Can food trucks join the National Food Truck Association?
A: The National Food Truck Association is an Association of food truck associations but we will soon (December 2017) be expanding to help individual trucks that are in areas without regional food truck associations . The NFTA hopes to support existing food truck associations and help create new associations. We are also here to help individual food truck owners start associations or answer general questions.
I want to start a food truck business, where do I start?
A: Research, research, research. Running a Food Truck for Dummies by Richard Myrick is a great resource. The most important thing you can do is gather information. Start with the “where.” Where will you operate your business? New York? Los Angeles County? What cities? Do those cities/counties permit trucks? Do you plan on renting or buying? Nothing beats a call or a visit to your local City Hall and regional Health Department. Connecting with your regions regulatory agencies will ensure that you get the most up to date information straight from the people enforcing the laws. When you know you can open, call around to different commissaries, truck manufacturers and truck rental companies to get quotes and information.
Can I buy a truck and drive it across the Country vending wherever I want?
A: You will need a health permit and a business license everywhere you plan on vending. In some places you’ll also need a fire permit from the fire department. You can get temporary permits to vend if you’re a part of a festival. There are no National Food Truck Permits that will exempt you from these permit requirements.
How much does it cost to start a truck?
A: Every food truck business is different, so it’s important that you get quotes from every truck manufacturer/renter, commissary and truck wrapping (the design on the outside) place you can find. Remember, regional regulations and permits can dramatically impact the cost of running a truck. Call your local city hall and find out about your regional regulatory framework.
What should I be concerned about when renting my truck?
A: If you’re going to rent a truck, make sure your lease is rock solid. Don’t sign a vague one page lease. Make sure to protect yourself with a rock solid lease that protects your interest. Think about all the things that could go wrong. Who’s responsible for towing if your truck breaks down? Who is responsible if your truck breaks down on the way to a lucrative event? What happens if the Health Department shuts you down because your hot water stopped working? Who is responsible for overall maintenance? Try to protect yourself.
I found a builder to build my food truck. Is there anything I should require?
A: Make sure that your food truck builder understands the requirements of the food codes in your region. Your region can be controlled by a City, the State or a County government. Create a contract that ensures that if there are mistakes and your truck does not pass the health department inspection that the builder is responsible. If the food truck builder has a deadline, make sure that there are financial penalties if the builder does not meet that deadline. For example, if the builder says June 1st 2016 will be the day that the truck is permitted and ready to operate, insert a penalty for every day the builder is late. $100-$150 per day. Make sure that the penalty is attached to the day the truck is permitted, not to the day the truck is completed. Ask to see other food trucks the builder has done. Talk with those vendors if you can.
Does my menu matter?
A: If your truck kitchen (or your rented commissary kitchen) can not support your menu the Health Department won’t give you a health permit. Make sure your truck kitchen can support the food you are making. If you’re ordering food to cook on your truck make sure it’s from an approved source (meaning a licensed food facility). For example, if you plan on serving sausages but you have no way to make sausages, the health department is going to want to know where you’re sourcing your product.
Should I buy this food truck off of ebay?
A: By very careful buying food trucks that you can not inspect. It is very possible that the truck you buy will not pass inspection in the region you want to do business. Many older food trucks are grandfathered out of new regulations if they stay with the same owner. Once the food truck is sold the health department may require that the food truck be updated to the most recent food code standards. This can be very costly. Talk to your regional health department before buying a truck.