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New mobile food vendor rules win Council approval

Friday, September 24, 2010 by Josh Rosenblatt

After more than a year of debate, discussion, and stakeholder and committee meetings, the City Council voted Thursday to approve tougher code requirements for the city’s mobile food vendors.


As the number of mobile food vendors in Austin has exploded over the past several years – with over 1600 permits granted at last count – city officials have been trying to come up with stricter regulations concerning documentation, inspection, and health-code compliance.


The changes to city code Council voted on yesterday will require all mobile food vendors to:


1)    Keep documentation of a central preparation facility (also called commissary use) through a monthly log;

2)    Obtain proof of Texas sales and use tax permit;

3)    Maintain an itinerary for all mobile food establishment routes;

4)    Get written permission to use restrooms at work site;

5)  Obtain a notarized agreement from a preparation facility in compliance with the Texas Food Establishment Rules; and

6)    Get a Fire Department inspection.


In addition, Council approved an ordinance amending the FY2010-2011 Health and Human Services Department operating budget to appropriate funds to add three full-time equivalent positions, including two senior sanitarians and one customer service representative, to help administer the mobile food vendor program. The ordinance also establishes a new mobile food vendor application fee, at an annual cost of $125, which will pay for the salaries of those three positions.


The three positions will cost the city approximately $223,253. The projected annual revenue for the program, $289,200, is based on the existing 1620 vendors at $125 per unit and an additional 578 vendors by FY2011-2012.


Speaking on behalf of Snappy Snacks, the mobile catering company that first proposed rule changes for the industry more than a year ago, Paul Saldana told the Council that he was pleased with the changes to the ordinance and that he hoped that city staff would engage in “ongoing public education” to improve the program and make vendors more aware of their responsibilities.


“When you pay for a permit you are told you have to take the food manager class within 30 days,” Saldana said. “I’m not sure there’s actual follow-up to make sure that’s happening. That’s an eight-hour public education training component and we can use that as an opportunity to educate the public vendors about all the requirements, especially the new ones that we’re adopting today.”

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