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Mobile food vendor permit guide

Every mobile food establishment in Austin needs a permit. It's the law! It also helps protect your customers from food-borne illnesses.

Contact information

Austin Public Health, Environmental Health Services Division

contact_phone
Environmental Health Services Division Help Line: (512) 978-0300

Documents

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Documents for mobile food vendors in Austin

To get a mobile food vendor permit for the City of Austin and contracted local cities, or for Travis County, you’ll need to read a few documents and applications.

Mobile food vendor operational permit application

Forms that are part of the application

Central preparation facility contract: In jurisdiction

Central preparation facility contract: Out of jurisdiction

Mobile food vendor itinerary sheet

Restroom agreement

Food manager certificate registration

Fire safety

Travis County Fire Marshal guidelines

Austin Fire Department guidelines

Propane system inspection report

Learn and prepare

Learn and prepare 1 of 5

Businesses required to get a mobile food vendor permit

Any business that sells food, beverages, or both to the public from a mobile unit in Texas must have a permit.

According to the Texas Food Establishment Rules, the category of “mobile units” includes:

  • Motor vehicles
  • Trailers
  • Bikes
  • Pushcarts and kiosks
  • Peddlers on foot selling from coolers or hot boxes

Permits are not transferable between mobile units. If your business has more than one mobile unit, you’ll need a separate permit for each one.

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Mobile food vendor permit types and fees

Learn about mobile food vendor permit types for the City of Austin and Travis County, and the rules and fees for each.

The mobile food vending permit

The mobile food vendor operating permit allows a business to sell, serve, or give away food or drinks to the public from a wheeled unit for one year. The category of “mobile units” includes:

  • Motor vehicles
  • Trailers
  • Pushcarts, bikes, or kiosks
  • Peddlers on foot selling from coolers or hot boxes

A mobile food vendor may work inside the region listed on the mobile food vending permit. Regions include the City of Austin, rural Travis County, or local cities and towns contracted with Austin Public Health.

The mobile food vending permit does not replace the base fixed food permit. All mobile food vendors must have a Central Preparation Facility (CPF), which is a fixed food business that provides services to the mobile food unit.

Unrestricted and restricted permits

The type of permit you need depends on the food-handling method you’ll use.

Unrestricted permits

Unrestricted permits are for vendors handling open food, drinks, or both inside the mobile unit. Examples include snow cones, barbeque, any cooking of foods, and staff-handled drinks.

Restricted permits

Restricted permits are for vendors handling only pre-wrapped food, drinks, or both that must be stored hot, cold, or with time control to prevent spoiling. No open food work is allowed, and all food, drinks, and toppings must be pre-packaged or wrapped at a permitted food business. Examples include packaged frozen foods, grab-and-go tacos, and self-serve drink containers.

City of Austin or Travis County

City of Austin mobile food ordinances only apply inside Austin city limits. However, this includes local cities and towns that have contracted with the City of Austin so that vendors can use the same permit. Those cities and towns are:

  • Bee Cave
  • Lakeway
  • Manor
  • Rollingwood
  • Sunset Valley
  • Volente
  • Westlake Hills
  • Pflugerville

Travis County follows the Texas Food Establishment Rules and Chapter 341 of the Texas Health and Safety Code.

Fees

City of Austin

This includes municipalities contracted with the City of Austin (see list above).

Type of feeCost
Mobile vendor application fee$105
Unrestricted permit$290 per unit
Restricted permit$212 per unit
Mobile vendor re-inspection$130
Mobile vendor fire inspection$204
Mobile vendor fire re-inspectionThe first is free, then $204 per re-inspection after that.
Food manager certificate registration$31
Food manager certificate replacement$16
Central preparation facility registration (non-refundable)$150

Travis County

Type of feeCost
Unrestricted (per unit)$273
Restricted (per unit)$198
Mobile vendor fire inspection$125
Mobile vendor fire re-inspectionThe first is free, then $125 per re-inspection after that.
Central preparation facility registrationNo fee

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Get a central preparation facility

Mobile food vendors in Austin must work with a central preparation facility and submit a signed, notarized contract to Austin Public Health.

