The Licensing Process for Food Trucks

Awesome – you’ve been working on your food truck business plan and you think you’re about ready to get started! But there’s one thing you may not have thought of which should definitely be at the forefront of your mind right now … regulations associated with food trucks. New regulations are being proposed all the time and, in fact, one of the newest regulations being proposed are brand new licensing rules. These are definitely things you need to keep in mind before you get too far along the path to running your food truck.

Licensing Needs to Be Covered in Your Food Truck Business Plan

Your business plan needs to take into account all of the new regulations that are being proposed and the ones that have already been approved. This means you need to make certain you’ve not only read all of them but completely understood them as well. It will do you no good to come up with an excellent plan for products and where to sell if you don’t meet regulations and you aren’t able to get the license you need to get out there on the street in the first place.

Food Truck Business Plan

Ensure Your Food Truck Business Plan Addresses all of the Regulations You’ll Need to Adhere to in the Area in Which You’ll Operate

In Andover, food trucks are required to get a permit from the Board of Health. If a proposed plan goes through they will also be required to get a permit from the Board of Selectmen. This new permit will require them to submit a plan which follows a new host of regulations including operating out of an approved and licensed facility. It will also regulate where food trucks are able to park so as to not impede the traffic of everyday persons who wish to travel across sidewalks and public ways. They will also be required to pay annual fees and fines from violations.

Why Are New Regulations Being Introduced for Food Trucks?

These new regulations are being proposed because of the drastic influx of new food trucks. In general the new laws and regulations will ensure that food truck owners are following the old laws and regulations. What will change are the fees associated with operating under these new regulations. This means that you need to take into account increases in rates and increases in cost or number of permits required before you get out there at all. Your food truck business plan will need to account for all of these charges, especially if you hope to get financing from anywhere other than yourself.

Before you buy a food truck you need to ensure that you have done your due diligence. Look at the area you’re planning to work in and monitor the changes that have been going into effect recently. This will help you to get an idea of what might be proposed or accepted in the future. You may also want to look at current proposals so you can be sure you’re prepared if any of those happen to go through the approval process. This will ensure that you are ready no matter what might come your way.

The Requirements for Food Trucks Vary From State to State

When you think about your initial startup costs you likely think of the cost of the truck and the equipment you’ll need. You probably also think about the groceries that you’re going to need. Make sure you don’t forget about the permits required. The number of permits and the cost of those permits will vary drastically from one state to the next and may even vary from one city to the next. Before you try setting up shop anyway make sure you have the right permits and licenses to avoid getting expensive violation tickets.

“Make sure your food truck business plan reflects all of your startup costs even if you’re planning on paying for them yourself and don’t have to persuade financiers to loan you money.”

A food truck business doesn’t have to be complicated and it doesn’t have to be overly expensive. If you know what your community requires from you when you create your food truck business plan, rather than when you’re trying to get out on the street, you’ll be far better off and you’ll be able to save yourself some money in the way of fines. Make sure your food truck business plan reflects all of your startup costs even if you’re planning on paying for them yourself and don’t have to persuade financiers to loan you money. If you are approaching others for finance, they may think you forgot part of your costs and may decide you’re not conscientious enough for them to invest with. You’ll end up getting more help with your plans to buy a food truck if show you’ve done the work and the research thoroughly.

Is This How Your Mobile Food Truck Business Started?!

How Does a Food Truck Business Get Started?

“You went to a local food truck meet up and instantly an idea started to grow inside you.

You started to dream of beating out the competition by starting a food truck that knocks the socks off the others you’ve tried.

Now is the time to act on that idea and dream.

If you want to learn the secret to having the crowds lining up at your food truck to taste the revolutionary culinary creations,

enjoying your awesome customer service at hard to beat prices then Mobile Food Vendor can help.

If you want to start your own successful food truck business, you need to check out to get started.”

Well, perhaps not all food carts get started this way, but many do and that’s a great thing!  But it’s a bit like buying a house when you’re away on holiday and have fallen in love with a holiday destination – is that house going to be the best investment decision you’ve ever made (read “business decision”)?

Like the holiday purchase, the decision to become a mobile food vendor can be made based on emotion and whilst you’re swept up in the romance of it all.  Now, food trucks can be lucrative, thriving and enjoyable businessed – don’t get us wrong.  But the take-away point we want to make is that more than emotion needs to be used to assess the future of your business.

The reality is that competition exists, regulations exist, the fickleness of the consumer exists, costs (including unexpected ones) exist and all of these factors and many, many  more combine and interact to create the environment in which your food truck business will operate.

Ignore any one of them at your own peril!

The Food Truck Business Plan

That’s why exists.  We aim to provide the good, the bad and the ugly of starting – or if you’re already started and operating – or succeeding in your venture.  It might sound boring and stuffy to some to sit down and do paperwork, but it doesn’t have to be like that.  Firstly, you don’t have to do it on paper!  Hop on the laptop, computer, mobile device – whatever – and jot down your ideas.  In fact, your business plan doesn’t even need to be made up of sentences and paragraphs, really.  It certainly needs to be understandable, but what’s wrong with ‘dot points’?  Just get started with some research, like the guidance we’ve provided on this site.

Don't stress about business planning

Don’t stress about your food truck business plan, just get something reasonable jotted down.

As the old saying goes, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail”, so set aside at least an  hour, grab a snack and a drink, find somewhere that you won’t be disturbed and turn of all outside distractions.  Then start on a list of all of the things you’ll have to consider to make your food truck business a success – not just the romantic and emotional side (but that is really, really important!  that’s what is going to make you stand out from your competition!)  but also the things you have no control over.  The things in your environment that you have no control over exist whether you want them to or not and how you manage those risks will be the make or break of your business.

“Don’t stress about your food truck business plan, just get something reasonable jotted down.”

Stricter Health Department Regulations for Food Trucks

New York City Sets the Scene for Changes to the Food Truck Business

Are you thinking about starting your food truck business in New York City? If you are then this is definitely something you’re going to want to read and if you’re not … well you’ll want to hear what we have to say as well as this sets the scene for what may start to happen in every corner of the country. The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is beginning to more closely regulate food truck businesses throughout the state of New York. This department is responsible for inspecting every food truck that ever hits the streets in this state before it is allowed to serve food to the public. This is important for the safety of everyone in the city and it’s something you can no doubt understand and appreciate.

Stricter Health Department Regulations for Food Trucks

Hot Dog Cart Business in the Big Apple

What Does this Mean for Your Food Truck?

What does an increase in regulations mean to you however? As a resident food truck business in New York City it means you need to follow specific rules on equipment and sanitary practices. It also means you have specific methods of storing your carts overnight. Unfortunately it also means a cap on the number of food trucks that are allowed to be parked on any street, and with a waiting list that is a mile long. No matter what type of food you sell or where you want to sell it you could be stuck on this waiting list for a very long time.

Unfortunately it also means a cap on the number of food trucks that are allowed to be parked on any street, and with a waiting list that is a mile long.

Over the last year there have been over 3,000 inspections within Queens alone with over 2,000 resulting in issuance of violations. Of those a total of over 300 carts were closed down and almost 40 were seized entirely. All of this means that the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is really cracking down on keeping the general public safe from food-borne illnesses. But what if you aren’t a food truck business in NYC?

No matter where you live or where you want to set up shop you need to start by paying attention to the rules and regulations of your neighborhood. Take the time to look up anything that could affect your business and then take the time to walk through the area you want to set up. How many food truck vendors are already there? What kinds of food are they selling? What kind of business are they getting? All of these things added to your knowledge of the regulations of your area will help you to determine what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it.  The answers to these questions are all critical inclusions in your food truck business plan.

Are regulations going to affect your business? Absolutely they will. And whatever the rules are right now – be aware that they may change and you will have to keep abreast of those changes.   You’re going to need to make sure that you’re following all of the newest regulations as soon as they are passed. You’re also going to need to make sure that you’re keeping up to date on all of those regulations so that you do follow them at all times. Prempt changes, even, as your business and your livelihood is at stake. If you don’t then you could end up with citations from your local Department of Health. Expensive fines or being shut down are definitely not things that you’re going to want at any point during your food truck career.

Does This Mean the End To Your Food Truck Business?

Is this a threat? No it’s not. If you’re planning to run your food truck business as a career then you know that you need to keep it healthy for your potential customers. That means you need to serve them quality food from a vehicle that meets Health Dept Regulations. You definitely don’t want to be breaking food regulations even if you could get away with it because then people wouldn’t want to come back to your truck and you’d be out of business before you even really got started at all. So the fact that new regulations are coming out is not a threat to you. It means you will likely have to spend a little more money but you won’t have to worry about it stopping you from getting started in the first place.

