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5 Licenses and Permits Food Trucks Need

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5 Licenses and Permits Food Trucks Need to Open: Essential Guide for Starting a Food Truck Business



The food truck industry is sizzling hot! With a whopping 75.8% revenue share dating back to 2021, it's no surprise many dreams of joining the mobile food scene. But, before you trade in your spatula for a steering wheel, obtain the proper licenses first to ensure smooth sailing.

This article will teach you about the five key licenses you'll need to get your food truck up and running legally. Whether you're a seasoned restaurateur or a culinary newcomer, understanding these permits will surely benefit you in your food truck journey.

What licenses and permits are required to start a food truck?

Common Food Truck Licenses and Permits Needed to Start a Food Truck Business

1. Business License

To legally operate a food truck, you need a business license, a basic requirement for any food business. This permit, issued by your local city and state government, allows you to operate your food truck within a specific jurisdiction.

It ensures that your food truck is recognized as a legitimate business and allows you to track your operations for tax purposes. Without this license, you cannot legally sell your food.

2. Health Department Permit

A health department permit is essential for meeting health code standards. This permit verifies that your food truck complies with local health department regulations, ensuring that your truck and food preparation areas are clean and safe.

The health department will inspect your truck for proper food storage, prep areas, and overall sanitation. This permit is critical for a mobile food vendor to prepare and sell food to the public legally.

3. Food Handler's Permit

Anyone working on your food truck, including the owner, needs a food handler’s permit. This permit requires completing a food safety course and passing an exam, ensuring that everyone on the truck understands how to handle food safely.

This is vital for preventing foodborne illnesses and complying with local health regulations. Food handler training is mandatory for all food prep and service employees.

4. Fire Department Permit

A fire department permit is required to ensure your food truck is safe from fire hazards. The department will examine your truck to verify it has necessary fire safety equipment, such as fire extinguishers and fire suppression systems.

This inspection ensures that your mobile food establishment meets all fire safety regulations. This permit is significant for your food truck operation's safety and to prevent fire-related incidents.

5. Parking Permit

A parking permit is essential for legally parking and operating your food truck in designated areas. Different cities have varying regulations on where food trucks can park, and this permit helps you navigate those rules.

Securing a parking permit ensures you comply with local parking laws, helping you avoid fines and allowing you to operate your food truck without disruptions.

Essential Requirements for Starting a Food Truck

Employer Identification Number (EIN)

You need an Employer Identification Number (EIN) to register your business with the IRS. This number is integral for tax purposes, opening a business bank account, and hiring employees.

It's like a Social Security number for your business, making it possible to manage your finances legally and efficiently. To get your EIN, check your local IRS office or the IRS website for details on how to apply.

Commercial Driver’s License

Depending on your state and the size of your food truck, you might need a commercial driver’s license (CDL). This license ensures that you're legally allowed to drive a larger vehicle.

This is also essential for meeting state-specific regulations for operating your food truck. You can get a CDL from your local department of motor vehicles (DMV). Make sure to check your local DMV requirements, as they can vary.

Seller’s Permit

A seller’s permit allows you to sell food and collect sales tax. This permit is a must-have for complying with state business regulations. Without it, you can't legally conduct sales, which is critical for your food truck operation.

Check your local state requirements to see the specific licenses you need. This permit is essential to operate a food truck and keep your business compliant.

Commissary Letter of Agreement

In some areas, you need a commissary letter of agreement. This document proves that your food truck has a designated place to prepare and store food, ensuring you comply with health department standards.

It's an agreement that ties you to a licensed kitchen where you can safely prepare food and store your supplies. Check your local health department for the specific requirements in your area.

Food Truck Business Plan

A food truck business plan is your roadmap. It outlines your business goals, strategies, and the necessary licenses and permits you need. This plan helps you stay organized, make informed decisions, and meet all legal requirements for your new food truck business.

The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers resources to help you create a comprehensive business plan. Your plan should detail the type of food you will serve, the grade for your truck, and the licenses needed to start your foodservice business.

Health Code Compliance

Sticking to local health code regulations is non-negotiable. Regular health inspections will ensure your truck meets all food safety and hygiene standards.

Compliance is critical to avoid fines and ensure your food truck remains operational. Check with your local health department to understand the specific health permit requirements and schedule for inspections.

Credit Profile

Building a credit profile for your business can help you secure financing. This is essential for purchasing ingredients and supplies, and equipment necessary for your food truck.

