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10 Things You Should Know Before Opening A Food Truck
Last edited: 8/8/11
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Opening a food truck business
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Been There, Done That...Youngbuck-
Having done concessions and mobile food units in a prior life, I might be able to give you some insight you may not get on websites trying to sell you a truck.
When you say a truck, keep in mind you will still need to have a base station, IE. production kitchen to work out of. Some people have a friend's restaurant they work out of. Sure, you are going to hear that you can get a big truck with a hood system, grills, fryers, etc.. You will be limited by the size of your truck as to how much you can produce, hence, how much $ you will make. Keep in mind that concessions generally make the bulk of their revenue at special events, fairs, etc.. in a short amount of time. In other words, you have to crank it out fast- turn and burn while you have the customers there. Trying to produce everything in a truck will limit the turnover time.
Also, if you have a production kitchen, it needs to be a licensed facility. Working out of your house or garage is not legal. While you might get away with it, you set yourself up for huge liability concerns.
The second piece of being successful in the concession business is exactly the same as a freestanding restaurant.....location.....location....location. In the fair and special event business, your "spot", or location, is everything. You may notice at the State Fair you will see the same joints in the same spot year after year. It takes years for vendors to work their way up to a good spot at some of the larger events. When I sold my last concession, I was really selling the contracts that I had at the events. So don't think you will just pull into the first event and are told to set up on 42nd and Broadway- that will take time to work up to.
With food concessions especially, some events don't even let new vendors in until an old one leaves. For example, they will only have 4 fried dough vendors, 6 sausage vendors, etc.. You can put yourself on a list at most events, just hope the administrators don't have a brother in law in the food business.
Most events are booked several months ahead of time. Contact them early.
Permits and licensing are huge and vary from location to location. Make sure you know what you need before you set up. I have been set up at a fair and some guy from the County Clerk's office shows up asking to see my special event permit which I knew nothing about. They can shut you down until you get the permit.
Mobile food vending is a rough business. If you really want to try it, start by doing some small weekend events and don't quit your regular job until you get up and running.
food truckgood timing. My brother is selling his truck. it is in great condition and ready with all necessary accessories like: stove, fridge, sinks, counters, ramp...it is a chevy stepvan with vinyl lettering for easy removal. if you are serious please email i will send more details. it is in Mio Michigan, he is asking $8500.
Can anyone lead me in the right direction to licenses and permits for a food truck in Oklahoma....Just moved here and am running into nothing but red tape and getting any information on zoning,permits or even licensing....Have a message in with health dept, but found this site and wanted to see if anyone could point me in the right direction..... email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Go to the city or county offices that you plan to work in, inquire about what is needed for a mobile food vendor license. This could be as simple as paying for a business license, or having to deal with planning, zoning, fire marshall et all.
Every city, county, state is different. Some very difficult, some very easy.
You need to get with the health dept, find out their wants. Work with them, go in there confident in your knowledge of the business, understand sanitation and food safety....they like that. Get your food handlers card. Do you have a truck now? You need to know the rules better than the hd....
There's lots of good advice from every one else. But don't take credit unless its money you can afford to loose. Insurance companies underpin all financial transactions, and despite your best efforts, lets say something happens, the insurance companies will stop you getting a loan, not the bank or the car dealership or the phone company and there's no way around it. I have been keen to get into food for a long time and a short while ago I kicked off. I built a mobile food processing trailer. What is great about it is that I have the world wide patten on the design but we can do some great things with it. Its versitile so if your little cart or mobile truck isn't versatile consider your options. If you can't be flexible it leaves you a little short if some thing doesn't quite work. I make 165 litres of Jam in my trailer every day $3,000 in my pocket every day. But if that doesn't work I can make sauce (which we do 230 litres a day) and if that doesn't sell I can make fruit or meat pies (2,500 a day) with a great automatic pie machine (which we do). You've had great advice from Uni chef he was supportive but a bit wary. Monday's are a great day to piggy back on some else's kitchen making jam or sauce just to kick things off. Start your brand and do it the cheapest way you can and get cash flow. I am hopeful that the truck will be great for you, but I wonder that it may be a long road, when you could hit the ground running in other things. Good Luck.
In response to “UniChef” ....Actually, it depends on what state you live in as to whether or not it is legal to prepare food in your home to sell on a concession trailer or truck. I live in Florida and it IS legal here, BUT you must have the proper permits to do so...and also MUST have the County Health Dept. come out and inspect the kitchen just as they do any other restaurant!
