What Licence Do You Need For A Food Truck In Texas?

What Licences Do You Need For A Food Truck In Texas?

See all the licences, permits and insurance needed to operate a food truck in the state of Texas

What Licence Do You Need For A Food Truck In Texas?

The best part of creating a food truck business is taking an idea and turning it into a tangible asset and the process involved from creating a menu to choosing the design of your mobile unit.

In contrast, the worse part for many is navigating all the different types of licences, permits, certificates and insurance needed to operate. It can be especially overwhelming when you have to navigate federal, state and local regulations at the same time as each state has its own requirements.

So if you have landed here you may be wondering what licences and permits do you need for a food truck in the state of Texas?

According to the Texas State Department of Health Services, you need food hygiene certificates such as a Certified Food Manager Certification and Food Handlers Card, a mobile food unit permit and if applicable a Central Preparation Request permit to operate a food truck in Texas.

There are also a number of other things you need to do such as choosing a business structure, registering with the IRS, checking you have the correct driving license and getting adequate commercial truck insurance.

In this article, I will take through the process, step by step, of getting all the food truck licences, permits and certificates you need to operate in the state of Texas.


Contents:

  • Step 1: Business structure & licence
  • Step 2: Taxes & the IRS
  • Step 3: Food hygiene certificates
  • Step 4: Mobile food unit permits
  • Step 5. Food truck inspection
  • Step 6: Driving License
  • Step 7. Insurance
  • Summary of food truck permit and licence costs
  • Related questions
  • Key takeaways

Step 1: Business structure & licence

The first step is choosing a name for your company and determining the structure of your food truck business, which will enable you to get a business licence. There are a number of ways you can do this, each with its own requirements.

A Sole Proprietor is the simplest form of a business entity where you can operate under your own name or register with your local clerk’s office for an “Assumed Name Certificate” (DBA) which is a certificate that legally recognises your business name.

Other business structures exist such as a corporation, Limited Liability Company, Limited Partnership or Limited Liability Partnership which are a little more complex. If you are thinking about going with any of these options then you will need to register your food truck business with the Texas Secretary of State.

Helpful resources: 

Cost: 

  • Assumed Name Certificate (Business licence) – $25
  • Limited Company (Business licence)  – £300

Step 2: Taxes and the IRS

Federal level

Once you have chosen a structure you need to register your food truck business at the federal level with the IRS to make sure you are paying the right taxes.

If you don’t intend to employ any staff and you want to operate your food truck as a sole proprietor or independent contractor then you can register with the IRS as self-employed and use your social security number for social security and medicare tax purposes.

If on the other hand there are more people involved in your food truck business and/or you intend to employ staff then you will need to apply to the IRS for an “Employer’s Identification Number”, also known as an EIN number. This is a number assigned to every business so it can easily be identified by the IRS for taxation, which you will also need to open a business bank account.

State Level

At the state level, you will also need to apply for a sales tax permit which is set at 6.5% in Texas and If you intend to employ staff or are structured as a corporation or partnership possibly a Texas EIN.

Cost:

  • EIN – Free
  • State tax permit – Free

Helpful resources: 

Step 3: Food hygiene certificates

Next up you will need food hygiene certificates in order to operate and serve and sell your products to the general public.

In the state of Texas there are 2 main food hygiene permits:

  • Certified Food Manager Certification –  As part of the Texas Administrative code 21 a food establishment, including truck trucks must have at least one employee who is a certified food manager, responsible for overseeing and controlling food preparation. The certificate can be obtained by doing an online course and lasts up to 5 years.
  • Texas Food Handler’s Card – All employees which work in the food industry and handle food and food-related equipment must obtain a food handler’s card. This is a mandatory requirement which must be obtained within 60 days of employment.

Cost:

  • Certified Food Manager Certification = $60-95 for training & exam
  • Food Handler’s Card – $7-8

Helpful resources:


Related articles:


Step 4: Mobile food unit permits

The next step is to apply for a mobile food vendor permit from the Texas Department of State Health Services. 

This is a permit, under Texas Food Establishment Rules that allow you to sell food from a mobile unit such as a food truck, food trailer or cart under certain conditions. An application for a mobile food vending permit can be made here.

In addition to a food truck permit, you will also need to apply separately for a Central Preparation Request. This is an application all mobile units have to submit stating they have a fixed location facility away from the food truck which is used for servicing operations like cleaning and filling water tanks.

However, this application can be waivered if you do not have a fixed location away from your food truck if you can provide evidence of how you can operate safely without a CPF. Evidence includes a detailed HACCP and a statement of how public safety would be mitigated.

