Opening a food truck seems to be the thing to do in the 21st century! Don’t believe us? In the past three years, membership of the Australian Mobile Food Vendors group has skyrocketed from 30 to almost 500 vendors.
Starting a food truck business might seem like an easy way to slip into the hospitality industry, but there is still plenty you need to learn about the Australian food industry to be able to operate legally and safely.
As with any hospitality business, you’ll need to understand the rules, regulations, and laws around operating a food truck. But to make it even more convoluted, these can often vary from state to state – and even between local councils!
Before you trade, be sure you know the rules and regulations for operating in your area. Operate outside of your permits and you could face hefty penalties or even a loss of your business licence.
While it would be an epic task indeed to list every one of the variations in food truck licences and permits in every council or state, we can at least give you an overview.
Read on for a general overview of the special regulations, licences, and permits you’ll need for your food truck. But please note, this is by no means an exhaustive list; it’s important you check in with your local council to get more relevant information for your needs.
Registering Your Food Truck: Laws & Permits
In general, you should register your food truck with and obtain your business licence from a local council. Some mobile food businesses might need a licence from the state instead of the local council.
Since the requirements you’ll need to meet vary from council to council and state to state, simply use the ABLIS website to get the info specific to your region.
In Victoria, for example, mobile food businesses simply register with one council – their principal council – which permits you to trade across the state. The principal council is typically the one where you prepare most of your food, store most of your food, or house your food truck.
Once you’ve registered your food truck, you simply provide a detailed list of where and when you intend to trade in your Statement of Trade.
You may face some further restrictions – or require additional permission – if you intend to trade on council property, private property or in the street.
In Sydney, on the other hand, you might need to receive prior consent from every council you plan to operate in, along with the council you intend to park your food truck in when you’re not trading.
But on the whole, most councils acknowledge a “home jurisdiction” rule, which works much the same as Victoria’s principal council registration.
Indeed, the South Australia State government has recently introduced legislation that removes the councils’ power to refuse permit applications. This is in an attempt to remove some of the red tape around food truck businesses and create a streamlined, statewide regulatory system for food trucks. Good news for hospitality business owners in that state!
Getting Permit Approval
In many jurisdictions, including Sydney, you’ll need to submit your food truck for design approval and meet a number of other restrictions.
For example, the City of Sydney has a Food Truck Design Panel that assesses your food truck concept, including a sample menu, photographs of the food, and food preparation.
This is to ensure your food truck contributes to the high design standards of public places. Your food truck will generally be judged on its innovative design, sustainability, and ethical outlook.
You also need to prove how you intend to safely prepare your food and manage such issues as noise, litter, and odour.
Getting Your Food Truck Licence
Which food truck licence you need will generally depend on a number of factors, including
- The type of food you’ll be serving
- The type of patrons you intend to serve
- Whether the food is fresh or pre-packaged
- Your food business classification
In Sydney, for example, a mobile food business doesn’t need a Food Authority Licence unless it:
- Provides a service to vulnerable people
- Handles high-risk plant products
- Handles and processes meat
- Further processes seaford
- Produces or processes eggs products
- Handles shellfish
In Brisbane, food trucks or vans that only sell coffee, tea, slushies, or pre-packaged food don’t need a licence.
To register your business, you’ll have to pay a fee and renew the licence annually.
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Food Safety Compliance & Regulations
As with any other business, you need to ensure your food truck complies with the Food Standards Code.
Among other things, this means ensuring that you and your staff have basic training in food handling and safety before anyone begins to work in your food truck.
The onus is on you to ensure all your staff is adequately trained up. You can get this basic training through an accredited course, instruction manual, or even in-house training.
It’s also your responsibility to get the council to inspect your food truck at least one per year. You’ll have to pay a fee for each inspection and then be sure to carry the inspection certificate on you at all times, as any council you work in can request to see it.
A food safety inspection will check that your vehicle meets basic requirements to do with:
- Temperature control
- Separating hand washing facilities and utensil washing areas
- Food labelling
- Separating the driving compartment from food storage
- Separating raw and cooked food handling areas
Food Safety Supervisors
In NSW, Victoria, Queensland and the ACT, you need to have a nominated Food Safety Supervisor on site whenever you’re trading.
This supervisor must be trained and registered, usually through the Australian Institute of Food Safety. Get caught without a supervisor and you could face a hefty fine.
Other Food Truck Considerations & Restrictions
Since the mobile food business is a unique hospitality concept, it includes a host of other regulations, rules, restrictions, and requirements that you’ll want to consider before you set up shop.
For example, many councils have a policy that restricts food trucks from operating within 25-50 metres of bricks-and-mortar businesses that offer similar services.
Other important things to consider include:
The insurance you need for your food truck depends largely on the type of vehicle you’re operating, where you’re operating, and what you’re selling.
But one guaranteed insurance you’ll need to consider is vehicle insurance. Since you’re on the roads in your most important investment, you want to be sure it’s covered for all possibilities!
Like all vehicles in Australia, your actual vehicle will need to be registered, and any driver needs to hold a valid driver’s licence. Normally, you need to be able to provide this information in your permit application.
Gas, Electricity and Water Compliance
In Victoria, you need to be able to prove your vehicle complies with gas and electricity guidelines, while any City of Sydney permit requires a Trade Waste Permit from Sydney Water.
Check your local council requirements to ensure you’re covered when it comes to gas, electricity, and water usage, and waste disposal.
For more information on opening a food truck, check out our hefty food truck startup guide packed with all the info you need. Or if you’re already well on your way to launch day, take a look at our food truck POS system designed to meet your needs!