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Food Carts - Is food made at home OK?

Mobile Units and brick and mortar restaurants are in the same business but working from a different cooking space.

It is hard to put one’s finger directly on what makes a food cart so appealing to the public at large. The size and complexity of some of the menus can be amazing. One can’t help but try to peer inside and figure out ‘How do they do that?’ The answer we do not want to hear is “Oh we make it at home.”

Just as it would not be acceptable to prepare food in your home and bring it to your restaurant (to save some time) to serve to customers, it is unacceptable to bring food made at home to a food cart. I am hoping the reasoning would be clear, but I will explain it anyway.

A licensed kitchen is inspected twice a year by the Health department, and it must meet the standards set out by the food code. This means the refrigeration units must hold at 41°F or less, you must have the enough equipment to cool things properly. Your dishwasher must sanitize properly, it must be free of pests, can not have children running around in it or cats walking across the counter. Generally speaking it is a controlled environment with approved commercial equipment known to safely make food. When something is made at home, it is not certain any of these parameters are met.

A mobile unit is inspected twice a year and must follow the food code, the same as a brick and mortar structure. The operator is required to keep hot food hot (135°F or higher) and cold food cold (41°F or less). They can only cool products if they have the proper capacity to do so. The idea of a food cart is to make food from a commissary for that day, or prepare and hold food for that day only. This idea of a ‘big mini restaurant’ is not what a food cart is all about.

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