SNAP Restuarant Meals Program - Restaurant Owners FAQ

The Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) has elected to participate in the SNAP Restaurant Meals Program (RMP) starting the summer of 2021. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients who are elderly and/or disabled and their spouses and homeless households may use utilize their SNAP benefits to purchase meals at participating restaurants.

Your restaurant is eligible to apply to participate in the SNAP Restaurant Meals Program if it is located in Dewitt County or Cook County with the following zip codes (60619, 60620, 60628 and 60617) AND meets certain criteria.

Illinois will gradually roll the program out in select areas in the state over a period of time.

  1. What are the requirements for restaurants to participate?

    In addition to the IDHS and the United Stated Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Assistance Services (FNS) approval, restaurants must also meet all the following requirements:

    • Must abide by the rules and regulations of USDA regarding SNAP acceptance and redemption.

      Be in and maintain compliance with all current federal, state, and local laws, regulations, and/or orders throughout the duration of participation in the program.

    • Must have a current public health operating permit and general liability insurance.
    • Must install EBT equipment and/or software from an EBT certified processor and be available to service restaurant meal customers within 60 calendar days of notification from IDHS acknowledging USDA-FNS Certification.
    • Must post the Restaurant Meals Program logo provided by IDHS in the door or a window of the establishment to inform the general public of the restaurant's participation in the program.
    • Must have sit-down seating available (unless prohibited by a public health order that would only allow delivery or takeout).

      Provide low cost meals during regular business hours. Low cost meals are defined as meals that cost less than what would be charged to customers not using SNAP benefits to purchase food, or discounted meals already offered to certain customers, or advertised specials, or sale priced meals offered to all customers.

    • Must collect payment from customers by means of SNAP electronic benefit transfer.
    • Must not include a service gratuity in the cost of the low- cost meals or accept SNAP benefits as payment of a gratuity.
    • Must not charge a sales or meals tax to any eligible customer who uses SNAP benefits to purchase a low- cost meal.
    • Must not accept SNAP benefits for the purchase of alcoholic beverages or any nonfood item.
    • Be willing to allow the IDHS to evaluate the menu options offered by the restaurant during the restaurant selection process. In support of USDA and IDHS' effort to promote healthy eating for customers, IDHS reserves the right to select restaurants with healthier menu options.
    • Be willing to provide IDHS an Incident Report in the even that it becomes necessary to report that something occurred in the course of business that may have a significant impact on customers using SNAP benefits. This may include but not limited to incidents of food borne bacteria that may cause illness, or an illness of an employee that is of a nature that customers may have been exposed or put at risk of contracting an illness or disease.
    • Must surrender immediately all EBT equipment, software and/or hardware to the appropriate EBT vendor upon termination of the agreement with IDHS, or the revocation of certification by the USDA-FNS.
    • If the establishment's primary business is not the sale of food, then:
    • Food sales must account for more than 50 percent of a restaurant's total sales for authorization as a communal dining facility.
    • Restaurants/ businesses that primarily present themselves to the community as establishments for alcoholic consumption may not qualify as communal dining facilities, no matter what percentage of its total sales are for food.
    • Restaurants that are strictly carry-out, or present themselves to the community in that way, may not qualify as communal dining facilities, no matter what percentage of its total sales are food sales.
  2. Are there any fees that I must pay to participate in the Restaurant Meals Program?

    There are no fees/dues that a restaurant owner must pay for the Restaurant Meals Program. However, if you choose to sign up with the State's EBT vendor, you will be charged for the use of the Point-of-Sale (POS) device. To learn more, contact goEBT about the RMP: (www.goebt.com or 800-921-1271).

    Note: If you choose to integrate EBT into your current commercial Point-of-Sale equipment, you will need to contact your vendor and ask about additional fees.

  3. I have more than one restaurant. Can I apply for all my restaurants to participate in the Restaurant Meals Program?

    Yes, you can apply for all your restaurants to participate in the Restaurant Meals Program. Please complete a request to participate for each location. Only one MOU is required for two or more restaurants under the same ownership. Any subsequent additions will require modification to the MOU. If there are several restaurants listed under one MOU, all locations must be listed.

