The rules and regulations surrounding food trucks vary from state to state and city to city. But there are some overarching permits and licenses that you’ll need as a food truck business. In your area they may go under different names, but they cover similar things.
Check with your local city and state business offices to obtain a list of exactly what you’ll need. In some areas, you’ll also need to have licenses and permits for any area you plan to visit to sell your food. If, for example, you are crossing state lines to sell at a music festival, you’ll have to comply with your home state and the visiting state.
Here is a list of the most common licenses, permits, and certifications you need to open and sell food from a food truck.
First things first, if you’re starting a food truck business, you’ll need to have the business side of things covered.
Business License or Vendor License: Available from your state, a business license (sometimes called a vendor license) registers your food truck as a business.
Tax ID: A tax number is basically a permit from your state that gives you the authority to collect sales tax. You’ll also need it if you are purchasing ingredients or supplies in bulk or wholesale. In some states, this number is often also your business number assigned to you on your business license.
Employer Identification Number (EIN): An EIN is a federal identification number for your business. It will be used on forms and applications instead of your personal social insurance number.
Your truck comes with it’s own requirements – it is a motor vehicle after all.
Driver’s License and Registration: No surprise here, you definitely need a driver’s license and proof of registration. Note that the weight of your truck matters for the type of license that you need, and it’s possible that you’ll be required to have a commercial driver’s license. It’s also possible that your truck will need commercial plates. Check with your local DMV to confirm what’s required to comply.
Similar to a restaurant or any food seller, permits and certificates are required from your health state department to ensure that food handling is up to standard.
Mobile Food Vendor Permit: Sometimes called a Mobile Food Vendor License, this is the hardest permit to obtain. Some cities have a limited number that can be in use at one time, others do a lottery to decide who gets one, and even others have long waiting lists that go into the years. Check with your city to see what’s in store and how hard or easy it’ll be for you to get yours.
Food Handler or Certified Food Manager Certificate: Standard for any foodservice business, food handler training, (also known as a Food Manager Certificate) is required for storing, cooking, and handling food.
Facility Record and Food Purchase Records: In some cities and states, food is not allowed to be prepared on a truck, but instead the use of a facility is required. In this situation, paper records of use of the facility, depot, or commissary is necessary.
Parking Permit: Pretty much everywhere, food trucks are not permitted to park wherever they want. So you’ll need permits for the areas in which your truck will be stationed, and in addition, you’re often also required to pay for parking too.
It’s important to note that before you can hit the road, your vehicle will need to be inspected by your city’s health department. Once you’re on the road selling up a storm, you can expect an inspection at least once a year – often a surprise visit from a health inspector, so you’ll need to have proof of the permits, licenses, and certificates below with you to show the inspector.
After you have all of your paperwork in order, it’s time to hit the open road and start selling your delicious food to customers!
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About the Author
Andrea is a Content Marketing Specialist and Editor at TouchBistro where she writes about restaurant and dining trends, restaurant management, and food culture. A self-affirmed food geek, Andrea devours cookbooks and food blogs. She also knows how to make a killer kale salad.More Content by Andrea Victory