  1. Even though mobile food establishments prepare and serve food in their mobile units, they’re still required to have a central preparation facility to get services for their vehicle. Services include maintenance, storage, cleaning, and waste disposal. To receive a permit, it is mandatory to have a central preparation facility.

  2. Find a central preparation facility and make sure they meet the facility requirements listed below.

  3. Fill out the Central Preparation Facility contract agreement and make sure it has a notarized signature from the facility's owner or responsible party. You can search for active notaries public near you on the Texas secretary of state’s website.

  4. Include the signed and notarized agreement in your permit application.

  5. As a permit holder, you must report any changes to your central preparation facility to Austin Public Health’s Environmental Health Services Division. If any information you filled out on the Central Preparation Facility contract agreement changes, you must update, sign, and have it notarized. Mail it to the Environmental Health Services Division or deliver it in person at the walk-in location.

  6. If you apply for a mobile food vendor permit in Travis County, but want to use a central preparation facility outside Travis County, fill out the Central Preparation Facility certification form, and have it signed by the health authority that oversees the area where it’s located.

Central preparation facility requirements

The operator of the central preparation facility must ensure these requirements are met:

  1. Maintain a current and valid fixed food enterprise permit.
  2. Provide adequate waste disposal facilities for handling waste water, oil and grease, trash, and all other necessary waste, including an adequately sized grease trap. Get a Water Environmental Integrated Recordkeeping System
  3. (WEIRS) number through Austin Water.
  4. Provide a sanitary area for distributing potable water to mobile units.
  5. Allow the mobile vendor to bring the unit to the facility for servicing as often as needed.
  6. Provide sanitary food storage facilities for dry goods and items requiring temperature control.
  7. Allow foods to be stored overnight at the facility under approved sanitary conditions.
  8. If needed, provide mobile vendors additional storage for equipment and supplies.
  9. A central preparation facility must not be a residential home or a daycare facility.
  10. Food may not be prepared or handled at the central preparation facility unless the facility holds a separate, valid food permit at that location.

Log sheet

You must keep a log sheet in any format that documents all dates and times of visits to the central preparation facility. Store the log in the mobile food establishment at all times. Environmental Health may request a review of the central preparation facility log sheet at any time.

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Get food handler training and a food manager certificate

To get a City of Austin mobile food vendor permit, food managers must register their certificates with Austin Public Health’s Environmental Health Services Division. All mobile food unit employees must complete food handler training.

  1. Make sure all employees working in the mobile food unit complete a state-approved food handler training course.

    All employees must have documentation that they completed a state-approved food handler training course in a classroom or online within the last two years, except for the unit's food manager, who must pass a food manager exam.

  2. Make sure one employee per mobile food unit passes the food manager exam.

    There must be a worker with a registered food manager certificate at the mobile vending unit during all hours of operation. Food managers must pass a certified exam from any Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) approved training source. One employee per unrestricted mobile food vending unit must complete the City of Austin food manager certificate and always keep it in the mobile unit.

  3. Gather your documents and registration fee.

    You need the following documents in order to register your food manager certificate online or in person:

    • A government-issued photo ID, such as a Texas driver license, passport, or Texas ID card.
    • A food manager certificate from an exam approved by the Texas Department of State Health services, not a prep course.
    • Payment of $31 in cash (except by mail), check, money order, Visa, MasterCard, Discover, or American Express. Make checks and money orders payable to: Austin Public Health. Debit cards are not accepted. Credit cards are not accepted for Travis County payments.

  4. Apply to register your certificate.

  5. Display the card.

    Registration cards will be mailed to the address provided 5 to 10 business days after payment is processed. Once the certificate is received and registered with the City, the food manager must display it so customers easily see it.

  6. Replace a lost food manager certificate registration.

    If you lose your certificate registration, fill out the application in English or Spanish, pay $16 for a replacement copy, and provide a copy of your current government-issued photo ID.

  7. Review laws and policies.

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Mobile food vendor pre-application checklist

Before you fill out your mobile food vendor permit application, it helps to understand the laws and requirements, make a few business decisions, and gather the documents you’ll need.

