How to Start a Food Truck Business in California

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What Permits Do I Need to Open a Food Truck?

To sell food legally, you'll need food truck insurance as well as the necessary permits and licenses from your city and state. Because licenses might have different names, check with your county clerk or state business office to be sure you've covered all of your bases. Regardless of where you reside, the following are the most typically necessary food truck permissions and licenses:

1.License to Do Business

A business license, also known as a "vendor license" or "basic business operation license," permits you to run a company in the city and state of your choice. The government will recognize your activity as a real business and will be able to track it for tax purposes if you obtain the license.

A food truck business license might cost anywhere from and 0, depending on your city's application fees and requirements. Make sure you're aware of your license's expiration date and how to renew it. Some jurisdictions will only issue a limited number of mobile food vendor permits, putting new vendors in a lottery, so apply as soon as you finish your food truck business plan. Visit your county clerk's website or the US Small Business Administration website to learn how to apply for a business license.

2. Employer Identification Number (EIN) (Employer Identification Number)

An Employer Identification Number, often known as an EIN or Social Security Number, is a federal tax identification number used to establish your firm with the Internal Revenue Service. It enables you to register a business bank account, establish a credit profile, and hire workers. This number is provided by some states along with your company license.

The IRS will provide you an Employer Identification Number for free if you apply online, by fax, or by mail. Because processing time might take up to four weeks, make sure you apply well ahead of time.

2. A valid driver's license

To operate a food truck, you'll need a valid state driver's license as well as registration for your truck, just like you would for a vehicle. Your basic driver's license will sufficient in most states. Other states, on the other hand, will consider the weight and length of your vehicle to decide if you need a commercial driver's license.

Depending on the state and license type, a driver's license can cost anywhere from $10 to $100. For further information on the criteria and application procedure for a driver's license, contact your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

4. Permit to Work as a Food Handler

Those who finish food handler training and a food safety course are awarded a food handler's permit, sometimes known as a "food handler's license" or "food management certificate." Only the manager-on-shift is necessary to secure the permit in most states. If food is handled, prepared, cooked, or kept on the premises, other states require one or more employees to have a valid permit at all times. Customers will have piece of mind knowing that your food truck team is informed and skilled in hygienic and safe food handling techniques thanks to the permit. Having qualified managers also ensures that a health inspector knows that someone on staff is well-versed in food safety.

Permits for food handlers usually cost less than and are good for around 5 years. Most, if not all, staff on a food truck will be required to have their food handlers' certificate, with the cards being shown to the public. To get a food handler's permit, go to the ServSafe website and get the study materials as well as find a testing location near you.

5. A permit from the Department of Health

The health department issues a permit, often known as a "food service license," indicating that your vehicle passed the health inspection. A health department agent will inspect your vehicle for health code violations and present you with comments on what has to be fixed, as well as an overall grade for your truck. They look for adequate food storage, general hygiene, and well-defined HACCP programs. Your health score must be published where customers can see it in most cities.

Depending on the city, a health department permit might cost anywhere from $50 to $1,000. To request and schedule a visit from an inspector, contact your local health department by phone or email.

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Food Truck Licenses and Permits Issued by Cities

Each state and city will have its own set of permissions that food truck operators must get before they can start operating. Large cities usually have a list of the permissions required for food trucks operating in their jurisdiction. If you operate in smaller towns, though, you may find it more difficult to gather information. Following are a few examples of food truck permits and licenses you may face after purchasing a food truck:

1. Permission of the Seller

Some jurisdictions need a seller's permit to allow foodservice operators to acquire materials and supplies at wholesale costs without paying sales tax. So that the item is not taxed twice, the tax would be collected when the product is sold to buyers. To find out if a seller's permit is required in your state and how to apply for one, go to the website of your local state government.

2. Fire Certificates

In certain counties, not only the health department but also the fire department will need to check your food truck. In most circumstances, this will only be required if your vehicle has culinary equipment and gas connections. You probably won't require a fire inspection if you solely sell refrigerated foods, but it's smart to double-check with your local authorities just in case. The fire department will inspect your cooking equipment for appropriate installation and operation, as well as your electrical wiring and whether or not your vehicle has a fire suppression system.

Parking Permits (No. 3)

Check with your local county clerk to see whether parking permits are required in the locations where you want to serve your cuisine. Some streets may be completely off-limits to food trucks, or they may be restricted by time and day. Other towns have set dates for food trucks to decrease traffic and stagger their appearance on the streets. During business hours, your parking permit will tell you where and when you can park your truck. It will also tell you if you may park your vehicle on the street overnight or whether it has to be kept in a garage while not in use.

4. The Commissary's Letter of Agreement

Before venturing out for the day in your food truck, your city may require you to keep your supplies and prepare meals in a commissary kitchen. If that's the case, you could also require a commissary letter of agreement, which is a signed document between you and the commissary owner that confirms your access to the facility and the services you're allowed to use on site. The commissary would offer you with a cooking area, as well as fresh water, garbage service, and food storage, among other things.

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) Documentation

Although it's uncommon, a few localities require food truck operators to submit a standard operating procedures paper before they open to the public. This document should detail the steps you and your team use to complete jobs on your truck. You'll need detailed step-by-step instructions on how to prepare each dish, how to clean and sterilize your equipment, and how to lock up your truck for the night. Some food truck entrepreneurs keep a copy of these materials in their training manual.