How to start a mobile food business in Austin, TX

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Okay, so you’ve decided that you are going to open up a mobile food vending business! We have created a basic outline to help you with the necessary steps to opening up your business. Although the outline is intended specifically for mobile food vendors in Austin, TX, the process and regulations are often similar in different cities and states.

Step 1: Filing an Limited Liability Company for your business

It is very common for foodservice businesses to form an LLC. You can find out more info here.

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Step 2: Texas Sales and Use Tax Permit

Before you can receive your Mobile Food Vendor Permit you will need to have a Texas Sales and Use Tax Permit. You can find out more information here.

Step 3: Buying a Food Trailer or Truck

Although you may be able to find good deals on Craigslist for used trailers, there are also many great food trailer builders in Texas. One benefit of buying a newly manufactured food trailer is that the builders are usually knowledgeable about what is required to pass a City of Austin Health and Fire Inspection. You will also have the peace of mind knowing that all of your equipment is new and not damaged/aging.

Here are a few local builders to consider:

Smokin Joe’s Trailers

Sanchez Trailers

Food Truck and Trailers.com

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Step 4: Buying Insurance for Your Food Trailer

We recommend purchasing $1,000,000 worth of liability insurance and property coverage on your food trailer or food truck as soon as you purchase so that you are immediately protected from accidents or theft.

Get a quote for your Truck or trailer.

Tip: Many landlords require you to have $1,000,000 worth of general liability insurance before they will let you sell food on their property.

Step 5: Registering Your Food Trailer with the DMV

Before you can apply for an Application for Mobile Food Vendor Permit you will need to register your trailer with the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles.

http://www.txdmv.gov/motorists/buying-or-selling-a-vehicle/trailers

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Step 6: Get Your Food Managers Certification

In order to pass your health inspection you will need your Food Managers Certification displayed inside of your food trailer. You can find out more information and testing options here.

Tip: We suggest paying the extra money to have your Food Managers Certification stay valid for 5 years because the class takes a full workday day to complete.

Step 7: Get Your Application for MOBILE FOOD VENDOR Permit

This is the packet that you will need to submit to the Health Department before they will inspect your trailer and issue you a Mobile Food Vendor Permit. Inspectors from the Fire and Health Departments give inspections from 8am to 12pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Tip: It is best to arrive early in order to 1. beat wait times and 2. If you fail your inspection for a minor mechanical error, forget a necessary document, etc., you may be able to get address the problem and get your trailer re-inspected before 12pm

We suggest calling (512) 978-0300 or visiting the Health Department (1520 Rutherford LN, NE corner of Rutherford LN @ Cameron RD, Building 1 East Entrance) before towing your trailer there, as these times are subject to change. The Health Department Sanitarians can help answer any questions that you may have.

Finding a Central Prep Facility:

In order to complete page 2 and 3 of the Application for Mobile Food Vendor Permit you must find a central prep facility to use. Many food trailers use their CPF strictly to dump grey water, get fresh water, and dump grease.

Here are some local CPFs in Austin

Capital Kitchens

Just Add Chef

Hudson Bend Commercial Kitchen

Manon’s Shared Kitchen

Tip: By using a CPF that specializes as a commercial kitchen to many different food businesses, the Sanitarian will be acquainted with the facilities, which will likely speed up the application process.

City of Austin Restroom Facility Agreement

In order to complete page 5 of the Application for Mobile Food Vendor Permit you will need permission to use a restroom within 150 from the location of your food trailer.

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Passing Your Fire Inspection

AAA Fire & Safety Equipment

Longhorn Fire and Safety

Ace Fire Equipment

Please refer to the Application for Mobile Food Vendor Permit for more details about the fire inspection. We suggest calling the Austin Fire Department at (512) 974-0160 if you have any questions regarding the safety of your food trailer because the requirements listed in the packet are not exhaustive.

Finding a Location for Your Food Trailer

Congrats on passing your inspection! Finding the right location for your food trailer will be one of the most important decisions you will make. Make sure that you understand the rules and regulations regarding certain neighborhood.

This map shows areas of the City of Austin that have adopted additional ordinances. Ordinances may affect your hours of operation or proximity to certain structures.

Find out more info here:

Mobile Food Establishments Codes

Tip: Don’t be shy about asking other food trailer owners questions about their food park. They will often be happy to share advice with you and give you the “inside scoop” about their location!

Or join the Austin Food Trailer Chamber and ask around there. Its free. Just email us to add you to the list at info@insuremyfoodtrailer.com.

Helpful Links

Propane Delivery Companies:

Absolute Propane

HK Propane

Grey Water and Grease Removal Companies:

Texas Disposal To have grey water removed from your trailer OR portable restroom servicing.

Diesel Green Fuels To recycle used cooking oil

Kitchen Towel/Laundry Delivery Companies:

Admiral Linen

Linen Service

Food Parks in Austin:

Eastside Fillin Station

The GoodLife Food Park

The Midway Food Park

Mueller Trailer Eats

Austin Food Park

The Picnic

Insure My Food Trailer, was designed by an insurance agency that "gets" food trailers and food trucks.

We understand the challenges and needs of your business and are committed to supporting the mobile food community.

Not only do we offer food trailer and food truck insurance in almost every state, we insure many types of mobile food vendors, including concession trailers, food carts, pop-up vendors, street vendors, food stands, and catering trailers.

  • © 2013 Insure My Food Trailer
  • All Rights Reserved
  • CA License # OI22663
  • (800) 985-7859 / (512) 551-0337
  • 12600 Hill Country Blvd. R-275
  • Austin, Texas 78738