Skip to main content

Food Cart & Food Vending Guidelines

Food Cart Size Requirements

The maximum size for a Mall/Concourse and Southeast Campus food cart is 56 square feet.
As of 9/28/19 full-size food trucks and trailers are allowed outside the high density vending areas with a maximum size of 28’ long x 8’6” wide x 13’6” tall. This is also referred to as "Citywide".

Public Health Requirements

All food mobile unites must comply with the Public Health Requirements for Mobile Food Establishments.

Buying/Selling a Food Cart

Buying a Food Cart: Health Department Message – DO NOT build, buy or operate a mobile food establishment or base until you have approval from the City-County Department of Health. Food may not be stored, prepared, or washed in home kitchens. Utensils may not be washed in home kitchens. Please see Mobile Food Establishment Plan Review Guide - Public Health Madison & Dane County

Places to Look for Food Carts to Buy:

  • "For Sale" Signs on Food Carts
  • The Internet
  • Newspaper Classified Ads
  • Contact Meghan Blake-Horst, Street Vending Coordinator
Other Food Cart Specifications: Food vendors operating outside the high density vending areas must operate out of a legal parking space and have a maximum size of 28’ long x 8’6” wide x 13’6” tall. The vendor must also hold a Basic or Umbrella Street Vending license and required Public Health licenses. 
Mall / Concourse food carts must comply with a number of specifications. You may find a food cart that is already compliant or you may need to have the cart modified before you begin to operate it. Mall / Concourse food carts may not be mass-produced. They may be hand built by the vendor or customized to Mall / Concourse specifications by a food cart builder or trailer manufacturer.
Selling a Food Cart
Please be aware that food cart licenses and site assignments are not transferable. If you sell your cart mid-season to someone else, the new owner will not be able to occupy your Mall / Concourse Food Vendor site assignment or operate the cart on the Mall / Concourse for the remainder of the season. The new owner will have to apply for a site for the following food cart season beginning the next April 15th and successfully participate in the Food Cart Review on the last Saturday in September of the current year.
It would be best to time the sale of your cart toward the end of the vending season and have the new owner personally participate in the food cart review. It is possible for the new owner to begin operating the cart on the Mall / Concourse as soon as November first of the current year, not having to wait until the following April 15th, having received a successful food cart review score. The Street Vending Coordinator, based on site availability, will determine the Mall / Concourse food cart site assignment to be used until April 15th.

 Please see Mall / Concourse Food Vendor Cart Site and Size Specifications

Late Night Vending - Proposed change to State Street Night Vending in 2024


Sale of Coffee & Tea

Now suitable for "Personally Prepared Food" within the Mall/Concourse vending area: Coffee if prepared and brewed from beans that are locally roasted, meaning roasted at a facility located in Dane County, and tea brewed by the vendor from loose ingredients.

Securing Tents

Vendors using tents are advised to securely anchor them with weighted objects. Windy days can produce substantial gusts of wind.

Generators & Propane

Public electricity is not always available or reliable. Having a generator of your own is not a requirement, but recommended as a back up to public electricity. Find a generator that is 60 decibels or less and uses 15 to 20 amps. NOTE: Generators that are too loud or not environmentally friendly will not be allowed, so shop wisely.
Last Updated: 02/14/2024

Contact Meghan Blake-Horst, Street Vending Coordinator

  • PH: 608-261-9171
  • FAX: 608-261-6126
  • EMAIL:
    Department of Planning & Community & Economic Development
    Economic Development Division
    Office of Business Resources
    P.O. Box 2983
    Madison WI 53701-2983
    215 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd, 3rd Floor
    Madison WI 53703

Bike Path Vending Prohibited

It is illegal to vend on any Madison bike path, bike way or recreational trail.

Recycling Awareness

Food vendors are encouraged to use recyclable and biodegradable utensils, containers and napkins.

Full Service Food Trucks at Special Events

Full service food trucks may operate in Madison only at special events and/or if licensed to vend in City of Madison parks. The maximum size for a Mall / Concourse food cart is 56 square feet. Elsewhere in Madison, the maximum size for a food cart is 10 feet by 12 feet.