Division of Hotels and Restaurants
Mobile Food Dispensing Vehicles (MFDVs)
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 that is self-propelled or otherwise movable from place to place.
Self-sufficient MFDVs are defined as those having, as part of the vehicle, a three-compartment sink for washing, rinsing and sanitizing 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 potable water holding tank; and a liquid waste disposal system in accordance with Subparts 5-3 and 5-4 of the Food Code.
If an MFDV is self-sufficient, it is not required to use or report to a commissary. Self-sufficient MFDVs must still obtain potable water from an approved source and dispose of wastewater at an approved location.
Hot Dog Carts
Hot Dog Carts are MFDVs that limit food preparation to frankfurters (hot dogs and precooked sausages) only. Hot dog carts must have, as part of the vehicle, a handwash sink; power utilities including electrical, LP-gas, or a portable power generation unit; a potable water holding tank; and a liquid waste disposal system in accordance with Subparts 5-3 and 5-4 of the Food Code.
These carts are not self-sufficient and must report to an approved commissary at least once daily when the cart is in operation. A hot dog cart may be an open air unit that is not permitted to have a three-compartment sink or a fully enclosed unit that is not equipped with a three-compartment sink.
A commissary is a public food service establishment licensed by the Division of Hotels and Restaurants or permitted by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services that is utilized by an MFDV operator for the purpose of providing support services that are not available on an MFDV that is not self-sufficient. Support services include:
- Obtaining potable water;
- Disposing of wastewater and solid waste;
- Cleaning and sanitizing utensils and equipment;
- Storing food, single-service items and other supplies; and
- Preparing food.
Plan Review Submittal
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.
Such units must report to the commissary at least once daily or more often as needed during each day of operation.
2. MFDVs that are self-sufficient may utilize portable closed smokers (a smoker with an attached lid or door) in conjunction with the MFDV. Such smokers are typically used for bulk BBQ cooking. No screen enclosure, floor or ceiling is required for the smoker. All food preparation, other than cooking on a closed smoker, must be conducted inside the MFDV and all food must be served from within the MFDV. Other cooking equipment, such as grills and fryers, must be located within the self-sufficient MFDV.
3. You may wash the exterior of the MFDV in any location where the wastewater is disposed of properly and a sanitary nuisance is not created.
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 each MFDV that receives such services is properly licensed. Prior to providing commissary services, each public food service establishment must verify that the license number displayed on the exterior of the MFDV 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 exterior of the vehicle. The license number must be in figures at least 2 inches high and in contrasting colors from the background.
7. Serving openings on the MFDV must not be larger than necessary for the particular operation conducted. Keep these openings closed at all times except when serving food.
8. The MFDV must have 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 customers according to the plumbing authority having jurisdiction, and
- Units that are not self-sufficient return to their commissary as required.
If the MFDV is connected to an approved water system, the vehicle must also be connected to an approved wastewater disposal system to avoid creating a sanitary nuisance by overflowing the wastewater holding tank.
10. MFDV operators must take effective control measures to protect against rodents, flies, roaches and other vermin entering or breeding on the unit.
11. MFDV operators must not engage in food preparation if the vehicle does not provide water and waste systems as required, or otherwise fails to meet sanitation and safety requirements. Such vehicles may temporarily handle (until corrections are made) only 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. Operators must transport and store packaged food properly and dispense bulk beverages (obtained from approved sources) from covered urns or other protected containers.
MFDV operators who always only serve packaged or pre-packaged food are regulated (permitted, inspected, etc.) by 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. A certified food manager is only required to be present when there are 4 or more people engaged in food activity. The operator and/or manager has 30 days from the day of licensure to obtain food manager 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 customers.
14. MFDVs must have at least one handwash sink equipped to provide water at a temperature of at least 100° Fahrenheit through a mixing valve or combination faucet.
15. Three-compartment sinks used for warewashing must be adequately sized to clean the largest utensil or piece of equipment, equipped with drainboards (or equivalent) at each end, hot and cold running water under pressure, and properly connected to an approved liquid disposal system.
16. A MFDV’s water tank inlet must be 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. If the potable water holding tank is filled with a hose, be sure the hose is made of food-grade material.
There is no minimum size (capacity) for the potable water holding tank, however operators should take into consideration the number of times hands will need to be washed during one day’s operation.
17. Wastewater 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 1 inch in inner diameter or greater, and equipped with a shut-off valve.
18. Remove sewage and other liquid wastes from the MFDV at the approved commissary or, for self-sufficient vehicles, other approved service location in a timely manner to prevent a public health hazard or nuisance.
19. Provide adequate cold food storage, hot food storage and display facilities to maintain all potentially hazardous (time/temperature control for safety) 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.
20. Provide a calibrated (accurate) probe-type thermometer to take the internal temperature of foods.
21. All equipment must have approved materials and design. Ensure that the equipment and vehicle 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
22. Ensure that aisles and working spaces between equipment and walls are wide enough and unimpeded so the operator can work without contaminating food or food-contact surfaces by unnecessary contact.
23. 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.
24. Hot dog carts must comply with the following additional requirements:
- An adequate supply of spare utensils must be maintained on the vehicle and used to replace any utensils that become contaminated.
- Potentially hazardous (time/temperature control for safety) condiments 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 the proper temperature. Such condiments must be individually portioned and packaged at the approved commissary, and may only be opened by the customer.
- Hot dog cart operators may dispense non-potentially hazardous (non-time/temperature control for safety) condiments such as relish, raw onions and peppers, etc., from bulk containers on the vehicle or provide these condiments for customer self-service in protected containers.
25. 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 vehicle to obtain pertinent information regarding food and supplies purchased, received or used.
26. The operator must maintain the latest inspection report on the unit and make it available to any consumer who asks to see it.
27. It is the MFDV 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 vehicle 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 address 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 your local fire safety authority to ensure your establishment meets fire safety requirements. Fire safety items include:
1. MFDVs are required to install a portable fire extinguisher on each vehicle equipped with heat producing appliances.
2. The local fire safety authority may require the MFDV to have an automatic fire suppression system installed over cooking equipment if grease laden vapors are produced.
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 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 their 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 jaundice, respiratory infections, vomiting, diarrhea or other communicable diseases. Infected or draining wounds must be properly covered.
An operator who has reason to believe that an employee may present a public health risk should immediately notify the proper health authority. Operators are required to notify the Department of Health or the division if an employee is diagnosed with Salmonella Typhi, Shigella, Shiga-toxin producing E. coli, Hepatitis A or Norovirus.