
  • Clearer timelines known upfront from the time an entrepreneur initiates the process to the time they open their business
  • Reduce number of touch points an entrepreneur needs to obtain a necessary services such as permits and licences


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