Requirements to safely operate your mobile food business

Learn the rules, laws, and ordinances that mobile food vendor permit holders in Austin must follow.

This information is a part of:
This information is a part of:

Mobile food vendor operational permit holders must follow these laws and requirements. We enforce them to keep you and your customers safe. Not following these requirements can result in re-inspection fees, closures, and legal charges in court.

Do:

  • Follow state and local laws and ordinances while operating your mobile food business. Here is the full list of state, county, and city laws and ordinances about mobile food vending:
  • Use the appropriate permitopen_in_new for your operation, whether restricted or unrestricted.
    • Temporary event permits cannot be used in place of mobile food vendor permits without Austin Public Health’s permission.
    • Mobile food vendors who expand their operations outside of their permitted mobile unit may apply for a temporary permit as long as their mobile food vending permit is both current and for the appropriate jurisdiction.
  • Sell from the unit only on approved sites. For sites inside Austin city limits, contact the City of Austin Planning and Zoningopen_in_new (PAZ) and Transportation Right of Wayopen_in_new (ROW) departments to determine if the City approved the site for vending.
  • Operate your mobile food business only in the jurisdiction your permit allows. Multiple permits are required in order to operate in more than one jurisdiction. Each jurisdiction requires a separate permit. Austin Public Health services the following jurisdictions:
    • City of Austin
    • Travis County
    • Unincorporated Travis County
    • Sunset Valley
    • Manor
    • Bee Cave
    • Lakeway
    • Rollingwood
    • Volente
    • Westlake Hills
    • Pflugerville
  • Maintain a safe and secure water supply. Hot and cold water must be available under pressure for use to all sinks always.
  • Install permanent, properly sized holding tanks for fresh water and wastewater in each unit. Fresh water tanks must hold 30 gallons or larger. Wastewater tank must be 15% larger than the fresh water tank. Tanks must allow valve access to the outside of your mobile food establishment for operators to empty and fill the tanks.
  • Use food grade hoses for potable water tank refilling.
  • Make sure emptying and filling the tank doesn't contaminate the ground surfaces or the mobile food establishment.
  • Keep all service items inside the mobile unit or at a central preparation facility at all times. This includes coolers, propane tanks, generators, barbeque pits, grease disposal bins, and cash registers.
  • Keep your mobile food unit maintained and operable.
  • Report any changes to your mobile food business to Austin Public Health. This can include paperwork like the central preparation facility contract, restroom arrangements, or itinerary sheet, or upgrades or changes to your mobile unit.
  • Use your registered central preparation facility to service your unit. Keep a separate, valid food establishment permit at the facility location in order to prepare or handle food at the facility. Maintain a log sheet documenting the dates and times of all visits to the facility. The health department may request a review of the central preparation facility log sheet at any time.
  • Unrestricted permit holders must keep all required documents and permits in the mobile unit.
    • Clearly display your permit on your mobile food unit.
    • Keep in the mobile unit at least one employee’s original, valid City of Austin food manager certificate at all times.
  • Restricted permit holders must clearly display the permit on the mobile food unit.
  • Unrestricted permit holders must keep all required documentation.
    • Maintain documentation showing all employees have completed a state approved food handler training course within the last two years, except for the one or more employees per unit who are certified food managers.
    • Keep Austin Fire Department’s propane system inspection reportopen_in_new from your mobile unit’s fire inspection, if applicable. Bring it with you to each annual permit renewal inspection.
  • Restricted permit holders must maintain documentation showing all employees have completed a state-approved food handler training course within the last two years, except for the one or more employees per unit who are certified food managers.

Don’t:

  • Do not create or attach permanent utility gas, electrical, water, plumbing, or any other connection, hose, or wiring that prevents your unit from being operable.
  • Do not move the unit to a place, remove something from it, or make any alteration or attachment that reduces or prevents mobility.
  • Do not use external equipment. All equipment must be properly enclosed and located in or on the mobile unit at all times, including propane tanks.
  • Do not store or leave any service items on the ground.

Safe food and beverage handling requirements

Do:

  • Follow the Texas Food Establishment Rulesopen_in_new. These are the same rules environmental health officers follow when they do unscheduled inspections at your mobile unit during operating hours.
  • Carry out all food and beverage activities inside your permitted mobile food establishment.
  • Provide adequate mechanical temperature control equipment for hot and cold food storage that maintains food at the required temperatures:
    • Store hot foods at 135 °F or above.
    • Store cold foods at 41°F or below.
  • To check food temperatures, provide metal-stem, dial thermometers with a range of 0-220°F and accurate to +/- 2°F in all units that prepare food. Place other thermometers in all refrigeration or cold-hold units.
  • Properly label all prepackaged, self-service food items.
  • Always supply soap, single-use towels, and hot water to for employees to wash hands.

Don’t:

  • Do not serve food prepared at a home to the public.

Other requirements by mobile unit type

Pushcarts

Pushcarts must be non-motorized and maneuverable by one person when fully loaded. Pushcart dimensions cannot exceed 4 feet by 5 feet. Pushcart construction must be smooth and durable with cleanable surfaces.

Unrestricted pushcarts are vendors handling or cooking open food, drinks, or both inside the mobile unit, such as coffee, hot dogs, sausages, snow cones, or ice cream. All other foods need specific approval from Austin Public Health. Unrestricted pushcarts must:

  • Provide an overhead, mounted covering for the entire food preparation and service area.
  • Provide three protected, completely enclosed sides to the food preparation and service area. This protects food from contamination.
  • Provide a 3-compartment sink with hot and cold water supplied under pressure.
  • Provide a separate hand sink.
  • Meet the physical requirements for fresh/wastewater holding tanks (10 gallon minimum) and fill/clean-out valves.

Restricted pushcarts are vendors handling only food or drinks that were pre-wrapped at a permitted food business. Examples include packaged frozen foods, grab-and-go tacos, and self-serve drink containers. These pushcarts must meet the same requirements as all restricted permits.

Vendors selling from coolers or hot boxes on foot

Vendors selling food or beverages out of coolers or hot boxes must follow the same requirements as restricted permits. You can only provide prepackaged food items from an approved source.

All item storage and vending must occur from the ice chest or hot box. Vendors may not use tables or stands with this type of operation.

Kiosks

Kiosks must be on wheels and connected to move as one solid unit. Kiosks must meet the same requirements as all mobile food establishments. Kiosks cannot have direct plumbing. Kiosks cannot be too large to exit through the doors of its building site.

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