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Permits: Mobile Food Cart/Unit

The photos shows a hot dog vending cart.A mobile food cart (or mobile food unit) is a vehicle-mounted food service operation that returns daily to a retail food establishment, which is its base of operation.

Carts serving only pre-packaged snacks, canned drinks, and non-potentially hazardous foods requiring minimal preparation such as cotton candy and boiled peanuts do not need a permit.

However, mobile food carts/units serving potentially hazardous foods such as hot dogs, ice cream or pizza do need a permit.

These carts are considered an extension of a permitted retail food establishment. The mobile food cart/unit is required to return to its base - the retail food establishment - daily for servicing of the cart. Other requirements:

  • The mobile food cart and its base, the retail food establishment, must be owned by the same person or people.
  • The owner(s) must apply for and meet all requirements to get a Retail Food Service Establishment permit.
  • DHEC must inspect and approve the mobile food cart/unit.

Other S.C. Requirements

The photo shows a fully enclosed mobile food unit.South Carolina only allows mobile food carts or units that:

  • Are portable, movable food services mounted on a vehicle or towed or pushed
  • Sell and serve at one location but return to a permanent base of operations daily for cleaning, restocking and prep work
  • Are constructed with food preparation and display areas that are completely enclosed with a solid material
  • Have doors that are kept closed when not in use
  • Are equipped with a hand washing lavatory with hot and cold water under pressure, along with a soap dispenser, disposable towels and an approved wastewater tank
  • Have a base of operations that includes a preparation and cleaning area for food and any items that come in contact with food. The areas must be constructed from approved types of materials.
  • Meet all other applicable requirements and standards of S.C. Regulation 61-25 — Retail Food Establishments.

Home Based Business

If you want to use your home as your base of operations for a mobile food cart you must: