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Paperwork You May Need for a Food Truck Business

The business licenses and permits you’ll need for your food truck business differ for each city, county, and state. Also, some areas may require you to register your business annually, collecting a fee each time. To find out what you need for the area your business will be located in, talk to your county or city clerk.

The laws and regulations of any area are subject to change, so you may want to join your local restaurant or food truck association to stay informed on the changes in laws and local government officials and how they’ll affect your business.

A simple Internet search can help you find these organizations, or you can speak with current food truck owners in your town to find out what organizations they belong to.

Here are some of the licenses and permits you may need for your food truck business:

  • Business license: Depending on the area you operate in, you may be charged a percentage of your gross sales or a simple yearly fee to operate your business.

  • Vehicle license: Because your business is on wheels, you’ll have to make sure the truck itself and its drivers are properly licensed. Depending on the length and weight of the vehicle, certain states may require a commercial driver’s license to operate your truck.

  • Health department permit: Just as any restaurant is required to be inspected by the health department, your mobile restaurant will also need the review and approval of your local health department to verify that the food you prepare is being maintained and created in a safe manner.

  • Food handler’s license or permit: Having one of these licenses or permits is necessary to sell edible goods. Each county and state has its own set of rules and fees. Health inspectors will regularly inspect your truck to make sure you’re running a clean mobile food business. Most states require you (and all your food handling staff) to take a one- to two-day course on food safety.

  • Fire certificates: The fire department will undoubtedly inspect your food truck if you’re using cooking equipment on board. They’ll educate you on the regulations you need to follow, and they’ll do routine inspections on your food truck fire suppression system.

  • Music license: If you intend to play music in your truck (and play it loud enough for your customers to hear) and if your local laws allow, you may need a music license to play copyrighted music. The license is necessary even if you play music from personally owned CDs.

  • Liquor license: As of the time of this writing, only one food truck, the Pera Turkish Tacos truck in New York City, has been able to attain a license to distribute alcohol to its patrons. You may want to speak with your local licensing board to find out whether this type of license can be approved in your area.

Although this list isn’t complete, it’s a good sampling of the most common forms of approvals you’ll need. Operating without a required license or permit can expose your business to fines and penalties. In some cases, those fines can be levied for each day you remain out of compliance, which adds up fast.

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