    Each location will have to submit a separate application to become a SNAP Authorized Retailer.

  4. How long does it take to become an authorized restaurant?

    The entire process to become authorized takes approximately 60 to 90 days. Click here to review the authorization process : https://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/RSC

  5. How do I submit my application for the RMP to the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS)?

    The Illinois Department of Human Services will submit your completed application, approved MOU and all supporting documentation to FNS. You will be notified when your application has been approved,

  6. What happens if a participating restaurant changes ownership or closes for business?

    The restaurant owner must notify the Illinois Department of Human Services EBT by emailing dhs.link@illinois.gov, and the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) when a restaurant changes ownership or closes. This ensures that the authorization is cancelled immediately since the previous owner's authorization is NOT TRANSFERABLE. If the new owner wants to continue to participate in the Restaurant Meals Program, he/she must sign an MOU with the Illinois Department of Human Services and apply for authorization with the FNS.

  7. How do I know if a customer who provides a Link (EBT) card is eligible for the Restaurant Meals Program?

    The state issued Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) equipment or your updated EBT integrated Point-of-Sale (POS) device has an Automated Eligibility Identifier that enables you to automatically identify if an EBT card can be processed for the Restaurant Meals Program. EBT cards work similar to debit and credit cards.

  8. How can I assist a customer whose Link (EBT) card was denied when processed on the EBT/POS device?

    You may inform the customer to contact their local Family Resource Center; or

    The customer may check their Illinois Link Account at www.link.Illinois.gov or call 1-800-678-LINK (5465).

  9. Can I process an EBT cash transaction when an EBT cardholder, not eligible to participate in the Restaurant Meals Program, wants to use the EBT cash as payment for meals?

    Yes. As long as your POS equipment is enabled to accept EBT Cash as a form of payment. Contact your Third-Party Processor (TPP) to ensure your establishment is enabled for these transactions.

  10. How can the SNAP recipient know that our restaurant is participating in the program? 

    A Restaurant Meals Program decal will be provided for placement on your business' door or window. SNAP recipients will be told to look for the logo to identify restaurants participating in Restaurant Meals Program. Additionally, your restaurant's name and address will be placed on a list of participating restaurants, which will be available to eligible participants by going to dhs.illinois.gov/rmp.

  11. How long does it take to be reimbursed for the Link (EBT) card meal purchases?

    EBT meals purchases are usually reimbursed within 48 hours. If you have questions about EBT reimbursement, call the Retailer Helpline at 866-328-4212.

  12. How can my restaurant participate in the program?

    Qualifying restaurants in the Pilot area may submit a "request to participate" anytime between June 14, 2021 and August 13, 2021.

    From the restaurant requests, 10 total restaurants will be selected

    No New restaurants will be authorized during the Pilot phase.

    Announcement and instructions will be provided on this website after the Pilot Program analysis has completed in summer 2022.

  13. What next?
    • Once a restaurant submits a request to participate, IDHS will randomly select 2 restaurants from Dewitt County and 2 from each zip code listed in Cook County.
    • If selected by IDHS, the restaurant owner will be contacted through the email provided on the request to participate.

      IDHS will verify information provided, then work with the restaurant on completing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the restaurant and the Illinois Department of Human Services.

      • An MOU includes the following:
      • The business name and complete address (including all requesting sites, if more than one).
      • Meal prices.
      • Signature, date, telephone number, and email address.
      • A copy of the restaurant's public health operating permit.
    • Once an MOU has been signed, the restaurant will complete an application to become an Authorized SNAP retailer. The completed application and MOU will be sent by IDHS to FNS. .
    • If not initially selected by IDHS or if the required conditions above cannot be met, the requestor will be notified via email provided in the Request to Participate.

For questions regarding the Restaurant Meals Program authorization process, contact The LINK/EBT Unit at DHS.LINK@Illinois.gov