Conventional Unrestricted Units
Conventional unrestricted mobile food units may operate at one location or multiple locations and may change a location by bringing restroom availability and property owner permission letters to the health department 48 hours before relocating. This type of unit may also have a route, stopping at several businesses or construction sites. All conventional unrestricted mobile food units must be taken to an approved commissary daily to be serviced. This type of unit requires potable and waste-water systems, including a code utensil sink and separate hand sink.
Examples of this type of unit: Catering trucks, mobile taquerias, snow cone trailers, barbecue trailers, (any enclosed, road-worthy, wheel-mounted vehicle that portions, prepares or handles any foods not received and handed to customer in the same sealed packages).
Running a route vs. operating at one location. Trucks that do not operate at any location for more than an hour per day do not need restroom or property letters. They must only provide a list of stops and notify the Health Dept 48 hrs before adding new stops.
How to open a conventional unrestricted mobile food unit business in Houston:
Overview of process:
- Determine whether plans are needed (if not, go to step 4)
- If plans are needed, submit to 8000 N Stadium Dr, 2nd floor.
- Construct unit according to approved plans
- Take unit to 7411 Park Place for inspection
Medallion is obtained at time unit passes inspection.
Below you will find information and advice relating to each of these steps. By following this advice, you may save time and money on plan submission and inspections. You will also help the Bureau of Consumer Health Services serve you better.
Are plans needed?
New unit YES
Unit approved in a city other than Houston or by a county health department YES
Unit approved in Houston under a previous owner NO, unless you remodel
Remodeled unit YES
Restricted (packaged food only) mobile food unit NO (See restricted unit page)
You should obtain the check-list for mobile food unit plans and use it to assure the plans have all required information. Plans with missing information may not be approved.
How to submit plans:
Submit 2 sets of plans to 8000 N Stadium Dr, between the hours of 8 am and 3 pm. The cost to submit is $36.98 for each submission. If the plans are missing important information, describe features inconsistent with the Houston Food Ordinance, or are not drawn properly, they may be rejected. In this case, you will be given a list of items that need to be changed. After making the required changes, two sets of revised plans are resubmitted. You should obtain the check-list for mobile food unit plans and use it to assure the plans have all required information before submitting them.
When your plans have been reviewed, you will be notified at the phone number you provide us. Make sure you give us a good, legible phone number.
Construct Unit according to approved plans.
The inspector will compare your unit to your approved plans, so do not ignore your plans once approved (including any notes written in by health officer). Make sure the unit is constructed or re-modeled according to your approved plans.
Inspections at 7411 Park Place:
Before taking your unit, make sure:
- you have all required documents
- unit is ready
To help you with these, we have two check-lists for you to use. Do not take your unit for an inspection without checking off all items on the list. This could save you a second pre-opening fee and several hours.
The inspection location is 7411 Park Place @ Telephone Rd, a few blocks South of 610 South Loop.
Inspection times are Tuesdays and Thursdays, between 7am and 10am. Units are inspected on a first-come, first-served basis. Units which arrive and are signed in before 10 am will be inspected. Upon arriving, the inspector will sign in all units which are already present. Units which arrive later must be signed in by the owner.
Units line up in the drive-way just East of the main parking lot. (Entrance is on Park Place)
In the case of units which use propane, a Houston Fire Department LP Gas inspector will also be present. Passing the LP Gas inspection is required in order to pass the Health Department inspection. (include link to “propane inspection report form”)
Bring a generator. You will be asked to demonstrate that lights, water pump and heater, and vent hood fans, work.
FEES: Medallion, Electric Monitoring Fee, Pre-opening Fee(s) See Mobile Food Unit Home Page.
LP Gas Permit Requirements:
(Note: This section applies only if unit uses gas equipment. If not, your only requirement is a 2A10BC extinguisher.)
LP Gas Permit is required by the Houston Fire Department for all units which use propane. LP Gas Permit Office: 832-394-9069
- The unit must be taken to a propane dealer licensed to perform inspections of gas equipment (this is an annual requirement). Tags will be placed on the gas equipment.
- The LP Gas permit must be paid for at the Fire Department office located at 1002 Washington 77002 (Bring your driver license. In the case of units which will operate at one location, bring your property agreement letter. In the case of route trucks, bring your commissary letter/contract.) Cost is $175.00
- Take your unit to 7411 Park Place at 7am on a Tuesday or Thursday morning. Make sure your unit is in compliance with the requirements listed on the LP Gas Mobile Food Units Requirements Check List. Important: Bring your paid LP Gas permit application, your receipt from the gas company which inspected your equipment, and a site map showing streets adjacent to your operation location.
Other information: Fire extinguisher size: 3A40BC or 4A40BC
If you plan to deep-fry on the unit, provide a type K Extinguisher.
The extinguisher must have the inspection tag.
For questions concerning LP Gas inspections, contact the Fire Department at 832-394-9083.
Renewing Your Medallion
Mobile Food Unit medallions are renewed at 7411 Park Place on Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 7am-10am. Make sure to check off the items on the unit check-list and the documents check-list before taking your unit to renew. You are encouraged to take your unit two or three weeks before your unit’s medallion expires in case your unit fails the initial inspection. (Renewing a medallion last-minute could result in having to close your unit while you wait for the next inspection day, in the case of a failed inspection.)
Mobile Food Unit Information Package:
(Print each item to create a complete package.)
- List of required documents (Don’t fail an inspection because you forgot one piece of paper! Check them off.)
- Plans checklist for Unrestricted, Conventional Units (To make sure you include all required information on plans; summarizes how unit must be to pass inspection)
- Sample plans (use as example only)
- Route List and Unit Servicing Schedule
- Property Agreement Letter (for any location your unit will operate for > 1 hr)
- Restroom Availability Letter (for any location your unit will operate for > 1 hr)
- Menu Disclosure
- State Sales Tax Permit Information
- Fire Marshall LP Gas Inspection Report Form
- List of Approved Commissaries (make a contract with one of them)
- List of Approved LP Gas equipment inspection sites
- Pre-inspection Unit Check-list (Use this to make sure your unit is ready for inspection. May save you time and money.)
- Summary of Mobile Food Unit Operational Requirements (How you are required to operate your unit once you have your medallion).
Frequently Asked Questions:
Q Can I have my mobile food unit connected to water and sewer so I won’t have to
take my unit to the commissary?
A No. Water, sewer, gas, permanently-connected electrical or other permanently-connected utility lines are prohibited in the case of mobile food units. The building department of the City will not allow permanent structures which do not conform to all building codes. All mobile food units must return to their commissary once for each day of operation.
Q. Can I have the waste-water tank pumped by a truck instead of taking my unit to the commissary?
Q I would like to open a small snack/food stand without wheels. Can I get a permit for this?
A. Not unless your stand meets all applicable building codes.
Q Does the propane gas equipment on my unit have to be inspected every year?
A Yes. Take the unit to an approved dealer and bring the invoice to the Health Department inspection along with the paid Fire Dept invoice for the LP Gas permit. For a list of dealers licensed to do these inspections, see information package above.
Q Can I have a canopy or other roof by my unit?
A Only canopies which are part of the unit itself, and which are supported only by the unit, are allowed. (and which do not make moving unit difficult)
Q How can I change, or add to, operation locations?
A In the case of unrestricted conventional units, you must bring in the new address(es), including street number(s) and name(s). Also bring property and restroom letters for any locations where the unit will operate for more than 1 hour per day. This must be done at least 48 hours before the unit can operate at any new location.