A Guide to Food Truck Licensing, Part 1

The food truck industry is relatively new and related laws have not caught up with the times in some places, especially when it comes to food truck licensing and rules. You may find that there are no laws specifically relevant to food trucks where you live and that you can get by without certain local permits.

Or you may find it nearly impossible to snag one legally. In New York City, the laws are out of date and written for the days when hot dog-hawkers were the only mobile food vendors hitting the streets.

The limit on the number of permits, combined with the fact that no one gives them up, means you could be waiting for ten years if you plan on going the traditional route without breaking any laws.

Most cities have more encouraging statistics, but there may be a waiting list, so make sure to begin the process of researching and obtaining permits and licenses far before you plan to open your food truck.

In other cities and states, laws have been adjusted to reflect the advent of mobile food vending, for better and for worse, promoting either economic growth via small businesses and food trucks or brick-and-mortar restaurants over mobile ones.

Food truck advocates are pushing for more friendly regulations in many parts of the country, so laws are changing quickly. It’s important to stay current and joining a local food truck association is a great way to do so.

Not only will this keep you updated on changes that affect your business, it will also provide you with a wealth of resources regarding the essential permits and how to acquire them.

The licenses and permits needed to open a food truck and the challenges faced in the process depend on location. If you plan to operate in more than one jurisdiction, you will likely need more than one set of licenses and permits.

You must look into regulations at the federal, state, county, and city or town levels. Although the specifics will vary, there are some standard places to start.

While figuring out the permitting puzzle might not be the most fulfilling part of opening a food truck, it is absolutely necessary to get right and worth dedicating ample time to completing.

You will not be able to operate, at least for very long, unless you address every law applicable to your business. As you conduct research, compile a list of questions you have, permits you need to apply for, and government agencies you need to contact in order to maintain organization and track progress.

Business & Taxes

Finding out which business and tax-related licenses you’ll need, and making sure you have all of the supporting documentation, can be quite complicated. Start with incorporation filing, or registering your food truck as a business with the Secretary of State’s Office.

The type of entity you decide to register your business as determines how you will pay your taxes, how much you will pay, and how much liability you will personally carry. The most common choice for a mobile food business is a Limited Liability Company, or LLC.

This option combines numerous positive aspects of partnerships and corporations, providing some protection over personal assets, offering options on how profits are distributed, and making registration and taxes easier to complete. Look into the full details regarding each type of entity and consult a lawyer to assist in choosing the best fit for your vision, business objectives, and personal goals.