Mobile Food Vehicle

A "mobile food vehicle" is a vehicle from which a person sells unpackaged food by retail, or a food vending machine.  It does not include food delivery vehicles that are only used to transport food from a business to another location (eg, pizza delivery).

Mobile food vehicles must meet the same food safety requirements as other food businesses, regardless of their size or how often you sell food. This means that you need to comply with the provisions of the Food Act 2006 and the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code, and are subject to the same licensing requirements as a food business operating from fixed premises.

The Food Act 2006 enables a mobile food vehicle operator to sell food in any local government area in Queensland under the one licence.  The local government in which the van operates may inspect the vehicle and take action against the operator if required.  You should contact the relevant council before you operate on land under local government control.

The Queensland Government maintains a public register of mobile food businesses that contains licence details of each mobile food business.

Licence requirements

Mobile food vehicle operators who prepare and sell food within their vehicles are subject to the same licencing requirements as those who operate Fixed Premises.

If you intend to prepare ingredients or food at another location to sell in your mobile food vehicle, your preparation location must be licensed as a food business (manufacturer).

  • For example, if you plan to use your home kitchen to bake cakes to sell from your vehicle, your home kitchen must be licensed. Find out more about getting a food licence for a home based food business.

The vehicle type and size may also limit the foods you are able to safely prepare and sell sell from that vehicle.

  • For example, a pie van (smoko truck), where food handling occurs outside the van may limit the sort of foods that can be provided, as there is a higher chance of contamination to food preparation surfaces; if you are using a smoko van, you may not be permitted to make sandwiches from the vehicle.
Yes – licence is required No – licence not required
  • preparing and selling food from a vehicle
  • ice cream vans
  • pie vans (smoko truck)
  • mobile snack trucks
  • mobile food trailers
  • domestic water carriers
  • unpackaged food from a vending machine

Mobile food businesses that sell only the following do not require a licence:

  • coffee or tea
  • slushies
  • pre-packaged food.

Note: even though a licence may not be required, these types of businesses must ensure the sale of safe and suitable food, and comply with the Food Safety Standards. This includes the design, construction and fit out of the food premises.

If you are unsure if you require a licence, contact Council on 1300 69 22 47 and ask to speak with an Environmental Health Officer.

Locations - permitted and regulated

Permitted locations

Markets and events

The best place for mobile food vehicles to operate is at organised and approved markets and events.

Private property

Mobile food vehicles can operate on private property by arriving at work places, selling and then moving on.

Mobile vehicles that intend to operate on private property in any other way may require planning approval from Council’s Development Services team. Contact the team by emailing or phone 1300 69 22 47 to discuss your specific situation with a town planner.

Regulated or restricted locations


Mobile food vehicles are not permitted to operate from the roadside in the Cairns region unless approved under Council’s Local Laws or, if state controlled road, approved by the Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads. Council’s Roadside Vending General Policy ( PDF, 0.03 MB ) provides guidance on the food types that will be considered for approval under a Roadside Vending Permit ( PDF, 0.13 MB ).

Council parks

Generally, mobile food vehicles are not permitted to trade from Council land unless as part of an already approved temporary entertainment event (eg, Carols by Candlelight).  Should Council decide to allow mobile food vehicles to trade from a specific location, it will undertake an expression of interest process.

How to apply

Step 1: Determine if you need a licence

Check the licence requirements table to identify if you need a Food Business Licence.  If yes, continue to Step 2.

Even if you do not need a Food Business Licence, you must still comply with the other requirements of the Food Act and the provisions of the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code.

Step 2: Apply for Suitability of Premises approval

The design, construction and fit-out of your premises must comply with the Food Safety Standard 3.2.3.

NOTE:  if you are taking over an existing food business and are not changing the design or fit-out, you do not need to submit a Suitability of Premises application. Refer to our section on Taking over a food business for more information.

Prepare plans and apply

During the application process, Council will assess the plans for your proposed food premises to ensure the design, construction and fit-out complies with the Food Safety Standard 3.2.3.

The Mobile Food Vehicles Construction & Operation Guidelines ( PDF, 0.54 MB ) will help you make decisions on the design of your mobile food vehicle and the construction materials you intend to use. Queensland Health’s Design and fit out guide will assist in correct construction and fit out.

In order to assess your suitability of premises application, two copies of your design plans (drawn to scale not less than 1:50) must be provided with your application. These design plans must include:

  • floor plans including waste disposal facilities and location of equipment;
  • elevations of each food preparation room/area; and
  • details of mechanical exhaust ventilation (exhaust systems must comply with AS1668.2). You must also include specifications of all equipment being serviced by the mechanical exhaust ventilation.
Complete the Suitability of Premises application form ( PDF, 0.06 MB ) together with your plans, pay the relevant fee ( PDF, 0.03 MB ) and return to Council.