A good credit profile can also help you get better terms on loans and lines of credit. This allows you to open accounts with suppliers and manage cash flow more effectively.

Tax ID

A tax ID is necessary for tax purposes and legally operating a food truck. This ID helps you track your business's financial activities, ensuring you comply with all tax laws and regulations.

It's essential for maintaining accurate financial records and managing your business efficiently. You may also need this ID to apply for certain licenses and permits specific to your type of food business.

Further reading: Food Truck Fortune: Unveiling the Earning Potential of Running a Food Truck

How Accountants and Bookkeepers Assist in Obtaining Licenses and Permits

1. Ensuring Compliance

Accountants and bookkeepers ensure your food truck business complies with all local, state, and federal regulations. They help you navigate the permits and licenses required to operate legally. By understanding the specific licensing requirements for your area, they assist in completing the necessary paperwork accurately.

They ensure that all business licenses and permits are obtained correctly, helping you avoid legal issues that could disrupt your food service operations. It's essential to check with your local authorities to confirm the exact requirements for your food truck.

2. Managing Financial Documentation

Obtaining a food truck permit often requires detailed financial documentation. Accountants and bookkeepers manage and organize proof of business ownership, tax identification numbers (EIN), and insurance documents. They make sure that all your documents are in order, which is essential when applying for various food truck permits and licenses.

This meticulous management helps you meet the requirements for food truck operations, making the process smoother and more efficient. They ensure that the number that registers your business with the IRS is correctly documented and ready for submission.

3. Budgeting for Permit Fees

Starting a food truck involves several expenses, including the fees for licenses and permits. An accountant helps you create a budget that covers these costs, ensuring you have the necessary funds allocated. They forecast your financial needs, including fees for health permits and vendor licenses, and help you plan for the initial and ongoing costs.

This financial planning is essential for business owners to avoid surprises and maintain smooth operations. Whether you need to apply for a food truck permit or a business operation license, they ensure you’re financially prepared.

4. Navigating Tax Implications

Each permit and license can have different tax implications. Accountants help you understand these complexities, ensuring your food truck’s financial practices comply with tax regulations. They advise on handling tax responsibilities associated with obtaining food truck permits and licenses, potentially saving you money.

By managing your tax obligations, they help you avoid penalties and optimize your financial operations. This is significant for food truck owners who need to ensure their mobile food business remains compliant with all tax laws.

5. Streamlining the Application Process

The process of applying for multiple licenses and permits can be complex and time-consuming. Accountants and bookkeepers streamline this process by managing timelines, tracking application statuses, and ensuring deadlines are met. They handle the paperwork for business licenses and permits, ensuring every detail is correct and complete.

This efficiency allows you to focus on running your food truck and preparing food, rather than getting bogged down in administrative tasks. They help you navigate the specific requirements for your mobile food business, ensuring all necessary permits and licenses are obtained.

Further reading: Exploring the Average Profit Margin: How Much Do Food Trucks Make in 2024?

Key Takeaways

  1. Business License: You are required to obtain a basic business license, also known as a general business license, to need to operate your food truck legally.
  2. Health Permits: Licenses and permits may vary depending on the state, but you typically need to complete a health department inspection to store your food safely and meet sanitation standards.
  3. Mobile Food Permit: A food truck may need to acquire a “mobile food” permit, which is specific to operating food trucks and must be visible to the public at all times.
  4. Fire Safety: To ensure safety, you are required to obtain a fire safety permit, especially if your food truck uses cooking equipment.
  5. Vehicle Registration: Depending on the state, you need to acquire commercial vehicle registration to need to operate your food truck on public roads.

How can Taxfyle help?

Finding an accountant to manage your bookkeeping and file taxes is a big decision. Luckily, you don't have to handle the search on your own.

At Taxfyle, we connect small businesses with licensed, experienced CPAs or EAs in the US. We handle the hard part of finding the right tax professional by matching you with a Pro who has the right experience to meet your unique needs and will manage your bookkeeping and file taxes for you.

Legal Disclaimer

Tickmark, Inc. and its affiliates do not provide legal, tax or accounting advice. The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal, tax or accounting advice or recommendations. All information prepared on this site is for informational purposes only, and should not be relied on for legal, tax or accounting advice. You should consult your own legal, tax or accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction. The content on this website is provided “as is;” no representations are made that the content is error-free.

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May 31, 2024


Antonio Del Cueto, CPA

Antonio Del Cueto, CPA


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