Mobile Food Units

Mobile Food Units (MFUs) 

Starting A New MFU Business

Mobile food units come in different shapes and sizes. They can range from push carts and bike carts to food trailers and drive-able food trucks. Regardless of what a unit looks like they all must follow the same rules in order to operate in San Marcos.

A new mobile food unit owner must begin by filling out the below MFU Application. This will include finding a central preparation facility (CPF) that is a permitted food establishment. Mobile food units are required to physically go to their CPF every day that they are in operation in order to refill fresh water, properly dispose of waste water, properly dispose of trash, and depending on the unit, to prepare food, store food, and clean out the unit.

Once a central preparation facility agreement has been made the owner of the establishment will need to complete the second page of the MFU application. If the CPF is located in the city limits of San Marcos no additional documentation is necessary. If a CPF is located outside the city limits of San Marcos a copy of the most recent inspection report will be required to be submitted along with the application.

If the MFU utilizes propane or will be producing food that creates grease laden vapors the unit must comply with local fire code and have a Type 1 vent hood and a fire suppression system installed. A propane pressure test, also known as a leak test, will need to be performed by a licensed professional within 90 days of the permitting inspection. Fire requirements are located at the bottom of the page and questions may be directed to Fire Prevention at (512) 805-2600 or 

 Please note the following City ordinances:

  • MFUs are not permitted to vend from public property this includes streets, sidewalks, right of ways, and City parks (unless approval given by Parks & Recreation Department).
  • Effective January 1, 2020, MFUs must utilize recyclable or compostable single service items including straws, spoons, forks, knives, plates, and cups
    • NO styrofoam cups, plates, containers, or other styrofoam single service items will be allowed to be used or stored on mobile food units.


The City of San Marcos Environmental Health Division would like to remind all mobile food unit owners and operators that per State law as noted in the Texas Food Establishment Rules all mobile food units are required to: 

§228.221(a)(11)(b)(1) Central preparation facility.

(1) Supplies, cleaning, and servicing operations. Mobile Food Units shall operate from a central preparation facility or other fixed food establishment and shall report to such location daily for supplies and for cleaning and servicing operations. 

To give currently permitted mobile food unit owners and operators the necessary time to be in compliance with Texas Food Establishment Rules, the following timetable is implemented: 

            Education and notice              January 25, 2021 to April 1, 2021

            Deadline to comply                 April 1, 2021*

            Fines/loss of permit                 April 1, 2021 and forward

 * You will need to notify city staff if you leave your mobile food unit on site when it is not in operation. Example – You only operate Friday and Saturday.  Then the unit would not have to visit the central preparation facility on the days it was not being actively used.  If your unit is not in use, it still needs to be mobile i.e. tires inflated and able to be readily moved. 

Any new mobile food units permitted after Jan 1, 2021 will be automatically subject to the mobility requirements and will be required to report to their central preparation facility daily or face fines or loss of permit.

Written copies of the memo with the above information have been mailed and emailed out to existing permit holders. Any questions can be directed to our division at (512) 393-8444.


Mobile food units must operate from an approved central preparation facility, (Residential home facility is not allowed) this central preparation facility shall meet all Texas Food Establishment Rules, and hold a current food establishment license.

The mobile food unit shall return to that central preparation facility for replenishing of supplies, and servicing of the establishment. If the central preparation facility is located outside the City of San Marcos, valid copies of the food establishment’s permit and most recent inspection are required.

Selling, vending, or soliciting cannot take place on a publicly owned right of way without an agreement with the appropriate agency.

How to Apply for a New Permit or Renew an Existing MFU Permit

Mobile food units that utilize propane must have an annual propane pressure test before the initial or renewal inspection.  MFUs currently permitted by the City that have grills, gas stoves, fryers, or other food equipment that can produce grease vapors, shall have a fire suppression system installed on the vent hood by August 1st, 2020. New Mobile Food Units shall meet this requirement before a mobile food unit permit can be issued.

A new MFU application will need to be submitted in order to begin the renewal process. 

Effective January 1, 2020, NO styrofoam cups, plates, straws, containers, or other styrofoam single service items will be allowed to be used or stored on mobile food units.

To apply for a food permit online follow the below link. You will need to create a new account if you do not already have one. When applying for the food permit insure that the jurisdiction selected is San Marcos not Hays County.

Once a completed application has been submitted and payment has been made the MFU owner will be contacted by the fire prevention office to set up the inspection. If you have completed your application and have not received a call for an appointment within 2 business days you may contact the fire prevention office at (512) 805-2600 or New units will be inspected at 1250 Wonder World Dr and renewal inspections will be done on site. 

Renewal inspections for currently permitted MFUs must be arranged prior to permit expiration to prevent interruption of operation, this includes arranging your fire inspection.

What to Expect During an Initial Mobile Food Unit Inspection

New mobile food unit inspections will be performed in the parking lot at 1250 Wonder World Dr. No power is available at this location and the mobile food unit owner is responsible for bringing a generator that is able to run the unit including refrigeration or heating units, water heater, and water pump.

Before arriving for the new unit inspection please insure that the unit has been provided power in order to prechill any refrigeration. The inspectors will not wait for refrigeration units that have not been turned on prior to the inspection to reach 41 degrees (full refrigeration temperatures can take up to a few hours).

Mobile food units equipped with propane will need to provide a copy of the propane pressure test that has been performed by a licensed plumber, propane provider, or other licensed professional able to perform the pressure test. The fire department does not perform these tests and a third party company must be the one to do this test for you.

The Mobile Requirements and the MFU Fire Checklist below may be used as a checklist for the mobile food unit owner. While they are not comprehensive lists, they cover almost any typical mobile food unit situation.

Mobile Food Unit Helpful Documents