Food trucks have historically been relegated to serving small, cheap meals to working-class people in urban areas. Construction workers, day laborers and other traditionally blue-collar tradespeople often lined up at food trucks during lunch breaks in cities around the country to grab a quick sandwich or similar fare before getting back to the grind.
These days, however, food trucks have undergone somewhat of a renaissance, and modern vendors offer cuisine that runs the gamut from burgers and fries to gourmet sushi and fancy desserts.
Due to the rise in popularity of the food truck, many entrepreneurs are eyeing these ventures as business investments, but getting started in the food truck industry can be challenging.
Starting A Business With A Food Vendor License
The first step in starting a food truck business is often to get a food vendor license. Because different states, cities and counties have their own regulations regarding business licenses and food vendor licenses, the process is not standardized.
Even with this being the case, most people who want to get a license to sell food will want to visit their local health department and chamber of commerce.
These two resources should be able to provide instructions regarding food truck permits and general regulation information pertaining to any permit to sell food in the area.
Food truck regulations by state authorities will need to be addressed directly with the authority in your state. For most people, the agencies to contact will be the state health department along with the office of the secretary of state.
If your food truck license will be used outside of operating as a sole proprietorship, you may also need to acquire a federal tax ID number to be recognized as a business by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
Depending on how you have your food truck business licensed, you may need to file taxes quarterly. Some states allow food trucks to operate as limited liability corporations (LLCs), but others have different rules.
Your tax filing status with both your county and state governments as well as the IRS will usually determine how your food truck business needs to file its taxes and income reporting.
What Are Food Truck Regulations?
Regulations pertaining to the selling of food from mobile operations may differ from those that pertain to food served from stationary kitchens.
Once again, each state and locality may have its own regulations regarding food handling, training, safety practices, inspections and more.
You will be responsible for knowing and following these regulations, and most states, cities and counties hand out fines and may even revoke a permit to sell food if violations occur.
Holding a food selling license also generally means that your food truck will be subject to inspections by health authorities. Inspections are generally held annually, but health inspectors may also show up unannounced.
Because food trucks are mobile, health inspectors may have to schedule inspections at times outside of normal business hours depending on when your business operates.
In most cases, food truck permits require that all employees of a food truck business understand and follow proper hygiene and sanitation guidelines when handling food.
This also means that your food truck will need to be equipped with proper sanitation equipment like sinks and appropriate storage compartments for food items that need to be held at specific temperatures.
Special Considerations When Obtaining A Permit To Sell Food
Another regulation that is unique to food trucks is location. As food trucks are mobile by design, they can set up and sell food items in different locations without a fixed address.
Some municipalities may have specific regulations regarding the selling of certain consumables in specific areas. Your food truck may need to be at least a certain distance away from certain areas in order to legally operate.
You will also need to obtain business insurance. Because food trucks serve consumable items to the public, there may be special stipulations regarding the amount of coverage your business is required to carry.
You may also need to apply for special coverages in order to receive a permit to sell food in your local area. Because a food truck is both a business and a vehicle that is presumably navigated on public roadways, this can cause your insurance needs to become more complex.