How to Get a Hot Dog Vendor's License

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Licensed hot dog stands are allowed to bring fast food to public spaces.
Licensed hot dog stands are allowed to bring fast food to public spaces. (Image: Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images)

An ingenious small business idea is running a hot dog cart. This business will allow you to take your cart on the road and sell your product at fairgrounds, festivals and street corners. Before you open for business, you will need to get one or more licenses and potential permits that show that you are cleared by the local jurisdictions to sell food to the public. Make sure that you conduct thorough research and ensure that you meet all requirements so that you can start your business in good standing.

Call your local city hall to get information on where to begin your licensing process. Requirements for licenses will vary from state to state and also within city jurisdictions. Start at the city level and work your way up. It will be critical for you to follow regulations required in the area where you will be selling hot dogs. Make sure to call every city that you will be selling in if you plan to set up shop in more than one area.

Read the regulations for hot dog vendors in your area. For example, in the city of New York if you are attempting to bring your hot dog stand to an event such as a fair or festival, you would need to get a Temporary Food Service Establishment Permit. Carefully note all particulars that may cause you problems if not noted. In this example, you would need to file the application at least five business days before the event and you would not be able to work at the location for more than 14 days.

Obtain a license from the health department in your area. Because you are selling food to the public, you can be sure that you will need to go through the health department. You may have to obtain additional permits, but you will surely need clearance here first. Be prepared to fill out an extensive application that may include questions on what types of foods you will be preparing, how you will keep food items at the proper temperatures, the method of heat will you use to cook the hot dogs, as well as how it will be served to the public. You should also be prepared to present a drawing or plan of your hot dog cart business.

Check with your local police department. Some jurisdictions require vendors to obtain a criminal background check as part of the licensing process. While you are finding out if this applies to you, ask other important questions. If you know whether you will be selling from a public or private property location, ask about the possibility of being ticketed. For example, if your cart takes up a corner parking space, ask if you will be required to obtain any police permits to keep your cart there over extended periods of time.

Fill out all the required applications and make sure that you have attached all proper documentation. The license may very well cover more than two city divisions, for example health department, police department, and parks and recreation. Be prepared to pay the fees separately and keep copies of all receipts. Make a copy of the entire packet as well in case sections are misplaced by or lost in transition to different departments.

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