According to the Texas Food Establishment Rules, any business that sells food, beverages, or both to the public from a mobile unit in Texas must have a permit. A business that only sells beverages still needs a permit. The category of “mobile units” includes:

  • Motor vehicles
  • Trailers
  • Pushcarts, bikes, and kiosks
  • Peddlers on foot selling from coolers or hot boxes

This checklist covers all the steps you need to take before filling out an application for a mobile food vendor operational permit in the Austin area.

  1. Learn about mobile food vendor permit types and fees.
    You’ll need to choose the right permit type for your mobile food business on the operational permit application.
  2. Get a Texas sales and use tax ID number.
    You’ll need to include it on your permit application. Learn more about registering for Texas sales tax and start a sales tax ID application on the Texas comptroller of public accounts’ website.
  3. Get a mobile food unit.
    You need to say what type of unit you have on the application. If it’s a motor vehicle or trailer, you’ll also need to provide a license plate number and vehicle identification number (VIN), plus the make, model, year, and color.
  4. File the business documents for your mobile food business.
    You’ll need to indicate what type of business you have on the permit application: proprietorship, partnership, corporation, or limited liability company (LLC).
  5. Consider assigning a responsible party to make decisions about your permit.
    If you want anyone other than you to be able to close out, renew, or alter your permit, provide that person’s name, phone number, date of birth, and government-issued ID number. The person’s job title doesn’t matter here.
  6. Get one employee per unit to complete a food manager certificate.
    You’ll need to include their name and date of birth on the application.
  7. Decide where you’ll operate the mobile unit.
    A vendor may only work in the jurisdiction or region listed on their mobile vending permit. You can work inside City limits or contracted municipalities, or inside Travis County but not within City limits.
  8. Contract with a Central Prep Facility.
  9. Decide on your operating hours and locations.
    You’ll need to provide this information on the itinerary sheet.
  10. Decide on restroom arrangements.
    You can arrange to share facilities with a fixed establishment or get a portable restroom. Include a completed mobile retail restroom facility agreement in your application.
  11. If you use propane, learn about fire inspections and safety requirements.
  12. Learn about all other requirements for safely operating your mobile unit.

Food trucks and trailers

If your mobile food unit is a motor vehicle or trailer, you’ll also need to:

  • Buy insurance.
    The State of Texas requires that you buy at least minimum coverage.
  • Register it with the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles.
    You’ll need to provide a license plate number and VIN on the operational permit application.

Apply for a permit

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Prepare your mobile food vendor permit application

Apply for a mobile food vendor operational permit in person.

  1. Gather documents and fees.

    For both unrestricted and restricted permits, you’ll need the following documents and applications:

    • A completed Mobile food vendor: Operational permit application (PDF, 125 KB). This includes the following documents:
      • Notarized agreement with a registered central preparation facility (CPF) for City of Austin applicants (not required for Travis County)
      • CPF certification form for any CPFs located outside Austin city limits or Travis County
      • Mobile food vendor itinerary sheet
      • Mobile retail restroom facility agreement for City of Austin applicants (not required for Travis County)
    • An active sales and use tax ID number, unless you’re only applying for a Travis County permit.
    • A clear copy of a current and valid government-issued photo identification card for all applicants, including the business owner and any responsible parties.
    • The name and date of birth of the certified food manager for the mobile food unit. As part of any new permit application, the food manager certificate must be registered with the City of Austin.
    • All applicable fees and appropriate payment.

  2. Bring your application and documents to the Environmental Health Services Division office.

    Mobile food vendors can submit their operational permit applications at Austin Public Health’s Environmental Health Services Division office only on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7:45 am to 11:00 am. The office is located at 1520 Rutherford Lane, Austin, TX, 78754.

    Generally, you’ll wait less time after you arrive if you have your application ready for review. Incomplete applications are not accepted, so make sure yours is complete before you go. If you have any questions or need help filling out the application, call the Environmental Health office at (512) 978-0300.

