Mobile Food Establishments and Special Transitory Food Units

There are two types of licenses that are issued for food trucks, hot dog carts, ice cream trucks, or similar. Below are details about each of these licenses and the requirements for each.

Mobile Food Establishment

The Michigan Food Law (Act 92 of 2000, as amended) defines a mobile food establishment as “a food establishment that operates from a vehicle, including a watercraft, that returns to a mobile food establishment commissary for servicing and maintenance at least once every 24 hours.”

  • Each mobile unit must return to a licensed food establishment commissary at least once every 24 hours, and a commissary verification form (Mobile_Commissary_Verification_Form_2019.pdf) that has been approved by the local health department must be kept with the unit at all times.
  • If operating at a temporary event or festival where the unit will not be able to leave and return to their commissary, a temporary food license must be issued.
  • The name and address of the business shall be affixed to each side of the exterior of the vehicle in letters not less than 3 inches high and 3/8 of an inch wide and shall be in contrast to the vehicle background color.
  • A mobile food establishment will be inspected on a routine basis determined by the operating season of the unit.

Special Transitory Food Unit (STFU)

The Michigan Food Law (Act 92 of 2000, as amended) defines a special transitory food unit as “a temporary food establishment that is licensed to operate throughout the state without the 14-day limits, or a mobile food establishment that is not required to return to a commissary.”

  • An STFU license holder shall submit a notice of intent to operate (STFU Notice of Intent 5.20.pdf) to the local health department in the jurisdiction where they will be serving food not less than 4 days prior to any food being served or prepared.
  • While in operation the license holder shall request and receive two (2) inspections ($90 each) per licensing year spaced generally over the span of the operating season. Inspection reports must be sent to the local health department that issued the STFU license within 30 days after receipt.
  • Approved standard operating procedures, menu, manager certifications, and unit layout must be kept with the unit at all times and made available upon request from the regulatory authority.
  • If the license holder fails to comply with any of these requirements, the food establishment will be ineligible for licensure as a special transitory food establishment for the following licensing year and must apply for a temporary or other type of food establishment licenses.

Ice cream trucks

For ice cream trucks serving only pre-packaged ice cream and other commercially packaged shelf-stable items the following items are needed:

  • A freezer that either plugs into an electrical outlet or that is provided with dry ice to keep ice cream and popsicles frozen
  • The business name and telephone number on both sides of the unit
  • Sanitizer (Clorox non-scented wipes or similar) to keep the freezer clean
  • Hand sanitizer to keep hands clean
  • All equipment and surfaces (floors, walls, and ceiling) must be smooth and easily cleanable (no carpet on floors)
  • Windows with screens to prevent pest entry
  • A stop sign and flashing lights that comply with the Traffic and Motor Vehicles Ordinance (Chapter 34 Article II. Ice Cream Trucks) for Trucks that will operate in the street. View ordinance

Note: A packaged ice cream truck/cart does not require a food service license, but does require an inspection and approval from the Detroit Health Department to operate. A business license and plate is also required from the Business Licensing center to operate in the City of Detroit. Read more

For ice cream trucks serving anything other than pre-packaged ice cream or other commercially packaged shelf-stable items, a mobile or special transitory food unit (STFU) license is required. Please view those sections above.

All enclosed mobile food establishments that have a cooking element, propane tank(s), or generator must obtain a fire inspection to operate in the City of Detroit. Please contact the City of Detroit Fire Department Fire Marshal Division at (313) 596-3932 or see Fire Prevention page.

Mobile and STFU requirements for plan review and licensing

All new mobile and STFU establishments must go through the plan review process before beginning operating. A plan review application, fee, worksheet, menu, standard operating procedures, drawing/layout of the unit, equipment specification sheets, and any other applicable items must be submitted.

All mobile and STFU food licenses expire every year on April 30th. A food service license application, fee, updated commissary verification form (mobile only), operational inspection reports (STFU only), vehicle registration, and information about an operating schedule or route must be submitted each year.