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City of Detroit issues guidance on how to start a food truck business

There’s no question about it: the food truck industry is booming, especially in Detroit. Despite the industry’s rapid growth and evolution, many municipalities still offer no clear guidance on how to legally operate a food truck. This lack of guidance is understandably nerve-wracking for new business owners.

A couple years ago, we wrote about how the Detroit City Council announced plans to adopt a city-wide ordinance that would provide clear legal guidance for food trucks looking to operate in Detroit. To date, City Council has still not adopted a food truck ordinance.

However, there is some good news for aspiring food truck operators: the city’s Health Department Food Safety Unit has posted an extremely helpful guide on its website that details how to start a mobile food business in Detroit.

The guide lists in detail the specific steps you must do in order to get your mobile food business property licensed to operate in Detroit. In essence, you need to go through the Food Truck Plan Review application process with the Detroit Health Department Food Safety Section.

As part of the application process, you will need to be licensed as either a “mobile food establishment” or a “special transitory food unit” (STFU). In essence, a mobile food establishment is a food business that operates from a vehicle and returns to a commissary for servicing and maintenance at least once a day. A STFU is a temporary food business that is not required to return to a commissary daily or that is licensed to operate throughout the state. The City Plan Reviewer will help you decide which designation is appropriate to your specific plans.

While this guide provides a great overview on the licensing process, preparing your Food Truck Plan Review application is still a fairly complex and detailed task. We strongly advise you work with an attorney to help guide you through the application process.

The “How to Start a Mobile Food Business in the City of Detroit” guide can be accessed at the link.

Our video on operating a food truck in Detroit and other Michigan cities may be another helpful resource.


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