It can be easy to overlook the legal requirements for starting your food truck business. The excitement of designing menus, perfecting your food truck’s signature dishes and brainstorming punny truck names dominates the early planning stages. Before you emblaze “Banh Me” on the side of your vehicle, it is important to decide whether you want to trade as a food truck or van.

A food van serves food that is not potentially hazardous, or that involves low-risk practices like frothing milk. Food trucks are, essentially, moveable kitchens, and as such are subject to greater regulations. Food vans can only trade fifteen minutes at a time whereas food trucks can trade for up to 5 hours. What you decide to trade as affects where you can trade, at what times and what fees you need to pay.

The process to apply for a food truck license can be, at times, overwhelming. We decided to provide five quick tips to get your food truck moving and walk you through the approvals you will need to get started and how to acquire them.

1. Create your Food Truck design and menu

All food truck applicants must submit the concept design of their vehicle to the City of Sydney’s Food Truck Design Panel. You must also provide a sample menu along with photographs of the food outlining the food truck’s cuisine or theme, as well as an outline as to how the food will be prepared or cooked.

The City has high design standards in place that are intended to improve the look and feel of public places. Your food truck design and menu will be reviewed against the following criteria:

  • Innovation: Your truck’s uniqueness and visual appeal
  • Sustainable: What are the energy efficiency features of the vehicle including plans for disposal and recycling of waste as well as waste reduction.
  • Ethics: The panel will review your truck’s use of any organic or fair trade products

You must send your food truck design to the City at least 8 weeks before your intended start date.

2. Food Safety

You will need to create a detailed Operational Plan of Management for your business outlining how you will manage food safety and operational issues. This plan will describe the steps required to ensure that the food you sell is safe to eat. It will also include how you will identify and manage food safety and environmental impacts such as noise, litter, and odor. It is prudent that you consider addressing in your plan:

  • How is leftover food processed?
  • What are the sources of noise in your vehicle and what are the strategies in place to address complaints?
  • What controls are in place to manage litter around your site?
  • What measures will you take to address any odor issues?
  • What is the frequency of cleaning? What items are cleaned? Who carries out the cleaning?

You will need to obtain a satisfactory health inspection report, and attach it to your application. The Local Council’s Environmental Health Officers or the New South Wales Food Authority will inspect the commercial kitchen used as your primary food preparation or storage area.  This inspection must be carried out before, and within 12 months of, submitting your Mobile Food Vending Application form. Food truck operators must notify the NSW Food Authority of their food business prior to the commencement of trading. This can be done through the NSW Food Authority’s website.

Potentially Hazardous Foods

When storing and displaying potentially hazardous foods, it must be stored under temperature control. Temperature control means maintaining cold foods at a temperature of 5 degrees or below, and hot food at 60 degrees or above. Examples of potentially hazardous foods include:

  • Cooked meat
  • Dairy products
  • Seafood
  • Prepared salads, raw salad vegetables
  • Cooked rice and pasta
  • Processed soya bean products
  • Other processed foods containing eggs, beans, nuts or other protein-rich foods that contain any of the above foods (e.g. quiche)

Staff Training

It is a legal requirement that all employees who handle food must be trained in food safety. It is then necessary to ensure that you and your staff are trained in responsible food safety and hygiene standards.  The severity of the penalties issued for non-compliance reflects the importance of food safety and can include:

  • Penalty Infringement Notices
  • Your product being seized,
  • Improvement notices/warning notices,
  • Prohibition orders, and
  • Fines up to $110,000 for individuals

3. Food Truck Permits and Licenses

Food trucks require a variety of permits and licenses to trade, and these must be renewed periodically. The truck itself will need to be registered, and you will need to have a valid driver’s license. You will need to submit your vehicle registration number along with your Mobile Food Vending Vehicles Approval Form. Food trucks are also subject to ongoing inspections by your Local Council’s Health Department. Be sure to carry your most recent inspection report with you whenever you are trading from your food truck.

Before the City of Sydney can issue you with a food truck license, you will need to show you have obtained the appropriate and applicable registration or license from the NSW Food Authority and approvals from Sydney Water. You may also need:

4. Permits and Zoning

If you are applying for a food truck license, you will also need to think about where you want to trade.  High demand sites and low demand sites are classified depending on their location and their popularity.

Low demand sites may not have any access restrictions and are not as sought after as high demand sites. They may be in places that are in need of creating a positive community atmosphere, which food trucks can contribute. On the other hand, high demand sites may have access restrictions and require compliance with rigorous plans of management. Food truck operators typically seek high demand sites due to the considerable foot traffic and location.

5. Trade Marks

Your food truck’s name may be its most valuable marketing tool. You may have spent countless hours, shortlisting names that capture the essence of your food truck – its cuisine and its vibe. Do you choose “That’s how we (spring) roll” or “Rock and (spring) Roll?” A Trade mark is a way of identifying a unique product or service and distinguishing your goods and services from someone else.

Trade mark Registration

Before filing an application to register your food truck’s name and logo, it is sensible first to search the trade mark database. Completing this first step could save you trouble and money by alerting you to any existing identical or similar trade marks to the one you plan to use. You must also provide a description of the goods and services that you intend to use your trade mark on. Your food truck name is likely to require Class 43, which is for services providing food and drink.

After submitting your application, it will be examined to ensure it is complying with the Trade Marks Act 1995 and that there are no grounds for rejecting it. Generally, trademarks take 3 to 4 months to examine from the day your application is filed. If your Trade mark is accepted, you must pay a fee to register.


Starting your food truck can be an exciting and challenging venture. It will most likely involve perfecting your menu under the disguise of inviting your friends over for dinner. And reaching out to graphic designers for colour and font suggestions, as well as recruiting staffers who possess an intimate understanding about the different types of hot dogs and hot sauces. But don’t let this excitement overshadow the legal requirements for securing your food truck license.

Questions? Get in touch with LegalVision’s business lawyers on 1300 544 755.

Claudette Yazbek
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