June 2, 2011 Written by dieselboi

Our good friends at Multnomah County Environmental Health wrote up the following article for you, our readers, eaters and potential food cart owners. A big thanks to them for putting this together.

Whether they serve tacos, sandwiches, chicken, donuts or soup, all of the unique food carts in Portland started the same way; a creative idea, hard work and a health

Mexican Food Food Cart in Portland Oregon, Cass IV

department license. At Multnomah County Environmental Health we help operators understand the Food Sanitation Rules and protect the safety of Food cart employees and customers alike. Now, it is no mistake that the Oregon Food Sanitation Rules are often referred to as the food code. This long document can be complex and a bit convoluted at best. That is what we are here for, to crack the code. To help you navigate your way through the rules so you can open a creative and safe business. As many of you know, opening a food cart, or mobile food unit, is a process and for those toying with the idea of opening one, we wanted to provide a distilled version of that process, a nitty-gritty quick look. So here you have it…

Not all food carts are created equal

Leid Back Class IV Food Trailer – Hawaiian style

There are four classes of food carts, each have varying levels of what can be sold, cooked, prepared, created etc, onboard. Check out the classes and think about which one will best fit the needs of your operation.

There are some other important features that all food carts share regardless of class. The application packet explains these features in more detail. Some of these common traits are:

Building or Buying?

Khao Niew Lao Street Food – Class IV Food Cart

Whether you plan to build a food cart from scratch, renovate an existing one, or take one over that has been inactive, you need go through the plan-review process. The plan review process is important because it helps determine if you will have the capacity to hold enough water, if you can support all of the equipment necessary for your kitchen and which class of unit is best for your business. The plan review specialist will look over blueprints and your menu with you to help you ensure that the food cart will meet your needs and be in compliance with code. Check out the application for all the details on the plan review process. Be sure to plan ample time for this process. We get a lot of plan reviews so a response may take up to ten business days. In a hurry? We offer rush or expedited plan reviews for an additional fee.

Time to open!

Once your plan review is approved you can start building or renovating the unit. When construction is done and you are ready to open, complete a mobile food unit license application and submit to Multnomah County Environmental Health Department. An Environmental Health Specialist will then do a pre-opening inspection to help you with any last minute adjustments and then you are good to go! After that you will get a visit from an Environmental Health Specialist twice a year. Explore our resources page for more information about food safety and what to expect during an inspection.

One important thing to note is that there may be other agencies you will be required to obtain approvals from. These include, but are not limited to:

Review the City of Portland Bureau of Developmental Services website for additional information or call them at (503) 823-7300.

Interested in learning more about opening a food cart? Review the Mobile Unit Operator’s Guide or call our office at (503) 988-3400.

**** Useful Resources ****
Multnomah County Environmental Health – 503 988 3400
Mobile Unit Rules
Food Handler’s Website


dieselboi (2011, June 2). How To Open a Food Cart in Portland [Blog comment]. Retrieved from http://www.foodcartsportland.com/2011/06/02/how-to-open-a-food-cart-in-portland/

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