Operating a successful mobile food vending business requires more than just getting a hot dog cart and selling on the street. If you are serious about starting your own food vendor business you will need to do some research. Market knowledge and demographics, capital requirements and licensing requirements will all need to be considered.
In the right market and properly operated, mobile food vending can be very profitable. Preparation and a good work ethic will help you overcome the challenges of operating your own mobile vending business.
Success in running your mobile food vending business requires doing some homework. Start with your basic idea of what you want to offer. Who your customers will be and what your competition may be are factors to consider when formulating your marketing plan.
There are several resources available to help you make your marketing plan. The U.S. Census Bureau provides data on community population, income brackets and employment that can give you some ideas whether or not your community can support your business. The more data you can get on the area you are thinking of operating in the more likely it is to find market niches you can exploit.
The Small Business Advancement National Center at University of Central Arkansas recommends looking into Small Business Development Centers. Many colleges and universities host development centers and business incubators that will provide assistance to aid you do your research.
After you finish with your market research you will have a better idea of what you want to sell and who your customers will be. This knowledge will determine what kind of equipment you will need and how much it will cost to open your business. Before buying any equipment, check with the local Department of Health for state and federal regulations concerning food vending businesses.
Mobile food vending equipment is available in several forms. The least expensive is a mobile food vending cart for selling pre-cooked and packaged foods. A food vending truck is equipped to prepare and cook foods on-site and must be certified by the health department in much the same way a restaurant is. According to the Philadelphia Department of Health mobile food vending equipment must maintain foods at food safe temperatures and include adequate provision for hand washing.
Before you can begin selling food from your cart or mobile unit, you will need to obtain licenses and permits to do so. To do business in your state you will first need a business license and tax identification number. Your state will require you to collect sales tax on the food you sell and you can get a permit from your state's Department of Revenue.
Another permit you may need is a business permit from your town or city. The city hall or courthouse will have an office where you can apply for a mobile food vendor’s permit. Your next stop is the local Department of Public Health. The permit you receive from them must be posted clearly on your cart or mobile food unit.
According to the Harris County Public Health and Environmental Service mobile food vending equipment must pass inspection to show that it will maintain safe product temperatures and sanitation.