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Mobile Food Cart Licenses

A mobile food cart is a food service operation that serves a limited menu, usually hot dogs, from a small open air push cart. Based on their limited facilities, mobile food carts only serve foods or beverages requiring minimal handling on site, and they must return to an approved commissary at least once every 24 hours, such as a licensed food service establishment.

hot dog cart

What are the requirements to open a Mobile Food Cart?

A mobile food cart must submit a plan review packet, including a plan review application, fee, menu, standard operating procedures, drawing/layout of cart, equipment specification sheets, and any other applicable items listed below.

A mobile food cart must have the equipment and resources to ensure food safety for its menu and operation. Typically, this requires a method to wash hands, gloves, a method to sanitize counters or surfaces, a metal stem thermometer, methods of hot and cold holding of foods, and a method of covering and protecting food from customers and the elements.

Additionally, a mobile food cart must have the cart's name and operator's address on each side of the exterior in letters at least 3 inches high.

Items Required for Mobile Food Establishment Plan Review:

1. Plan Review Application and Fee

2. Plan Review Worksheet (This worksheet can also serve as your Standard Operating Procedures - SOPs.)

3. Drawing/Photos/Layout of the Cart & Equipment Specification Sheets

4. Menu

5. Mobile Food Establishment Commissary Verification Form (must be signed by your commissary)

6. Certified Food Safety Manager Certificate

    • Food Service establishments must have at least one certified food managerial employee on the working staff at each location. Washtenaw County offers ServSafe certification courses, the class designed by the National Restaurant Association. 

Submit All Completed Materials To:
Washtenaw County Environmental Health
705 N. Zeeb Rd., P.O. Box 8645
Ann Arbor, MI  48107-8645
Phone: (734) 222-3800
Fax: (734) 222-3930


How long will the plan review and approval take?

 The length of time plan review will take depends mostly on the completeness of the information you submit. Once the information is submitted, our Senior Sanitarians will go through the menu, equipment and standard operating procedures to ensure that all items are completed and meet current guidelines. A letter of approval or denial (detailing the information needed for approval) will be mailed within 30 days from your original submission. Additional information is required on most submittals, so please plan for this.

What happens after I get an approval letter?

The approval letter authorizes you to begin any construction of your unit. If you wish to make changes from the approved plans during the construction process, you must have these changes approved.

As you near the end of the process, contact our office to schedule an appointment for a pre-opening inspection. This is required to ensure that the facility will be operating according to the plans submitted. We do the best we can to meet customer demand, and can usually schedule this inspection within several business days.

At this time, you will also need to submit a Food Service License Application and pay a  Food Service License Fee. Although the paper license may take several weeks to process, you are considered licensed once the application and payment are submitted along with appropriate approvals.

When can I open?

Once you have received approval to open on the pre-opening inspection(s) and the license application and fee have been submitted, you can open your facility as long as all other required approvals are in order. REMEMBER: You may need approvals from the city or event in which you will be operating before opening!

Once I am open, will I be inspected again?

Your Sanitarian (health inspector) will visit your establishment within the first month of your opening. During this inspection, your Sanitarian will review your menu and your restaurant with you. You will then receive a routine inspection approximately every six months.

How do I renew my license?

Your food service license expires every April 30. A renewal application will be sent to you in the mail. If you do not receive one by April 1st, please contact our office at (734) 222-3800 to avoid late fees.

Where can I find more information?

If you have any questions, please contact Washtenaw County Environmental Health at (734) 222-3800. We are more than happy to help guide you through this process! In addition, there are a lot of online resources available to help you. Restaurants in Michigan are regulated under the Michigan Food Law of 2000 and the Michigan Modified Food Code. Becoming familiar with these requirements is an essential part of your operation!

For more information on food service licensing, please contact the Washtenaw County Environmental Health Division at 734-222-3800.

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