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Catering, Food Handling and Awareness *OnTopic* Forum to educate us on safe food handling. Not specifically for Catering or competition but overall health and keeping our families safe too.


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Unread 06-30-2013, 07:47 PM   #1
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Default What is the "legal" difference(s) between a concession trailer and a mobile kitchen?

In the eyes of the health department, what are the main differences? Is the mobile kitchen totally self-contained or what? Thanks!
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Unread 06-30-2013, 08:14 PM   #2
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Primarily a mobile kitchen is inspected and licensed for cooking. A concession trailer is not licensed or inspected in the same way. I will try and find the legaleze. Well, I couldn't find the actual codes. But, essentially, in a mobile kitchen, you can cook, a concession trailer does not necessarily have the cooking done in the trailer.

For instance, you sell BBQ, and everything you sell is pre-cooked at a commercial kitchen off-site, then you just keep things warm and serve pre-cooked, that does not require inspection or certification for a kitchen. But, if you cook things, like burgers, then you would need the certification for a mobile kitchen.
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Unread 06-30-2013, 08:29 PM   #3
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I actually looked into this for CA, and there was a third certification, that would allow me to get my mobile kitchen certified as a USDA certified kitchen, that would have allowed me to serve pre-packaged food as well.
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Unread 06-30-2013, 09:52 PM   #4
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Thanks for the reply, Landarc! So it basically comes down to where you do the cooking, then. In the case of BBQ and sides, if you cooked on/in the trailer it would need to be certifed as a mobile kitchen? My goal is to be self-contained and not need a commisary or a brick and mortar location. Thanks again!
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Unread 06-30-2013, 10:34 PM   #5
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You'll really need to check with your local HD to nitpick the differences. These regulations vary not only from state to state, but often from county to county, and in some cases, even city to city.

Where I live, the legal stuff is pretty liberal and practically anybody can set up shop and cook on a roadside corner. But go two miles over into the next county, or cross the state line, and even a fully licensed food truck is strictly prohibited, and there's no certifications or licenses you can get to make it happen.

So your best bet is to start with the Tennessee health code, and then ask your local health department what the restrictions are based on where you want to sell, because it could be vastly different from what others are experiencing.
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Unread 06-30-2013, 10:47 PM   #6
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Exactly what Marubozo says.

In Alameda County, no food truck is licensed to prepare or store food on the truck. They must use what they packed that day, or destroy it. All food must be stored at a commisary, and all cold food prep, and cooking must occur in a commercial kitchen.
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Unread 07-01-2013, 06:49 AM   #7
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Like many above stated, it will all depend on the local HD. In Denver we weren't required to serve from an enclosed area, only had to have a handwashing station & a commissary to take dishes to clean up after. In Jacksonville you have to have an enclosed space like a food truck/ concessions trailer w sliding service window & a bunch more. (No outdoor cooking). It also depends on what license you operate under? Mobile Food Vendor, Vendor, Caterer, Etc.... Call your local HD or at the very least a local well used commissary. Most of them are pretty helpful. Worth picking up the phone. Cheers
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Unread 07-01-2013, 07:16 PM   #8
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Just as previous posters have stated, it depends on where you are located/serving. You will need to contact your local HD and the HD that governs any other area that you choose to operate in (many municipalities have requirements separate from the State HD as well). Be prepared for varying requirements and hassles if you operate in numerous jurisdictions. We try to stay within our own HD area and only one other to keep the red tape to a minimum.

Not trying to discourage anyone but just be aware that the requirements can become cumbersome and add expense if you choose to operate in many different areas.
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