After you have submitted your suitability of premises application to Council with the fee, an Environmental Health Officer (EHO) will assess it for compliance with the Food Act 2006.

Timeframes for assessment may vary, but in general allow up to 30 days for a full assessment. Further time will be required if the application does not include all the necessary information.


Upon approval, you will receive a conditional approval letter for the construction of your food premises. Once you receive your approval and any other necessary permits, you may begin constructing/fitting out your premises as per the approved plans.

Step 3: Apply for a Food Business Licence

The operator of the food business must be deemed suitable, and have the required skills and knowledge to safely serve food to the public.


You will need to apply for your Food Business Licence at least 30 days before you intend to start trading, to allow us to assess your application in time.

The applicant must be the person or company that intends to operate the food business, not the contractor building the food premises.  The applicant must be a legal entity (a person or company); a business name or trading name is not a legal entity and cannot be the licence holder.

You may also need to have a Food Safety Program (FSP) accredited with Council.  If so, you should submit your FSP together with your Food Business Licence application.

Note: your Food Business Licence application will not be assessed until Council has first approved your design plans through the suitability of premises stage.  If you submit your Food Business Licence application at the same time as your Suitability of Premises application, please contact contact Council’s Licensing and Approvals team on 1300 69 22 47 to begin the assessment process for the Food Business Licence.


During the Food Business Licence application process, Council will assess the suitability of the operator to safely prepare and serve food to the public.

Council will contact you if further information is required in order to consider your application. In this case, an extension of time will be needed to finalise the assessment.

Step 4: Request final inspection

Before you start trading, you need to contact Council to arrange a final inspection of the mobile food vehicle to determine if a Food Business Licence can be issued.

At your final inspection, Council’s EHO will check your premises to ensure it has been fitted out in accordance with your letter of approval.

Step 5: Decision

After your final inspection, if Council's EHO is satisfied that your vehicle has been fitted out in accordance with your approval and you are a suitable person to hold a food licence, you will be issued with your Food Business Licence. You may then start trading.

If you have not met all requirements but Council's EHO is likely to approve your application once you fix minor requisitions, you may be issued with a provisional licence (a short-term licence with conditions that must be met within a specified timeframe).  This will allow you to commence trading.  You can only receive a provisional licence for a maximum of 3 months, and if you don’t attend to the conditions in the timeframe, your Food Business Licence will be refused.

Alternatively, if Council is not satisfied that you have met the requirements of the Food Act to prepare and sell safe and suitable food, your licence application will be refused and you will not be able to trade.

Remember, you can't operate until your Food Business Licence application is approved. A copy of your food licence will be mailed to you within two days of your final inspection.  You must display it at your food premises in a prominent position so the details are easily visible to customers.

Step 7: Renewals

Council will send you an annual renewal invoice for your Mobile Food Business Licence. Pay on time to ensure you can continue to operate.

Be ready for inspections. Council’s EHOs can conduct compliance audits and inspections during your operating hours.

Remember to advise Council of any changes to your contact details to ensure you continue to receive your renewals and other relevant communication from Council.

Food Safety Supervisor notification

You must have a nominated Food Safety Supervisor for your food business at all times.

This person needs to have the experience and skills relevant to day-to-day safe food handling and authority in supervising other staff within the food business.

The Food Safety Supervisor must be reasonably available whenever the business is operating, and they also serve as a point of contact for Council and staff who handle food in the food business.

You must either:

  • Nominate this person when you apply for your licence by including their details on the Food Business Licence application form; or
  • Nominate a Food Safety Supervisor by contacting Council by phone, email or mail within 30 days of the Food Business Licence being approved.

Find out more about Food Safety Supervisors

Food Safety Program accreditation

Food Safety Programs (FSPs) are documented procedures that help food businesses to identify and monitor food safety hazards, and implement control measures.  Cairns Regional Council is responsible for accrediting FSPs for food businesses located within the Cairns local government area.

Not all food businesses are required to have a FSP.  Check when a Food Safety Program is required, or refer to Food Safety Standard 3.2.1.

If your business is required to have a FSP, you must arrange for an approved auditor to assist in reviewing it. You will then need to submit your FSP to Council with a Notice of Written Advice from the auditor.  This should be done at the same time as applying for your Food Business Licence.

You can use the Food Business Licence application ( PDF, 1.47 MB ) form to apply for your FSP accreditation.

Find out more about Food Safety Programs.

Last updated: 16 June 2020