Cost

  • Mobile food unit application – $258 per unit for initial applications, renewals, and change of ownership.
  • Central Preparation Facility (CPF) certification – $150

Helpful resources:

Step 5. Food truck inspection

After you have made an application for your mobile food vending permits a letter will be sent to you to arrange an inspection by the Texas Department of State Health Services. On inspection they will check for things like the condition of your overall catering unit, the water system, catering equipment, CPF (if applicable and your service area (where you prepare and sell food).

Important documents you should have on hand for the inspection include a Certified Food Manager Certificate, CPF authorization and a menu of all items sold.

After the inspection, you should get feedback on the inspection and be given or denied a permit to operate on the basis of their findings.

You can see the full food truck inspection checklist from the Texas Department of State Health Services here

Step 6: Driving License

Aside from the licences and permits, you need to operate in Texas it is worth considering what vehicle driving licences you may need for a food truck.

According to the food truck builders M&R Speciality Trailers and Trucks, you should be able to drive a food truck with a Standard Class D driver’s licence if your food truck weighs less than 26001 pounds. It’s worth noting that most food trucks have a typical weight of 1200-1600 pounds so this should suffice.

However, if your food truck exceeds a gross weight limit of 26001 pounds then you will need something called a CDL licence. This is a commercial driver’s licence used for driving large and heavy trucks.

If you have any questions it’s worth contacting Texas DMV.

Cost:

  • Standard Class D Driver’s license and registration – $60–$75
  • CDL Licence – $1000 – $8000

Helpful resources:


Related articles:


Step 7. Insurance

To make sure you are in good legal standing and have protection for your food truck business Insurance is another important part of operating.

To drive a food truck in Texas state law requires you have Commercial Auto insurance, with a minimum of uninsured motorist, collision and medical payment insurance and a minimum of $1million of Liability coverage to protect against any damage to another person’s property as a result of your business.

There is also additional insurance coverage, which is not needed by law in Texas but you may want to consider getting for added protection for your business.

Types of insurance for a food truck include: 

  • Liability insurance over £1 million – includes cover for your own property in addition to third parties 
  • Employee Insurance – Proetcs your employees if there is a hazard at work
  • Workers Compensation Insurance – Protects you from costly claims made by employees as a result of an injury at work

Cost

  • Wide-ranging as it is dependent on claims history and the type of coverage.

Helpful resources:


Summary of food truck permit and licence costs

  • EIN – Free
  • State tax permit – Free
  • Assumed Name Certificate (Business licence) – $25
  • Limited Company (Business licence)  – £300
  • Certified Food Manager Certification = $60-95 for training & exam
  • Food Handler’s Card – $7-8
  • Mobile food unit application – $258 per unit for initial applications, renewals, and change of ownership.
  • Central Preparation Facility (CPF) certification – $150
  • Standard Class D Driver’s license and registration – $60–$75
  • CDL Licence (Commercial drivers licence) – $1000 – $8000
  • Insurance – Varied depending on claims history and business operation

Related questions

Can I cross state lines with a food truck?

This guide is for the permits and licences needed to operate a food truck in the state of Texas.

However, if you intend to cross state lines with your food truck it’s worth bearing in mind regulations differ from state to state so you will need to check the requirement of the area you will be operating in so as not to get caught out. 

For example, if you are operating as a sole proprietor you will need to register for a new DBA for every state you operate in. And It gets a little more complicated if you are structured as a limited company or corporation.

Can a food truck sell alcohol in Texas?

In short food trucks cannot sell alcohol in the state of Texas as they do not meet the minimum requirements set out by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC).

Under current Law, the TABC only issues alcohol licences to fixed businesses such as restaurants and bars that have been certified by the local authority and not any type of mobile unit.

Can I park my food truck anywhere in Texas?

Food trucks are a regulated industry which means you cannot just park anywhere.

For example, public land in towns and cities in the state of Texas will all have its own zoning and parking laws and restrictions for commercial and non-commercial use, which means you will need to apply for a permit to park at your local town clerk’s office for places like parks and on the roadside.

On the other hand, rules differ if you park at a private food truck event hosted by an event organiser or if you want to trade on private land. In both cases, you would need to contact the event organiser or property management.


Related articles:


Key takeaway

Getting all the licences, permits and certificates to operate a food truck can be a bit overwhelming when you have to navigate federal, state and local regulations. This is especially true when states and local authorities each have their own rules around what you need to do to sell food to the public from a mobile unit.

However, once you get the first couple of steps right like choosing your business structure and registering with the IRS to pay taxes the rest can be easier, especially when you have a roadmap of the steps you need to take and in which order.

So here’s a summary of what you need to operate a food truck in Texas:

Step 1: Choose a business structure & get a business licence
Step 2: Register with the IRS at the federal and state level to pay the right amount of tax
Step 3: Get your food hygiene certificates
Step 4: Apply for mobile food unit permits from the Texas Department of State Health Services
Step 5. Get a food truck inspection
Step 6: Check your driving License
Step 7. Get commercial Insurance


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