You’ve probably noticed that most How-To guides on this subject place sorting out the legal requirements at the bottom of their To-Do list.
And here’s why: the permits and licensing requirements for food cart businesses vary from country to country, state to state, and even city to city, so making a definitive list with everything you need is close to impossible.
Only your local Health Department can provide you with the information that applies in your case.
At this stage, you’ll address issues such as:
The street food vending regulations in your city
Licenses and permits required
The types of food you’ll be selling and how they’re handled, stored, thawed, and cooked
Commissary requirements (the requirement to operate from a licensed commercial kitchen)*
The size, make and the equipment of your street food vehicle
The vehicle’s fresh water and waste water holding capacity
Safe food handling course requirement
Pre-approval inspection of the equipment
Most municipalities don’t allow food vendors to operate a food cart business from a residential kitchen and they require the use of a commissary – a licensed and inspected commercial kitchen.
Vendors have to report to the commissary each day of operation to prepare the food that will be served from the cart and to clean the vehicle’s equipment at the end of the day.
If you are selling prepackaged foods, you are not considered a food handler and may have less stringent requirements than if you are actually preparing foods or even scooping ice cream.
But as long as food is unwrapped, you are typically considered to be a food handler and must meet specific regulations.
While your cart or truck manufacturer will not know the nuances of each city’s requirements, they can usually help you meet specific health standards.
For example, all of our food carts are manufactured using food-grade materials for countertops and other parts/areas where food may be stored and prepared.
In addition, we work closely with each of our clients to adapt the carts’ cooking & water systems so they will meet all the health and safety standards specific to the vendor’s area.
Getting all the trading, health and safety qualifications in order will not only allow you to operate legally (and avoid hefty fines), but it will also help enforce the public’s hard earned perception that that those running a street food business are doing their utmost to meet and surpass sanitary requirements.
Basically, your legal status and reputation are on the line.
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