With the many types of permits and licenses for new restaurants and other food businesses, it can be difficult to determine exactly which one your establishment needs. We’re here to help you navigate the Texas food permit rules by breaking down the requirements for each business type.
Retail Food Establishments and Food Stores
A retail food establishment describes any business where food is prepared and sold directly to customers for on- or off-premise consumption. Some examples of food retailers include:
- Restaurants, bars and cafes
- Bed-and-breakfasts with over seven rooms
- Hospitals that serve food to the public
- Correctional facilities that contract with food management corporations
Meanwhile, a retail food store is an establishment — or portion of an establishment — where food intended for off-premise consumption is sold to customers. Examples of retail food stores include grocery and convenience stores, markets and delicatessens.
When applying for a new retail food permit or renewing a current one, you can visit the online licensing services page through the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS). You can also complete and submit the Retail Food Operation Permit Application via mail to the DSHS.
You’ll also submit a non-refundable fee with your permit application. This fee depends on your gross annual volume of food sales:
- $0–$49,999.99: $258 permit fee
- $50,000–$149,999.99: $515 permit fee
- $150,000 or more: $773 permit fee
Mobile Food Units
A mobile food unit is an establishment that prepares and sells food to customers from a mounted vehicle, designed to be easily transportable. Examples include concession trailers, food trucks and food carts.
Remember to read the guidelines for mobile food units in Texas before applying for a permit. You can then visit the DSHS online licensing page or complete and mail the Mobile Unit Food Establishment Permit Application. You’ll also submit a $258 fee.
Additionally, an inspection of your mobile food unit will be performed after you submit your payment and application. If you wish to request a variance from this requirement, you can complete and submit the Variance Request Template for a Central Preparation Facility (CPF).
Roadside Food Vendors
A roadside food vendor operates a mobile retail food store and distributes food from a temporary site, usually next to a public road or highway. Unlike mobile food unit permit holders, roadside food vendors can’t prepare or process food.
We recommend looking at the Roadside Food Vendor checklist before applying for your permit. When applying for a new permit or renewing a current one, you can visit the online licensing system or fill out and mail the Roadside Vendor Permit Application. You’ll also submit a fee of $258.
Food wholesalers purchase food products in bulk, then sell them to a retailer to generate income for themselves. They’re essentially intermediaries between food producers and establishments that sell food directly to customers. Prep kitchens and production kitchens are examples of food wholesalers.
You’ll need to apply for a food wholesaler license, food wholesaler registration or warehouse operator license if you perform any of these activities:
- Sell food products to any entity besides the final consumer.
- Hold products that another entity sells or distributes.
- Sell bulk raw products like sugar, flour or grains to an entity other than the final consumer.
Wholesalers of beverages in sealed containers — alcoholic beverages included — don’t require wholesaler licenses but are still subject to inspection. If you’re unsure of which wholesale license is appropriate for your business, the Licensing Flowchart for Food Distributors and Warehouses can provide some guidance.
When applying for a food wholesaler license, you’ll also submit a non-refundable fee based on your gross annual sales of all wholesaled products:
- $0-$199,999.99: $258 permit fee
- $200,000-$499,999.99: $464 permit fee
- $500,000-$999,999.99: $700 permit fee
- $1,000,000-$9,999,999.99: $927 permit fee
- $10,000,000 or more: $1,391 permit fee
When applying for a warehouse operator license, your fee depends on the number of square feet used for food storage:
- 0-6,000 square feet: $361 permit fee
- 6,001-24,000 square feet: $721 permit fee
- 24,001-75,000 square feet: $1,082 permit fee
- 75,001-250,000 square feet: $1,442 permit fee
- 250,001 square feet or more: $2,060 permit fee
If you’re applying for a food wholesaler registration, you’ll need to submit a fee of $103. You can also view the required fees in full on each wholesaler permit application.
Caterers in Texas need to obtain a health permit from their local county or city health department or the DSHS. At least one member of the catering business must be a DSHS-certified food handler.
A caterer’s permit allows for the temporary sale of alcohol at a location other than your business establishment. You’ll need to apply for a catering certificate for every event you wish to serve alcohol. Remember to submit your paperwork 10 days before the event.
In addition to obtaining a permit from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC), you may require approval from your local law enforcement or government.
Temporary Retail Food Establishment
There are two types of temporary retail food establishment permits:
- Single-event: This permit extends to one food unit or booth, valid for 14 consecutive days at a single event.
- Multiple-event: This permit applies to an individual food unit or booth at multiple events. It remains valid for two years, as long as each event doesn’t exceed 14 consecutive days.
You can apply for a single-event permit through the online licensing page or complete and submit the single-event permit application for temporary food establishments. You’ll also need to submit a $52 fee.
If you’re applying for a multiple-event permit, you can fill out and return the multiple-event permit application for temporary food establishments. You’ll submit a $200 fee in addition.
Remember to submit your single-event or multiple-event application at least 30 days before the event. We also recommend looking at the Temporary Food Establishment Inspection Checklist before applying.
Grow Your Food Establishment With Revolving Kitchen
Understanding the Texas food license rules and requirements is important to ensure you have the proper permit for your business. A high-quality kitchen space is essential for success as well. At Revolving Kitchen, we specialize in private, affordable commercial cloud kitchens for short- and long-term rental.
We provide restaurants and other food businesses with fully equipped kitchen units and modern amenities, allowing you to prepare food for takeout and delivery with ease. From low overhead to maximized delivery experience, investing in a cloud kitchen can be an excellent growth opportunity for your business.
Let us help you evolve your Texas food establishment. Contact Revolving Kitchen today to learn more about our cutting-edge cloud kitchens!