Selling Cupcakes is a Food Truck Business

Cupcake Trucks have become a very popular type of Food Truck Business

If you ensure that you’re reading up on the rules around your area then you will be able to fit all the regulations from the start which means there will be no reason for the health department to deny your petition for a permit. You’ll be ready to get started out on the streets right away and the fact that you’re serving safe food to your customers means that they’ll want to keep coming back on their lunch breaks again and again.

If you have your heart set on operating your food truck business in the New York City area and the waiting lists prevent you, you’ll realize that another location will be your best bet while you sit out your turn on the waiting list.  There is competition and opportunity in any market and you may be surprised to find that an alternative, possibly overlooked area where there are none or few mobile food trucks, may prove more profitable for you. Where might the untapped opportunities exist for you, that others have failed to see?  Take any knock-back as a challenge and look for the opportunity door that opens as one door closes.

How to Find Good Food Trucks for Sale

First step – start looking at food trucks for sale. After all, if you’re looking to get started in the food truck business then you’re going to need to get started where everyone gets started – buy a food truck. Of course there are plenty of ways that you can find your first truck. Some people choose to purchase brand new mobile food trucks that are custom-made for everything they want while others decide that they would rather start out with a used truck that costs less money and gets them out there faster. It’s all going to be up to you and what you want most.

Used Food Trucks on eBay

Used food trucks for sale are found in many places – even on eBay!

Finding New Food Trucks for Sale

New food trucks can come a few different ways. You can go to a shop that builds food trucks and buy one from their show room in much the same way as you would buy any other brand new car. You would be able to select from a variety of different colors and styles but you’d be buying something that has already been built. It is possible to make changes or adjustments to that truck after you buy it but in most cases these trucks would be ready to hit the road!

The other option when you find a shop with new food trucks for sale is to custom make your own. In these cases you would be able to select absolutely everything from the inside out on your truck. You could make it whatever color you want, whatever size you want and you could put any amenities that you need on the inside. This is great for people who really want to jump in with both feet because you’ll have exactly what you want right from the start. Of course it takes a little longer this way because you need to wait for your truck to be built but you can rest assured it will be perfect for what you want because you designed it.

Finding Used Food Trucks for Sale

Your third option is to purchase a used truck. Once again you can often find these on the lot of companies that build food trucks. They could also be in different colors and styles and you’ll likely have your pick of several but you’ll have slightly less options. You’ll also have to contend with problems like wear, rust, and outdated pieces. You may have to contend with high mileage even because these vehicles have been used before.  If you find a cheap food truck for sale, don’t just rush in and buy it. Check it out thoroughly – there may be a good reason why it’s cheap!

When you decide to purchase a used truck you want to make sure you’re looking it over carefully and taking into account everything that you may have to fix up or change when you think of cost. After all that used truck may look like the better deal but if you have to put a lot more work (and therefore money) into it to get it ready then it’s really not the best choice for you. You may want to go with a new truck after all.

Be aware that you can search for used food trucks on eBay.  Buy a food truck online?  Who would have thought!  The same due diligence goes for any item you consider buying online – check it out thoroughly, including the seller.  For a high value item like a food truck, certainly plan to take some time getting to know the seller, their reasons for selling, the condition of the truck etc.

Avoid Getting a Lemon

We all know what a lemon is of course; it’s the car that you should never have bought because it’s really about useless. This is the car that needs pretty much every repair in the book and it looks like it too. You want to make sure that before you purchase a food truck you’re taking a close look online to determine what the requirements are for a food truck in your area. Then you’ll be able to ensure you’re getting the most for your money.

Another tip is to take a mechanic along with you. They’ll be able to check out all the components of the truck and make sure that it doesn’t need any costly repairs. From there you’ll just need to make sure that you’re checking over the body (look for rust or signs that the truck has recently been painted) and checking out any equipment that might be still in the truck. You want to make sure that even though things are older they are still good quality and you’ll still be able to get some good use out of them. Otherwise they’re not worth the money you’ll spend and you’ll end up regretting your purchase later.

