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Food trucks can be a profitable venture for restless entrepreneurs and portable food enthusiasts alike. The City of Sydney requires an applicant before trading as either a food van or a food truck to satisfy strict minimum standards and obtain the relevant licenses.

If you do not comply with these requirements, consequences include a warning letter, an improvement notice, a penalty notice, seizure, prohibition or even prosecution. Understanding the application process before you submit an application can help ensure you do not inadvertently drive your food truck ambitions away.

Decide What Type of Mobile Food Vending Business

The kind of mobile food-vending business you choose to operate will affect how and where you can trade. There are two types of mobile food-vending vehicles – food vans and food trucks. Both will need to outline in their application form where you will trade and a plan of management which describes the measures you will take to reduce environmental and public health impacts. A plan of management will outline how you will manage food safety and operational issues. It is a document that describes the required steps you and your co-workers will take to ensure the food you sell is safe to eat.

If you decide to trade as a food truck, you must also include a concept design and menu details in your application to the council. Photographs of the food and a brief outline as to how it will be prepared and cooked must accompany your sample menu.

Your concept design must be a full-colour illustration of the vehicle and can be an artistic impression or a photograph. The City of Sydney’s Food Truck Design Panel will assess your design against the following criteria:

  • Innovation
  • Uniqueness and visual appeal of the Food Truck
  • Sustainability including use of renewable and sustainable materials
  • Vehicle build including any energy-efficiency features of the vehicle (i.e. plans for disposal, recycling waste, waste reduction)
  • Ethics (i.e. use of fair-trade products, plans to support specific communities and other charitable causes)

A food van serves food that is not potentially hazardous and can only trade for 15 minutes at a time. A food truck has no restrictions to their menu and can trade for up to five hours. It is essentially a moveable kitchen that prepares made-to-order hot foods, such as Thai street food, American pretzels or authentic Spanish churros.

Where do you want to trade?

Your application will detail where you want to trade – will your food truck be street vending or off-street trading?

Street vendors operate on city-owned roads and comply with local car parking restrictions. The operating times for Central Sydney and Other City of Sydney Areas are below:

  • Central Sydney: 8 am to 3 am (Monday to Sunday)
  • Other City of Sydney Areas: 9 am to 12 am (Monday to Sunday)

Off-Street Trading is available to food trucks only and are sites that are city-owned parks and plazas. These sites are divided into High Demand and Low Demand.

  • High Demand Sites may have access restrictions and require rigorous plans of management. They are highly sought after because of considerable pedestrian traffic and their location
  • Low Demand Sites may not have any access restrictions and require simpler plans of management

The applicable fees for your food truck or food van are outlined in the Schedule of Fees and Charges. Approvals are issued for 12 months, and the fees must be paid on application and when your license is renewed.

Hygiene and Health Reports

You must also obtain a health inspection report to submit with your application. The inspection must be carried out by the local council’s Environmental Health Officers. Your van or truck must also meet food hygiene construction standards. Inspections of mobile food-vending vehicles are conducted at least once a year, so you must regularly check that food and safety practices are in place including temperature control, cleanliness, hand-washing, and labeling. It is strongly recommended that you carry your most recent inspection report with you whenever you are trading from your food truck or food van.

Safe Handling of Food

To protect your customers, and to protect your business, any food truck or food van must ensure that all foods are stored so that they are protected from likely contamination. You must make sure you comply with the regulations and standards outlined in the Food Act 2003, Food Regulation 2010 and the Food Standards Code.

These require potentially hazardous foods such as chicken, meat, dairy products, seafood, and egg-based products to be stored under temperature control. Temperature control means maintaining cold food at a temperature of 5 degrees Celsius or below, and hot food at 60 degrees Celsius and above. You must also take adequate measures to prevent cross-contamination from raw foods to hot foods. You can take steps to satisfy this requirement by using separate utensils for raw and cooked meats and covering all foods.

If your food truck is handling any meat, seafood, egg or egg related products, or dairy, you will also need to hold a current NSW food license.

Staff Training

All food trucks and food vans must ensure that any worker handling food is skilled and knowledgeable in food safety and food hygiene. Your food truck requires a food safety supervisor if it is processing and selling food that is –

  • ready to eat, and
  • potentially hazardous (i.e. requires food temperature control), and
  • unpackaged (i.e. not sold and served in the supplier’s original packaging)

A copy of the Food Safety Supervisor Certificate needs to be kept in the vehicle at all times.


Food trucks can be the perfect vehicle to test drive your gourmet tacos. But it can be difficult to navigate your way through the application process. To ensure that you are complying with the regulations, as well as obtaining the relevant license for your Food Truck, you should first speak to a business lawyer before submitting your application.

Questions? Get in touch on 1300 544 755.


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