Division of Hotels and Restaurants
Mobile Food Dispensing Vehicles (MFDVs)
and Hot Dog Carts
The Division of Hotels and Restaurants provides the following information as a general guide for mobile food dispensing vehicle licensing in Florida and does not represent this to be all requirements for maintaining a license. For complete information, we recommend you refer to applicable laws and rules and our licensing website.
This webpage replaces our brochures: DBPR Form HR 5030-032, Guide to Mobile Food Dispensing Vehicles and DBPR Form HR 5030-033, Guide to Hot Dog Carts.
Mobile Food Dispensing Vehicles
A Mobile Food Dispensing Vehicle (MFDV) is classified as a vehicle-mounted public food service establishment, self-propelled or otherwise movable from place to place. Such vehicles must have self-contained utilities (e.g., gas, water, electricity, and liquid waste disposal).
Hot Dog Carts
Hot Dog Carts are MFDVs that limit food preparation to frankfurters only.
A commissary is an approved food service establishment where the MFDV operator:
- Stores, prepares or packages food, containers, or supplies;
- Sanitizes utensils for transit to, sale of, or service at other locations;
- Disposes of liquid and solid wastes; and
- Obtains potable water.
The operator of a newly constructed, remodeled, converted or reopened MFDV shall submit properly prepared facility plans and specifications to the division for review and approval. Such plans must be approved by the division prior to construction, remodeling, conversion, and scheduling of an opening inspection and licensing. See our plan review website for more information.
Plan review is not required if the division can otherwise determine that the intended remodeling will not have an impact on any sanitation and safety requirements provided in law or rule. Applications for change of ownership do not require plan review when no interruption in operation, construction, remodeling or conversion occurs.
1. MFDVs that are not self-sufficient must operate from an approved commissary that meets all applicable sanitation and safety standards. The commissary must have potable water and adequate facilities for disposal of liquid and solid waste. The MFDV must report to the commissary to store or replenish supplies, clean utensils and equipment or dispose of liquid and solid waste.
2. Self-sufficient MFDVs include units that have:
- A three-compartment sink for washing, rinsing, and sanitizing of equipment and utensils,
- A separate handwash sink,
- Adequate refrigeration and storage capacity,
- Full provision of power utilities, including electrical, LP gas, or a portable power generation unit,
- A liquid waste disposal system, and
- Potable water holding tanks.
Such units must have a location where wastewater can be legally disposed of and water can be safely procured. This location cannot be a private residence. A self-sufficient MFDV is not required to report to a commissary.
3. You may wash the exterior of the vehicle in any location that the wastewater does not create a sanitary nuisance.
4. When the commissary provides a service area for cleaning and servicing MFDVs, the service area must:
- Be physically separated from other food operations,
- Be equipped to furnish potable water, and
- Provide facilities for the drainage and disposal of liquid waste.
The commissary must construct the surface of the service area with a smooth nonabsorbent material such as concrete or machine-laid asphalt, graded to drain. The commissary must maintain the service area in good repair and keep it clean.
5. The operator of each public food service establishment providing commissary services must maintain a daily registry verifying that the division has properly licensed each MFDV that receives such services. Prior to providing commissary services, each public food service establishment must verify that the license number displayed on the vehicle matches the number on the vehicle operator’s public food service establishment license.
6. Each MFDV operator must permanently affix the operator’s public food service establishment license number in a prominent place on the side of the vehicle. Print the license number in figures at least 2 inches high and in contrasting colors from the background. Once a public food service establishment license is issued, the operator must also affix the license decal to the vehicle.
7. Serving openings must not be larger than necessary for the particular operation conducted. Keep these openings closed at all times except when serving food.
8. Provide waste containers for the deposit of food scraps, food wrappings, cups, napkins and discarded single-service articles.
9. MFDVs may temporarily connect to an approved utility system for a period not to exceed one day’s operation if:
- The utility system adequately meets the unit’s needs,
- Sanitary facilities are available for employees and patrons according to the plumbing authority having jurisdiction, and
- The unit returns to its base commissary at least on a weekly basis.
10. Take effective control measures to protect against rodents, flies, roaches and other vermin entering or breeding on the unit.
11. An MFDV must not engage in food preparation if it does not provide water and waste systems as required, or otherwise fails to meet sanitation and safety requirements. Such units may only handle completely wrapped or packaged food manufactured, processed, prepared, and packaged in individual servings at an approved public food service establishment, or pre-packaged in a food processing plant. Transport and store this packaged food properly. Dispense bulk beverages (obtained from approved sources) from covered urns or other protected containers. Units described in this paragraph require a license from the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, not the Division of Hotels and Restaurants.
12. Each MFDV operator must designate in writing the certified food manager responsible for all periods of operation, but these managers do not need to be present at all times. The operator has 30 days from the day of licensure to obtain food managers certification. See our food manager certification website for more information. Florida law requires all public food service establishments to provide the division with proof of food manager certification upon request, including, but not limited to, at the time of any division inspection of the establishment.
