The chimes ring pleasantly down the street on a sunny day, and eager children rush to the sides of a colorfully painted truck, quarters and dollars in hand. Everyone loves an ice cream truck, especially operators in Maricopa County, Arizona once they have passed the required inspections and acquired the permits needed to operate. Getting into the mobile food business in Phoenix and the surrounding area means jumping through some bureaucratic hoops, and ensuring that your unit is clean, safe and legal.
The Maricopa County Environmental Services Division regulates mobile food units in Phoenix and suburbs within the county lines. To renew or obtain the required permit, your unit must have passed an inspection within the last three months. Inspections are available from 12 to 5 p.m. daily at the division office, 1645 East Roosevelt, Phoenix. No appointment is necessary.
Applications for mobile food unit permits must include your vendor route, agreement for use of a commissary -- where you collect and prepare food for sale -- and documents proving your lawful presence in the United States, if you're operating as an individual. If you've got a new unit, are modifying your unit, or haven't had a permit in the last three years, you also must submit plans and a plan review application.
Submitting plans to the Division for review means drawing up schematic drawings on standard-size office paper, meeting the Division's detailed requirements on content, format and scale. and waiting at least 10 days for an approval with or without changes, or a request to resubmit. The plans must show the top view of your equipment and a side view of all plumbing and electrical works. Don't proceed with the construction or modification of your mobile unit until the Division has approved your plans. Once the work has been completed, bring your fully operational unit down to Division headquarters for inspection.
Mobile food units wandering through Maricopa County must follow the approved route submitted by the operator. Workers aboard the truck must have food service worker's cards issued by the county, and the supervisor must be a certified food manager. There are requirements for signage and for display of your permit, and for having backup electrical power. Your ice cream must be kept in FDA-approved containers, and you must prepare any potentially hazardous food on the same day that you sell it. Begin preparations by researching local ordinances. Not all cities in Maricopa County permit mobile food units -- Scottsdale, notably, bans ice cream trucks.
Founder/president of the innovative reference publisher The Archive LLC, Tom Streissguth has been a self-employed business owner, independent bookseller and freelance author in the school/library market. Holding a bachelor's degree from Yale, Streissguth has published more than 100 works of history, biography, current affairs and geography for young readers.