One of the primary benefits of operating a food truck business is that it is mobile. Instead of waiting for customers to come to you, as you would with a brick-and-mortar restaurant, you can bring your business to where the customers are. However, there are some things you need to keep in mind when operating a food truck in more than one state.
1. You Must Meet Health Department Standards
Every city, state and county has its standards that food trucks must meet to legally operate. If you plan to operate in more than one location, you will have to find out what the requirements are for each specific city, county and state and make sure your truck is compliant. Usually, you will need to pass a health inspection before you can open your doors. Health inspectors check everything from the temperature food is stored to your commercial ice making equipment to ensure that everything on your truck is up to code.
2. More Than Just Your Truck Will Be Inspected
Health inspectors don't just inspect your food truck. They may also inspect any commercial kitchen or garage in which you store your vehicle or prepare food to be sold on your truck. If you are renting space as you travel across the country, it is important to make sure that the space you rent is compliant with local health codes.
3. You Need Licenses and Permits
You will likely need to obtain a license and permit to operate your food truck in every new location you travel to. Additionally, these permits need to be periodically renewed, so make sure you provide an address where they can send a renewal application if you intend to return to that location. Before you hit the road, it is a good idea to find out what the requirements are for each location you intend to stop in, so that you can make any necessary changes to your truck.
4. You Also Need Business Licenses
In addition to the food service permits you will be required to obtain, you need to get a business license. The county clerk's office or city hall can usually provide you with instructions. You also need to register your business with the state tax agency and apply for tax permits to sell your food. You can find more information about this on the IRS website. If you have any employees or your business is incorporated, you must obtain an Employer Identification Number.
5. You Need To Register Your Vehicle
A food truck is both a business and a vehicle. In addition to needing all the property licenses and permits to operate the business, you need to register your vehicle. You may be required to have your vehicle inspected and obtain commercial license plates. Additionally, if your vehicle is over 26,000 pounds you may need a commercial driver's license.
6. You Will Need To Be Aware of Zoning and Parking Restrictions
In most places, you will not be able to park your truck everywhere that you want. Cities usually have zoning restrictions that make it illegal to operate a food truck in noncommercial zones. Additionally, there may be specific rules about where food trucks can be parked and operated. Contact the county clerk to obtain a list of where you can and can not park in each city you visit.
You also need to pay attention to parking restrictions. If there is a sign that says "two-hour parking only" or you are parked at a meter, then you need to adhere to the rules the same way you would with any other vehicle or risk receiving a citation. Avoid double parking and park as close to the curb as you can.
Driving a food truck across the country can be an exciting and rewarding business opportunity. However, you must take care to comply with all of the rules and regulations in each place that you visit.