Review the refund policy

City of Austin and contracted municipalities

If you submitted an application for an operational permit within the City of Austin and contracted municipalities, but did not receive a permit because it was denied, you may be eligible for a refund of the permit fee. However, after an application has been processed, the application fee is non-refundable. The fire inspection fee is also non-refundable. There is no prorating, meaning if you get a permit for the full year but only use it for the summer, no portion of the permit’s fee is refundable.

To receive a permit fee refund, email the Environmental Health Services Division at ehsd.service@austintexas.gov to ask for a refund request form. Fill it out, sign, scan, and email it to the same address. You can request a refund for any reason.

Travis County

Applications submitted for operation within Travis County are not eligible for a fee refund.

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Apply for a mobile food vendor operational permit

Apply for a mobile food vendor operational permit in person at Austin Public Health’s Environmental Health Services Division office.

  1. Mobile food vendor operational permits are processed in person Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7:45 am to 11 am. Please bring your completed application and supplemental paperwork to the Environmental Health Services Division office, and prepare to pay applicable permitting fees. The walk-in location is at 1520 Rutherford Lane, Austin, TX 78754, on the northeast corner of Rutherford Lane at Cameron Road, Building 1 East Entrance. Park in any spaces marked “visitor,” or take the bus. Capital Metro bus routes 10, 325, 339, and 485 stop near this corner.

  2. Sign in at the security desk and present a current government-issued photo ID with a United States address, such as a driver license, passport, or Mexican Consular identification card. Ask the security guard for help finding the mobile vending permit review station of the Environmental Health Services Division office, which is on the second floor.

  3. Go to the mobile vending permit review station. Write your name and the time you arrived on the sign-in sheet. Wait for your name to be called.

  4. An environmental health officer will call your name and review your application with you.

  5. If your application is approved, an environmental health officer will schedule an appointment for the mobile food vending unit’s inspection. Wait in the main lobby for the cashier to call your name so you can pay the permitting fees. The cashier will also give you the appointment card with the date and time you will need to bring your mobile food vending unit to 1520 Rutherford Lane for inspection.

  6. If your application is denied, the officer will explain the reasons and next steps.

Know before you go

Protecting public health is a high priority for the City of Austin, so these requirements are very specific. A lot of applicants have questions about the steps. Call (512) 978-3000 to ask questions and get help with your paperwork ahead of time.

Arrive early to save time waiting in the lobby. Applicants’ permits are reviewed in order of arrival. Review the mobile food vendor permit pre-application checklist and complete your application to save time during the review process.

Get inspected

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Fire safety checklist for mobile food vendors

Any mobile food vendor who uses propane or propane accessories and operates in the City of Austin or Travis County must get a fire safety inspection.

If you use propane or propane accessories on your mobile vending unit inside the City of Austin and contracted municipalities, an inspection by the Austin Fire Department (AFD) is required. After your operational permit application is approved, an environmental health officer will schedule the inspection for the same date and time as your mobile unit inspection.

During the fire inspection, AFD personnel will complete a propane system inspection report. Keep the completed report in your records and bring it with you to each annual permit renewal inspection.

Austin Fire Department inspection checklist for mobile food vendors

To prepare for your inspection, check off the following list of conditions in and around your mobile unit to make sure it meets minimum safety requirements. Because all mobile units are different, following this checklist does not guarantee you’ll pass inspection, but it will help you stay safe.

Location of mobile units

  • Keep units at least 20 feet from any structure.
  • Remain at least 15 feet away from any fire hydrant.
  • Do not not block access to a Fire Department Connection (FDC).
  • Do not block any entrances or exits from a structure.
  • Do not block unit exits.

Electrical

  • Supply electricity. Do not use it from a nearby structure.
  • Do not use extension cords excessively.
  • Properly cover breaker boxes and junction boxes.
  • Protect wiring in a tube or other covering.
  • Do not misuse electrical accessories or overload circuits.

Propane cylinders

  • A maximum of two 100-lb propane cylinders are allowed, one to use and one spare. The cylinders cannot be manifolded together.
  • Requalify propane cylinders every 12 years. All cylinders require a current date of manufacture if new or requalification stamp.

