If you want to open a restaurant, food truck or concession stand in Michigan, you need a state license. Most applications must go through your local county health department, which applies the state regulations on food service establishments. With a couple of exceptions, you'll need a license if you serve or prepare food for customers, whether you run a food truck, a fine-dining restaurant or a movie concession stand.
Michigan defines a food service establishment to include anywhere that food or drink is prepared or served for customers to eat: restaurants, food trucks, cafeterias, sandwich shops, soda fountains, bars, rental halls, movie theaters. The state regulations allow a few exceptions:
- A motel that serves only a continental breakfast.
- A bed and breakfast with 10 or fewer bedrooms, including the owner's room.
- A bed and breakfast with less than 15 rooms to rent, if it only serves a continental breakfast.
- Some childcare organizations.
Michigan breaks down licensees into several classes:
- Food service businesses with a fixed location, such as a brick-and-mortar restaurant, a hotel or a concession stand.
- A mobile food service. A Michigan food truck license would fit into this category.
- A temporary license allowing you to operate, for example, a concession stand at a county fair for up to two weeks. You need one license for each fair.
- A special transitory food license allows you to set up stands at multiple fairs without reapplying for a license each time
- A kitchen that prepares food for multiple concession stands or food trucks needs a commissary license.
If you're wondering what a food vendors license in Michigan will cost, you'll have to ask your local health department. Michigan lets them set the food service license fees. The exception is the transitory food license, which costs $135.
There are two types of license application forms in Michigan, depending on whether you run a temporary or a permanent business. A Michigan food truck license requires the same application form as a restaurant or bar unless your mobile establishment is providing concessions at a fair. Then you'd need a temporary license.
The application has a section for mobile vendors to list the VIN and license number of their vehicle, the make of vehicle and the food license of the commercial kitchen they use to stock up their food. The kitchen has to comply with Michigan commercial kitchen requirements.
Licensing applications for temporary concession stands are different from the permanent restaurant and food truck regulations in Michigan. The application requires a lot more information:
- A list of equipment in your concession stand, such as a hand wash station, cooking and reheating equipment, sinks for washing in and sanitizer.
- A list of menu items. You can only serve the items listed in the application.
- If you need to use an off-site kitchen, it has to be licensed and meet Michigan commercial kitchen requirements. You need to identify the kitchen in the application and list what you need it for. Cold food storage? Cooking? Food prep?
- Your application says when you plan to open your stand and for how long. If you're not ready and in compliance with state rules by the given time, you may not get your license.
The requirements for a transitory concession stand license are a little tougher. For instance, you'll need at least two inspections a year, costing $90 each.
If you're planning to set up a concession stand in a state-owned park, including the state fair, you'll need extra approval from the Michigan parks and recreation department.
Many food service establishments must have a food manager on staff certified as trained in food safety. If you operate multiple concession stands or food trucks, you might need a certified manager at each to comply with concession and food truck regulations in Michigan. It depends on circumstances, including the type of food you're serving.
As of 2017, many managers have to be trained in dealing with food allergens.