Check the Regulations

Make sure before you get started with any of this that you’re checking all the rules and regulations for your state and local area. You need to be sure that you’re getting at the very least the minimum required parts for your truck. You need to make sure that you’re not getting something that’s been declared unsafe or unhealthy because that means you’ll have to do a lot of upgrading to get that truck out on the street. This could happen whether you buy new or used so be careful.

Also make sure that the truck you choose fits the rules for where you want to set up. There may be different regulations if you want to set up shop at the festival versus if you want to set up on a street corner. Make sure you know what all the rules are so you end up with something that will do what you want wherever you want it. You can find food trucks for sale quite easily but knowing what they’re really worth is sometimes more difficult.

“Don’t rush into the decision.  Ideally spend several months searching, looking and analyzing food trucks for sale that meet your criteria.”

Don’t rush into the decision.  Ideally spend several months searching, looking and analyzing food trucks for sale that meet your criteria.  And inspect as many as you possibly can.  Only once you’ve looked at all the sale prices of food trucks (repeat sale price, not asking price – they’re two different things!) and can compare the condition of one vehicle with another, will you be comparing apples for apples.  Remember, this is business.  The decision must be make on the numbers, not on emotion.  Food truck vendors need to be as savvy as the next business person, and if you have to start with a slightly lesser vehicle than that of your dreams, it may well be with good reason.

What does it take to run a food truck?

Are You the Right Person for the Job?

Mobile Food Business owner

Not everyone is a good fit for owning a food truck business, no matter how passionate they might feel. Falling in love with the idea of a food truck, and running it successfully requires several other skills, traits and commitments.

  • Energy and Motivation

    – The more energy you have, the more likely you are to succeed in the mobile food business. This is an active job where you’re going to be on your feet for long hours and you need to be up to the task.

  • Commitment to Planning and Strategizing

    – The food truck business is like any other business – it doesn’t just happen.  It requires the owner to go through a thorough planning process to get their ideas put down in concrete terms that can be actioned.  We have a free mobile food business plan available on this site  – CLICK HERE to access it.

  • Organization Skills

    – Being able to multitask and still remain organized is essential. Since you will be handling everything from food preparation to bills and other tasks, you need to be a person who knows how to balance it all without dropping anything.

  • Experience in the Food Industry

    – Even a small amount of experience and exposure to the food industry will help you succeed in the business of mobile food trucks. Having at least a short background in what it takes to run a restaurant or some other food service will allow you to have an understanding of the multifaceted world of managing a food operation. Continue reading

Finding a Mobile Food Truck Niche

Your Mobile Food Truck Niche

As with any small business, you need to make sure that you find a niche in your market. Though some people think that being everything to everyone is the way to build and maintain a customer base, it’s really how you stand out, that makes you special in the food service market.

Moble Food Trucks

At this point you need to ask yourself some basic questions about the area in which you anticipate working:

  • What food is already available?
  • What are people willing to spend on a meal, a drink or a handmade treat?
  • What sorts of foods are missing?  Where could I add value?
  • What ethnicities are present?
  • What is the competition doing right (or wrong)?
  • What are customers looking for from mobile food vendors?

You can find out the answers to these questions by becoming a sleuth in the local market. Look at the other mobile food trucks and mobile food establishments to see what they offer, how they’re pricing their food, how they’re serving their food, etc. This process will help you see where you might fit into the market without directly competing with anyone.

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Financing a Mobile Food Truck Business

Smaller businesses are often in need of financing more often than others and mobile food vendors are no different. Because you’re not working with a larger company, you’ll need to find funding to get started, and you’ll need to continue to have funding as you continue to grow and to manage your food truck business. While you might have some funding to begin, you will need to look at the future to see how much more funding you will require as your business grows.
Food Truck Business Plan

Use a Food Truck Business Plan Template (such as the one available on to Plan Your Food Truck Success

You have a number of options when it comes to funding your food truck business

The mobile food business does actually require more funding than one might initially imagine.  Once you’ve worked out how much it might cost to get started, then you’ll be looking for the funding.  Give some thought to the places you might find sufficient funding as you’re going through your business planning process.  Finance will be a major section of your mobile food vendor business plan.  Some sources you may consider for obtaining finance are :

  • Personal savings
  • Friends and family
  • Banks
  • Credit unions
  • Private investors

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