Propane cylinder location

  • Do not locate propane cylinders (including spares):
    • On rear bumpers, on exterior sides of vehicle, or roofs
    • Below the lowest part of the vehicle frame
    • Inside improperly vented or unvented trunks or beds of vehicles
    • Inside passenger compartments of vehicles
    • On the ground
  • Ventilate the propane storage compartment with at least two vents (one top of compartment and one bottom of compartment), each vent having an area equal to at least .5 square inches for each 7 lb of the total propane fuel capacity of the maximum number of the largest cylinders the compartment can hold.
  • Have propane cylinders on vehicle to demonstrate how cylinders are secured to vehicle. Secure propane cylinders to prevent propane bottle from leaving mount or cage in case the vehicle crashes or rolls over.
  • Measure the relief valve discharge from the propane cylinder no less than 3 ft horizontally along the surface of the vehicle to:
    • Openings in the vehicle
    • Propane burning appliance intake or exhaust vents
    • All internal combustion engine exhaust terminations

Propane cylinder equipment

  • List all cooking appliances used with propane.
  • Do not place propane piping on unit’s sides, rear, or roof.
  • Properly modify all appliances used with propane.
  • Convert appliances required to be vented (by the manufacturer’s recommendations, usually greater than 40,000 BTUs) for use with propane by a Master Plumber licensed by the Texas Railroad Commission. Plumbing documentation showing proper conversion must be provided at the time of inspection.
  • Make sure piping systems, including fittings and valves, comply with the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) 58, Liquefied Petroleum Gas Code.
  • Make sure a maximum of 60 inches of metal flex hose is allowed for each appliance to connect to the propane hard pipe.
  • Make sure the metal flex hose does not penetrate through walls, floor, or ceiling to the interior of the vehicle. Rigid pipe must be used to penetrate solid assemblies.
  • Test piping annually at no less than 3 pounds per square in gauge (psig) for 10 minutes before appliances are connected and at system pressure after connection by a licensed Liquified Petroleum Gas technician. Documentation of test, within 90 days of inspection, must be provided at the time of inspection and must include:
    • Original document at inspection (not a copy)
    • Pressure and duration of test
    • Name, address, license number, and phone number of the technician who performed the test
    • The mobile vending unit’s license plate number
  • Include date of test, pressure and duration of the test, name and license number of the technician, and the vehicle’s license number.
  • Manual shutoff valves on gas lines are required at the point of use (the appliance) and at the supply.

Fire extinguishers

  • Have a 2A10BC fire extinguisher inside the vehicle.
  • Mount each fire extinguisher in a noticeable, quickly reachable location.
  • Service each one annually and maintain a current tag confirming its status.
  • If using a deep fryer, have a Class K fire extinguisher in addition to the 2A10BC.
  • Solid fuel appliances with a fire box are required to have one 2.5 gallon or two 1.5 gallon K type extinguishers.

Travis County Fire Department guidelines for mobile food vendors

Unrestricted mobile vending units operating inside the unincorporated areas of Travis County must be inspected by Travis County Fire. The inspection fee is $125.00. Review Travis County’s checklist of fire safety guidelines before your inspection.

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Bring your mobile food unit to your inspection appointment

After your operational permit application is approved, environmental health officers will schedule an appointment to inspect your mobile food unit.

  1. After an environmental health officer has reviewed and approved your mobile food vendor operational permit, they’ll schedule a future appointment time to bring in your mobile vending unit for inspection.

  2. Inspection appointments are scheduled for 30-minute blocks on Tuesdays and Thursdays only and cover environmental health and fire safety requirements. Being on time for this appointment is critical. If you miss your appointment time, you will have to reschedule it.

  3. On your appointment date, you or a coworker will need to bring the mobile food vending unit to 1520 Rutherford Lane. Do not go upstairs to the Environmental Health office. In the parking lot, follow the signs for mobile food vending inspections. Use your appointment card to check in with the security guard at the entrance of the inspection area. The security guard will show you where to park your mobile food vending unit.

  4. If the owner or the responsible party listed on the application can't be present at the inspection, they can send a coworker instead. However, be aware that if the mobile unit fails inspection, recommended repairs can be detailed and difficult to communicate.

