A concession trailer is considered a "mobile food unit" according to Texas law. This covers all food trucks, pushcarts for things like hot dogs and mobile food trailers like those used at county fairs. Before opening a mobile food unit (MFU), it's important to be familiar with the concession trailer requirements in Texas in order to avoid fines or shutdowns.
Food Trailer Laws in Texas
Under state law, a MFU can be any self-contained food service operation used to store, prepare, display, serve or sell food and can be vehicle mounted, propelled by itself or otherwise. Food trailer laws in Texas state that these units must retain their mobility at any time, which means these rules do not apply to stands or booths.
With the exception of pushcarts and roadside vendors, they are required to be enclosed and fitted with tight-fitting doors and windows in order to prevent the entry of pests. The walls and ceilings should be smooth, easily cleanable and light in color, while the exterior should be made of weather-resistant materials. Pushcarts do need overhead protection. Roadside vendors do not.
Water Access and Use
All vehicles must have at least one hand-wash sink supplied with soap and a hand-drying device as well as a sink with three compartments for washing, rinsing and sanitizing equipment and utensils. This sink must be large enough to submerge the largest piece of equipment you use for cooking. There must also be drain boards for soiled and clean items.
Units must have a fill hose and a potable water tank big enough to supply ample hot and cold water that is necessary to meet the demands of the operation. A leak-proof waste-retention tank for liquid waste must be permanently installed, connected to a drain with a shut-off valve and labeled as "waste water." It must be at least 15 percent larger than the portable water tank.
Roadside vendors do not need to meet these water requirements.
Required Equipment for Concession Trailers
Food truck laws in Texas require proper equipment to prepare and store food in a safe environment. This means there should be adequate heating and cooling equipment to maintain food at the required temperatures (below 41 degrees Fahrenheit for cold foods and above 135 degrees for hot foods). All food contact surfaces, including tables and counters, must be durable, nonabsorbent and corrosion resistant.
These vendors can only provide single-service dishware, utensils and other articles to consumers. MFUs do not need to be equipped with a bathroom. However, a designated restroom must be conveniently located and accessible to employees (though not customers).
MFU External Locations
All MFUs must have a designated central preparation facility (CPF) where supplies, cleaning and service operations may be performed. The CPF cannot be a home and must be an approved retail food establishment where food is prepared, stored and wrapped, where wastewater is disposed, where the vehicle is supplied with ice and water and where items can be cleaned and sanitized.
Additionally, MFUs may have a servicing area they can return to regularly for things such as discharge of wastes, vehicle cleanings and refilling of water tanks and ice bins (although this is not required if these services are exclusively performed at the CPF). A servicing area cannot offer food preparation or utensil washing. The location used for the flushing and draining of wastes must be different from the location used for providing portable water and loading food supplies. The servicing area cannot be a home.
Approval and Application Process
You must get a food truck license in Texas before using the vehicle. In order to apply, you must first obtain:
- A Certified Food Manager certification.
- A copy of the most recent CPF inspection.
- A letter stating you are authorized to use the CPF or servicing area unless .these are owned by the same entity as the vehicle.
- A menu of food items you intend to sell.
Ensure your MFU is properly prepared to pass the inspection before applying for your MFU license online or through the mail. Once your application is processed, you'll schedule an inspection and then take your concession trailer to the designated inspection area. Your vehicle must be operable without the need for electrical or water connections. Be sure to also check any local county requirements before applying for your license.