13. MFDVs are exempt from the requirement of having a public bathroom for employees and patrons.
14. Provide at least one hand-washing lavatory equipped to provide water at a temperature of at least 38° Celsius (100° Fahrenheit) through a mixing valve or combination faucet.
15. Equip three-compartment sinks with drainboards, hot and cold running water under pressure, adequate size, and proper connections to an approved liquid disposal system.
16. An MFDV’s water tank inlet must be 19.1 mm (3/4 inch) in inner diameter or less. Provide the water tank inlet with a hose connection of a size and type that will prevent its use for any other service.
17. Sewage holding tanks in MFDVs must be sized 15% larger in capacity than the water supply tank. Slope the sewage holding tank to a drain that is 25 mm (1 inch) in inner diameter or greater, and equipped with a shut-off valve.
18. Remove sewage and other liquid wastes from units at an approved commissary in a timely manner to prevent a public health hazard or nuisance.
19. Equip MFDVs with conveniently located refrigeration facilities and hot food storage and display facilities large enough to maintain all potentially hazardous food at safe temperatures (below 41° Fahrenheit or above 135° Fahrenheit) during all periods of storage and display. Provide each piece of equipment with an accurate thermometer (±3°Fahrenheit).
20. All equipment must have approved materials and design. Ensure that the equipment and unit finishes are smooth, easily cleanable and capable of withstanding the conditions of operation. Install equipment so that it is readily accessible and you can clean the spaces between, behind and beneath it.
21. Ensure that aisles and working spaces between equipment and walls is wide enough and unimpeded so the operator can work without contaminating food or food contact surfaces by unnecessary contact.
22. Do not conduct operations connected with an MFDV from an unapproved facility. State law prohibits cooking, preparing, or storing food, utensils or single service items at a private home, or performing utensil or equipment cleaning at such a location.
23. Hot dog carts must comply with all applicable requirements, except that:
- An adequate supply of spare preparation or serving utensils must be maintained on the vehicle and used to replace any utensils that become contaminated;
- When adequate precautions are used to prevent contamination of the frankfurters during cooking operations, a fully enclosed unit is not required;
- Potentially hazardous foods such as chili, cooked onions and peppers, cheese, and cheese sauce may only be served in individually portioned and packaged or pre-packaged containers that are maintained at proper temperatures on the unit; and
- Non-potentially hazardous foods such as relish, raw onions and peppers, and other such condiments may be served directly from the unit.
24. Division personnel inspect as often as necessary for enforcement of the provisions of law and rule, and the protection of the public’s health, safety, and welfare. MFDV operators must permit division personnel right of entry at any reasonable time to observe food preparation and service. If necessary, division personnel may examine records of the unit to obtain pertinent information regarding food and supplies purchased, received or used.
25. The operator must maintain the latest inspection report on the unit and make it available to any consumer who asks to see it.
26. It is the operator’s responsibility to keep the division updated on all license and commissary information, especially addresses and contact phone numbers. The division must be able to contact you to locate your unit for inspection. MFDVs found operating without a license are subject to administrative penalties, such as fines up to $1,000 per day. You may update your mailing addresses online on our website.
The division records readily observable fire safety items during inspections. The division reports any item that may violate fire safety requirements to the State Fire Marshal and local fire safety authorities. Please contact them to ensure your establishment meets fire safety requirements. Fire safety items include:
1. Perform installation of liquefied petroleum (LP) gas appliances, equipment, apparatus or containers on MFDVs in accordance with section 61C-4.0161(10), Florida Administrative Code. In addition:
- Install gas appliances in accordance with manufacturer’s specifications (LP Gas Certification is required prior to licensing);
- Shut off the gas supply at the tank when equipment is not in use; and
- Do not park a unit using LP gas in a building during the operation of its vending business.
2. Install a minimum 2A-10BC fire extinguisher on each unit equipped with heat producing appliances for food preparation. Each extinguisher must have a standard, state-approved service tag attached. A person holding a valid state permit issued by the State Fire Marshal must recharge or inspect the extinguisher and prepare the tag to include all required information.
Unless the division approves an Alternative Operating Procedure, food employees may not contact ready-to-eat foods with their bare hands. Employees may use suitable utensils such as deli tissue, spatulas, tongs, single-use gloves or dispensing equipment.
Food service workers may transmit most pathogenic bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses to foods. That is why it is so important that employees maintain high standards of personal cleanliness. All personnel must wash hands prior to beginning work, when returning to work after any break in food preparation activities or any time their hands become soiled.
Florida law prohibits smoking in food preparation areas.
Personnel must wear clean outer garments and effective hair restraints.
All personnel must be free of open sores and skin infections, respiratory infections, upset stomach, diarrhea or other communicable diseases.
An operator who has reason to believe that an employee may present a public health risk should immediately notify the proper health authority.