  5. Inspections for a new mobile food vending permit require a generator or internal power source to check running hot water and refrigeration. When you renew your permit, your mobile unit will need an inspection, but you won’t need a generator or power source. If your mobile vending unit has propane, then you need a gas pressure test conducted yearly.

  6. If you have an unrestricted Travis County mobile vending permit, you need an additional safety inspection from the Travis County Fire Marshal. Learn more about Austin and Travis County fire safety inspections.

  7. If your mobile food unit passes the inspection, you’ll receive a permit and can start selling immediately.

  8. If your mobile food unit does not pass the physical inspection, an environmental health officer, fire marshal, or both will tell you what issues you need to resolve and how to resolve them. Then the person who signed for the inspection will need to go to the office on the second floor to schedule a re-inspection. You can also come back later to reschedule.

Changes or upgrades to your mobile unit

If you make structural changes or upgrades to the sink, water system, or propane lines in your mobile unit, you will need to get it inspected again. In general, changing or relocating the same features of your mobile unit, such as equipment, appliances or storage, does not require a new inspection. If you’re not sure, call our office to ask. If you can, we recommend timing any upgrades that require a new inspection with your annual permit renewal.

Maintain or renew your permit

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Requirements to safely operate your mobile food business

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

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 permit 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 Zoning (PAZ) and Transportation Right of Way (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 report 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 Rules. 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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Renew your mobile food vendor permit

The process for renewing your permit is the same as applying, except you must include the expiration notice with your complete application. You do not need to bring a generator or power source for permit renewal inspections.

  1. When you receive the renewal notice for your mobile food vending permit in the mail, keep it on file and start preparing your permit application. The process for renewing your permit is the same as applying, except:

    • You must include the expiration notice with your complete application.
    • You do not need to bring a generator or power source for permit renewal inspections.

  2. Prepare your permit application for the jurisdiction where you want to operate.

  3. Bring your application in person to the Environmental Health Services Division office.

  4. If the environmental health officer approves your renewal application, you’ll pay the fee and they’ll schedule a follow-up inspection appointment.

  5. Be on time for your inspection appointment so that you get both an environmental health and fire inspection and don’t have to reschedule.

  6. If you pass inspection, you’ll immediately get a new permit. Thank you for keeping your customers and staff safe! You’re a local hero.

Renew your operational permit annually and early

A mobile food unit permit is valid for one year from the date of an approved permit inspection performed by the Austin Public Health Environmental Health Services Division.

Mobile food vendor permits must be renewed once a year by the expiration date. We recommend you begin the renewal process 45 days before the expiration date. Renewing early doesn’t cost you, but renewing late does. Permits have a fixed expiration day and validity period, so you won’t lose time. Late renewals will be charged a late fee.

Also, if your permit expires, you can't legally sell from the mobile unit until you get it renewed, which causes downtime for your business.

Renewal fees: City of Austin and contracted local cities and towns

Payment is accepted in the form of cash, check, money orders, MasterCard, Visa, American Express, or Discover Card.

Type of feeCost
Mobile food vendor re-inspection$130
Mobile food vendor Austin Fire Department re-inspectionThe first is free, then $204 per re-inspection after that.

Renewal fees: Travis County

Payment is accepted in the form of cash, check, or money orders.

Type of feeCost
Unrestricted (per unit)$273
Restricted (per unit)$198
Mobile vendor fire inspection$125
Mobile vendor fire re-inspectionThe first free, then $125 per re-inspection after that.
Central preparation facility registrationNo fee

Maintain or renew your permit 3 of 3

Report changes to your mobile food business

To maintain a valid City of Austin mobile food vendor permit, report any changes to the information on your application to Austin Public Health’s Environmental Health Services Division.

  1. If any of the information you included on the permit application changes you must report it to Austin Public Health’s Environmental Health Services Division. This includes paperwork like the notarized central preparation facility contract, restroom arrangements, or itinerary sheet. Fill out a new permit application with the appropriate changes, and send it using any of the following options.

  2. Any change to the mobile unit’s sink, water system, or propane lines requires a new inspection. Contact the Environmental Health Services Division to schedule a new inspection for a currently permitted unit.