In an excerpt from Entrepreneur.com, staff discuss the legal aspects of owning a food/lunch truck including licenses, permits, and registrations that mobile food business owners should know. As the only full-service point of sale provider — from software development to franchise incubator to ongoing support — part of Sintel’s commitment to our customers and business community is to share relevant ideas, information, and industry news. Prior to starting your venture it is always best to get legal issues in order.
Permits and licenses vary depending on state, county, and city ordinances making it impossible to outline every single one but there are some general guidelines that we can address.
Your local department of health should be your place to begin. All necessary guidelines and information can be obtained by visiting or calling the nearest location.
Most requirements will be based on your specialized method of operation; therefore, if you are selling prepackaged or cooking on site regulations will vary. Technically if you sell prepackaged items you aren’t a food handler and will face less rigid requirements.
When creating your food truck vehicle the designer will generally help you meet health standard requirements. Before you begin your trek, health inspectors are required to review the vehicle. Most inspections follow these varied guidelines:
- Proof of ownership, proper identification and vehicle license
- Proof of district-issued food manager identification card
- Food purchase storage and record keeping
- Depot, commissary or service support facility meets vending unit operation needs
- Copy of license for the service support facility and/or recent inspection report
Your vehicle will be inspected approximately once a year but are still subject to random visits at anytime. Inspectors check everything from how the food is stored and what temperature to the location you store your car during off times to ensure all fire and health codes are being followed.
Along with food and health related permits, you have to obtain business licenses. These also vary depending on state, county, or city. The place to begin filing business permits is city hall or your local county clerks office. Small fees apply for obtaining any documentation.
Businesses have to file DBA (Doing Business As) certificate, which legally states the business name your are working under. Most states require registration with state tax agencies. Permits include states sales and local tax. On the ferderal level employers are supposed to apply for EIN (Employer Identification Numbers). EIN’s are useful to identify your business and takes the place of using social security numbers. If you aren’t hiring employees, it is still needed for incorporated companies. EIN can be easily obtained by filing out a form on the IRS website.
Vehicle requirements differ by region. Proper registration is required for most states. Make sure to contact your local DMV for full requirements. Some states have commercial license for vehicles that weigh a certain amount. Check vehicle wight requirements for your state.
All permits required to operate your business expire. It is always important to renew permits before expiration date.
There are various parking and zoning restrictions a food truck must always be aware about. Some cities will not allow you to park near a school during or after school hours. Remember just because you are a mobile business does not mean you can park anywhere!
If you are thinking of becoming a mobile restaurant owner be sure to investigate all state, local, and federal requirements for future success.
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