I know this because I own a concession trailer!
There are several thing you will want to consider Youngbuck...make sure you have contacted your specific county’s business license dept (usually at the same location as the tag agency and/or marriage licenses)...they can fill you in on what is required for where you live...sometimes it is even different if you are in city limits or out of them, so be sure to contact them FIRST!
These are the guidelines for Florida…this may be different for Texas…
· Mobile vendors in Florida must register with the state's department of revenue in order to collect and report sales tax revenues. In addition, cities require that street vendors obtain a local business tax number.
· You must carry General Liability Insurance.
· You must carry Workman’s Compensation Insurance IF you have over 4 employees.
· You must carry business vehicle Insurance on the trailer/truck itself, a personal vehicle policy will not suffice.
· Hot dog carts and any mobile vendor preparing and selling food products must follow inspection laws similar to restaurants and other dining establishments. Street vendors selling food must register with the Florida's division of hotels and restaurants.
· You MUST pass Catering/Preparing Inspection preformed by the State Department of Health, in order to obtain your food handlers permit.
· Hot dog vendors and other concession carts in Florida must constantly move, pausing only on a customer's request. Some municipalities do not allow food vendors to cook food on the cart or truck. However, additional permits may allow for operating at fairs and festivals is allowed for the length of the fair/festival.
I hope this gives you a little more insight…if you would like to talk more about the business, I’d be more than happy to share what I have learned with you. Just give me a shout! :)
It’s a fun and wonderful business to be in…everybody ALWAYS eats…even in this economy. They always buy food at fairs and festivals…especially the ones that are free for them to enter. They justify it because it didn’t cost them to get in, so they can splurge on a little snack. We’ve all done it before… ~smiles~
Edited by TheCrepeLady - 4/7/11 at 11:21am
Youngbuck, I also am beginning my venture into the Mobile Food Truck operation. There are a lot of great suggestions. I've done a great deal of research on the Texas Health Dept page and found the TEFR is the main baseline but city and county also have their own guidlines as well. I went the the city health department web site and just asked for the information as I was having a lot of difficulty finding it. The HD Mgr sent me the information to my email and so far I've had no issues with understanding his documents. TEFR is very dificlut to follow and reads more like a legal document than anything else so I was lost, frustrated and had a headache! Anyway I'll be working in West TX, Southern NM and SE OK and all of them are different. Even different for temporary permits vs the regular route areas if you are going to do this daily. READ, READ and ask your health dpt questions, so far they have been very helpful.
street food/ food trucks are blowing up in the downtwon district in phoenix they just opened a concept retuarant catered to the younger genration called cycle its at a swank hotel here and the word cycle has multiple meanings cause it cycles resturants by having food trucks cater upscale street food for a cpl weeks at a time and it is also aimed at the cyclers who ride area in this area.
its kind of cool, i checked out the filipino street truck a cpl weeks ago
Hi CrepeLady, I was just reading your notes on cooking at home and was wondering where you think I may find supporting information that allows me to cook at home. I live in FL and I called the FL DEpt of Biz and Prof Reg and was told this was a no-no. Maybe it varies on the county but maybe I asked the wrong question too. Thanks for your help.
CrepeLady - I live in FL too and just sold my restaurant of 10 yrs. Cooking in the home is a NO-NO. Unless you have some personal experience and documentation....At any rate, I have a commercial location I can use for some prep. But is it necessary or can you have a product(s) that can be made only on the truck? Do you make your batter in the kitchen then bring it to the trailer/truck or do you make on the truck? Is your prep done elsewhere and not on the truck - like for cut fruit, vegetables, and meats? Thanks for the info if you can provide it...very interested in this.
say your questions.....i havesome of the same questions....but i think i have someanswers for you also...would like to talk and exchange info...i am cosidering doing this up in indianapolis....i am also from new oreleans with almost 40 years in the rest biz.....my e-mail is email@example.com....thanks
Found this on google search in Florida. From The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Food Safety Guidelines for Mobile Food Establishments Commissary Letter of Agreement. This will answer most of you questions as to what the State requires. It clearly states a private residence may not be used as a commissary I am sure plenty of people do it, but, when you get someone sick or worse! you will pay the price.
This is the link below. Good luck with your venture.
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