The city of Dallas recently relaxed restrictions on food cart vendors, and many entrepreneurs are considering making their mark in the street food service industry. Obtaining a vendor’s license is an exacting process; the city of Dallas stipulates cart size, use of approved suppliers and hours of operation. Inclusive of health and cart inspections, vendor license applicants can expect it to take several weeks to obtain the required paperwork to begin selling food.
Decide what type of food you will sell. Dallas’ vendor cart licensing requirements vary depending on whether you are offering pre-packaged food or preparing and/or portioning meals from your cart.
Lease or purchase your food sales equipment. Dallas requires that general service carts -- which are limited to selling two food items -- and limited service carts -- those selling only pre-packaged foods -- conform to specific size regulations. They must be less than six feet long, three feet wide and four feet high. Additionally, carts must be of stainless steel construction and have a hot and cold running water system. Detailed requirements for your specific service format are listed in the city's “Requirements for Mobile Food Vendors City of Dallas” manual.
Determine your business’ legal structure. A sole proprietor without partners or employees must obtain a "Doing Business As" form, or DBA, from the Dallas clerk of the court. Limited partnerships and corporate structures must register their business with the Texas secretary of state.
Apply for your permits and licenses. Dallas requires vendors to obtain business and vendor licenses, as well as pass a health inspection. Push cart vendors must also obtain a location permit in order to operate within Dallas’ central business, convention or art districts.
Obtain a sales tax permit from the Texas comptroller of public accounts and an employer identification number from the Internal Revenue Service. Sole proprietors can operate using their personal Social Security numbers.
Schedule your cart and heath inspections. Your cart must be at the permitted location and completely functional when inspected. Ensure the umbrella is attached and free of tatters or holes. Once you receive certification that your cart meets heath and code compliance requirements, you will be issued the vendor’s permit, allowing you to do business in Dallas.