Self-Service Food Market FAQs


 The self-servicefood market concept has establisheditself with the rapid growth and success. The questions has become whether self-servicefood markets are classified asvending, convenience stores, or employee break rooms. The majority of statesand localities are treating self-service food markets as retail food establishments.

In Texas, Micro Markets have been branded as Self-ServiceFood Markets. They are typically unmanned stores that offer fresh foods, snacks,and beverages for purchasing via a self-checkout kiosk. As stated in thedefinition above, the foods sold may be either prepackaged non- time/temperaturecontrol for safety food (TCS) food or time/temperature control for safety food (TCS)food; however, the TCS foods must be stored in specialty equipment thatprevents their sale if held in a malfunctioning machine due to a power failureor other condition (similar to a health switch on a vending machine). Anexample of such a market can be viewed on YouTube (Keyword: Micro Markets) 

A Self-Service Food Market is a self-checkout retail foodestablishment that replaces a bank of vending machines. In a self-service foodmarket a customer picks up a product from an open rack display, a reach-inrefrigerated cooler or freezer, and then scans the UPC bar code or an RFID tagfor each product at a payment kiosk. The customer pays with a single payment,be it cash, credit card or stored value card. Another unique feature of the self-servicefood market is that it operates without an employee present, just like vendingmachines. All self-service food market are equipped with a 24 hour a daysecurity system monitoring customers as they make their selections andcheckout. Self-Service Food Markets are designed to be in “closed locations.”This refers to a business that has a moderately secured facility for a knowngroup of employees where the self-service food market can be located in adesignated area away from heavy public traffic.

Typically,a self-service food market is serviced on a pre-set schedule by a route driver.The route driver arrives at a location, checks the equipment to be sure it isworking correctly, cleans the equipment on a set schedule, check products to besure they are still “in date” and will be until the next service date, pullsany products that will be “out of date” and then stocks the product shelves andrefrigerated and/or freezer units with new product. Through the use of on-linesoftware, the route driver brings only what products are actually needed. The“out of date” products are returned to the warehouse for accountability andproper disposal at the end of day.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is the definition of a Self-Service Food Market?

As defined in the 2015 Texas FoodEstablishment Rules (TFER):

(127) Self-Service Food Market--amarket that is unstaffed and offers prepackaged non-time/temperature controlfor safety (TCS) food and prepackaged refrigerated or frozen time/temperaturecontrolled for safety (TCS) food that is stored and displayed in equipment thatcomplies with §228.225 of this title.

  1. Can a Self-Service Food Market sell cups of coffee?

No. A coffee vending machine can be located nearbyfor the convenience of consumers.

  1. Can Self-Service Food Markets sell fresh, whole intact produce such a bananas or grapes?

 Yes. Theproduce must be ready to eat, i.e., washed and pre-packaged for retail sale.

  1. Can my department charge a Self-Service Food Market a license fee?

Yes. All Self-Service Food Marketare Retail Food Establishments. The regulatory jurisdictionsshould classify these operations as low risk operations.

  1. My health district has a Self-Service Food Market. Should I license it now?

The new TFER that addressesSelf-Service Food Markets goes into effect on October 11, 2015. They should belicensed beginning immediately after the new rules take effect.

  1. Do Self-Service Food Markets have to undergo plan approval like other retail food establishments?

For jurisdictions that perform planreview, yes. Cold holding units containing TCS food, in Self-Service FoodMarkets are required to have an automatic shut off device or an approved planby the regulatory authority to ensure food are protected from sale if there isa power failure, mechanical failure, or other condition. This is similar to theautomatic shutoff requirement for vending machines with TCS foods. Currently,NSF is working with NationalAutomatic Merchandising Association (NAMA) toestablish standards for approving cold holding equipment for self-service foodmarkets. At this time there is no cold holding equipment that is approved foruse in a self-service food market.

  1. Do Self-Service Food Markets need to have a person in charge?

Chapter 228.225(i) exempts Self-Service Food Markets fromhaving a person in charge availableduring hours of operation when the market incorporatesthe provision in section      228.225of the TFER.

  1. Does a Self-Service Food Market require a three compartment sink?

No. There is no preparation of food or a need to cleanequipment and utensil on site so a three compartment sink is not required.

  1. Does a Self-Service Food Market require a conveniently located hand sink?

No. There is no preparation of food on site so a hand sinkis not required.

  1. Since there is no person in charge, how will inspections be conducted or violations be addressed?

The self-service food market isrequired by §228.225(b)(2) to provide information to the regulatory authorityas to the responsible party that will be available for routine inspections.

  1. Since there is no person in charge, who would I contact for comments and concerns?

The self-service food market isrequired by §228.225(h) to provide contact information about the business responsible for the market on a sign visiblefrom the payment kiosk.

  1. How is food security ensured if there is no person in charge?

The self-service food market arerequired to provide 24/7 video surveillance records of consumers viewing,selecting, handling, and purchasing products that identify these customers.Video surveillance records must be maintained and available for the regulatoryauthority for a period of fourteen (14) calendar days.

  1. How are TCS foods monitored and handled to insure they maintain proper temperatures and are safe for human consumption?

TheSelf-Service Food Market shall have an automatic shut-offcontrol or plan approved by the regulatory authoritythat prevents dispensing of foods that do not maintain proper temperatures.

  1. Are there any other requirements that ensure food security?

 Yes. §228.225(c)(2) require that all packaging offood in the self-service food market be tamper evident and they must alsomeet all labeling requirements for packaged food as specified in §228.62(a)(3) of this title.


NationalAutomatic Merchandising Association. (2013, March 1). Technical Report. Micro Market - A New Innovation in AutomaticMerchandising. Retrieved from