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Mobile Food Units

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Mobile Food Units
The Environmental Health program is responsible for issuing foodservice permits, conducting inspections, investigating foodborne illness and other complaints, and providing consultations for mobile food units operating in Chatham County. Mobile food unit operations include food service businesses that operate from any vehicle that is self-propelled, or can be pulled or pushed down a sidewalk, street, highway or waterway, on which food is prepared, processed or converted, or which is used in selling and dispensing food to the end consumer.

Mobile food units must operate from an approved restaurant or *commissary 

Mobile food units use a commissary to conduct any food preparation activities such as food washing, thawing, cooking, cooling, and reheating and utensil washing.

Food Commissaries provide support operations for mobile food unit operations. Chatham County's Environmental Health Program permits and inspects these operations.  Commissaries must comply with restaurant licensing regulations to assure the safety of food products. 


 Mobile Food Unit  Any vehicle that is self‐propelled or that can be pulled or pushed down a sidewalk, street, highway or waterway, on which food is prepared, processed, or converted or which is used in selling and dispensing food to customers. Mobile food units must be capable of being mobile at all times during operation. The wheels of the unit may not be removed from the unit at the operating location. Most mobile food units require a commissary for rapidly cooling foods, food washing, overnight storage, and dishwashing facilities.                     MFU



Pushcart is a mobile food unit that is designed to readily move and vend food.






All mobile food units must go through a plan review process prior to issuance of food service permit. For more information, refer to the charts below:

Mobile Food Unit Plan Review and Documents 

 *Forms required with application submittal

*MFU/PC Application

Mobile Food Truck Flow Chart


*Shared Use Kitchen SOP

MFU Plan Review Requirements

.2600 RULES

*Operational Route Form

MFU General Requirements


*Commissary Approval Form




 LP Gas Construction Inspections – NCDA info sheet


Commonly Asked Questions by Mobile Food Unit Operators

How do I get a permit to sell food from a pushcart or mobile food unit?

The Health Department will have to approve your operation from this facility. You will have to report to a commissary  every day that you operate, whether in this county or another, for cleaning, servicing of your unit, and supplies. If you are buying or constructing a new pushcart or mobile food unit, you will have to submit plans and specifications for your unit to the Health Department for review and approval. There is no "grandfather clause" for used units or equipment. If you are considering purchasing previously owned units or equipment, it is strongly recommended that you contact the Health Department first to determine if it meets current specifications and will be approved. Finally, once your plans have been approved and your unit is ready for use, you must arrange to meet with a Health Department representative on site at your commissary with your unit for inspection and permitting. The unit must be fully functional with all systems operating before you can get your permit. The permit must be displayed on your unit at all times. You must also provide this department with a list of locations where you will be operating. This list must be kept current. If you operate outside of Chatham County you must notify the Health Department in that county and provide them with a list of locations. You will not need a permit from them, but you must notify them and continue to report to your commissary in Chatham County daily.

Can I operate my unit from my home?

You cannot operate your unit from any place other than a commercially operating restaurant or commissary. In no case may you commissary from your home. In addition, no homemade baked goods (such as cakes or cookies), or any other homemade food, can be served from the unit.

I want to cook food on a grill. How can I do this?

The only food item that can be prepared on an open-air grill is a hot dog from a pushcart. Even this must be protected from contamination on the top and sides.Any other food items must be prepared inside of a mobile food unit. This is a self-contained unit with floors, walls and ceiling, sinks and commercial equipment.

Can I let customers fix their own food off of my unit?

No. The only customer self-service allowed would be condiments, such as catsup and mustard from squeeze or pump bottles or individually packaged condiments.

Can I use coolers with my unit?

No. Coolers can only be used for ice for drinks, canned or bottled beverages, or to transport food to the unit. Once the unit is set up all food must be stored on the unit.

Can I provide seats for my customers?

No. The mobile food unit owner may not provide seats.

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