Steps for Starting a Mobile Food Unit (Food Truck)

Thank you for considering what it takes to open a mobile food unit in Loudoun County! This area supports a vibrant culinary scene thanks to talented chefs and entrepreneurs like you.

This page is designed to give you an overview of important considerations before establishing a mobile food unit, which includes food trucks, pushcarts, trailers, trucks, vans and more, but your specific situation may have different requirements. The Revised 1993 Loudoun County Zoning Ordinance is the ruling document.

Working with Loudoun County and Virginia Commonwealth staff will help verify that those requirements are met. Our combined goal is to ensure that your operation is safe for customers, so that your business can be successful.

Before establishing a mobile food unit, it is important to understand what is permitted with that use. Mobile food units must be mounted on wheels and readily moveable at any time. All operations and equipment must be contained within or attached to the unit.

Mobile food units are not full-service restaurants, commercial kitchens or catering operation unless you choose to apply for that additional use.

While this page focuses on mobile food units, think about what additional uses (if any) you might consider later. Communicating these additional uses to Loudoun County and Virginia Commonwealth staff up front can help avoid surprises later in the process. If you have questions at any point, please contact Loudoun Economic Development at 1-800-LOUDOUN.

Detailed contact information for County and Commonwealth regulatory departments can be found at the bottom of this page.

Considerations for Your Operating Base:

Even with mobility, the mobile food unit must have a physical address that serves as the base of operation. That base location should be where the unit returns regularly for such things as equipment cleaning, discharging waste and refilling water or ice supplies. The storage of mobile food units are regulated by the zoning ordinance the same as other commercial vehicles. In setting that up, ask yourself these questions:

Are you required to pay local taxes? Contact the Loudoun Commissioner of the Revenue to confirm.

If your location is based in Loudoun County, you will need a Business, Professional, and Occupational License. A Loudoun BPOL is not required if the mobile food unit does business in the county but is headquartered outside of Loudoun.

Can food be prepared here? Contact the Health Department, Department of Planning and Zoning and Department of Building and Development to confirm.

Food preparation must be done either inside of the mobile food unit or in a commissary inspected and approved by the Health Department. A commissary is a catering or food establishment where food, containers and supplies are stored, prepared or packaged. Such commissary must obtain all applicable approvals from Planning and Zoning and Building and Development This must be separate from your unit’s service area.

Considerations Before You Hit the Road:

Before launching your mobile food unit, make sure that you have proper approval. Ask yourself these questions:

Do you plan to serve food on premises? Contact Department of Planning and Zoning and the Health Department with questions.

Whether it’s a snack bar, mobile food truck or commercial kitchen (restaurant), Planning and Zoning can answer any question as to the type of food service allowed and the Health Department can answer any questions on food service regulations or direct you to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services for limited food service approval.

Have you met fire and safety standards? Contact the Loudoun Fire Marshal for inspection.

The Loudoun Fire Marshal must inspect your mobile food unit before you can open for business. This is important to both your safety and that of your customers.

Are mobile food units allowed on-location? Contact local officials to confirm.

Each town, city and county could regulate where and how mobile food units may operate. It is best to check local ordinances to confirm that you are in compliance.

Considerations for On-Site Setup:

Once your mobile food unit is on location, there are specific ways in which you can prepare and provide food. Ask yourself these questions:

Do you need a zoning permit? Contact Department of Building and Development to confirm.

A zoning permit is required for a stationary food establishment. If the mobile food unit remains on wheels, is not hard-plumbed or wired, and will be moved off the premises daily, it may not require a zoning permit. It is considered a transient use. The exception to daily removal of mobile food units is when they are used for a limited or defined period of time as part of:

  1. An approved Special Event in accordance with Section 5-500(C) of the Zoning Ordinance;
  2. Legal events held at farm wineries and limited breweries;
  3. Other uses that include events/private parties as part of the use.

At the conclusion of the event or private party the food truck must be removed.

Do you have access to utilities? By definition, mobile food units cannot connect to onsite utilities. Water must be transported in on the unit, waste must be stored on the unit, and power must come from a battery or generator.

Do you need more space? Any mobile food unit operations must be done on or in the unit, including food preparation, storage and sales. Mobile food unit operations shall not extend or expand outside of the truck

Contact Us

There is a lot to consider as you imagine or expand your rural business. Loudoun County has resources to assist in planning, permitting and growing your rural business.

LOUDOUN COUNTY GOVERNMENT

DepartmentContactPhoneWebsite
Department of Economic DevelopmentJohn Magistro 703-737-8820http://biz.loudoun.gov
Department of Planning and ZoningMark Depo571-258-3197http://loudoun.gov/dpz
Business Assistance TeamEvan Harlow703-777-0395http://loudoun.gov/BAT
Health Department - Wells and Septic SystemsJoe Lock703-771-5800http://loudoun.gov/eh
Health Department - Food ServiceVictor Avitto703-771-5806http://loudoun.gov/eh
Department of Building and Development - EngineeringHector Martinez571-252-0857http://loudoun.gov/commercialconstruction
Department of Building and Development - Environmental Impact Districts (Division C)Bill Cain703-737-8303http://loudoun.gov/commercialconstruction
Department of Building and Development - Grading PermitsJoseph Ohler703-737-8952http://loudoun.gov/commercialconstruction
Department of Building and Development - Building PermitsChris Thompson703-771-5527http://loudoun.gov/commercialconstruction
Department of Building and Development - Zoning PermitsTheresa Stein703-777-0648http://loudoun.gov/commercialconstruction
Department of Building and Development - Sign PermitsLee Ann Baty703- 737-8205http://loudoun.gov/commercialconstruction
Fire MarshalLinda Hale703-737-8600http://loudoun.gov/firemarshal

COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA

DepartmentContactPhoneWebsite
Virginia Cooperative ExtensionJim Hilleary703-777-0373http://loudoun.ext.vt.edu
Alcoholic Beverage ControlMarc Halman804-213-4626http://abc.virginia.gov
Office of Drinking WaterDavid Travers540-829-7340http://vdh.virginia.gov
Agriculture and Consumer ServicesJoseph Buchanan804-786-3520http://vdacs.virginia.gov
Department of Soil and WaterChris Van Vlack571-918-4530, ext. 107http://lswcd.org
Department of TransportationStaff800-367-7623http://vdot.virginia.gov