What License Do You Need For A Food Truck In Florida?

What License Do You Need For A Food Truck In Florida?

See all the licenses, permits, and insurance you need to run a food truck in the state of Florida

What License Do You Need For A Food Truck In Florida?

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 licenses, 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 have its own requirements.

So if you have landed here you may be wondering what licenses do you need for a food truck in Florida?

To operate a food truck in Florida you need a General Business License from the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, a Certified Food Manager Certification and Food Handlers Card, a Mobile Food Unit Permit, and a Commisionary Letter of Agreement which is both issued by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS). 

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 insurance.

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


Contents:

  • Step 1: Business structure & license  
  • 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 license costs  
  • Related questions               
  • Key takeaways

Step 1: Business structure & license

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 license. 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 let you trade under an assumed company name. You can register here at The Divisions of Corporations.

Other business structures exist such as corporations, Limited Liability Companies, Limited Partnerships, or Limited Liability Partnerships which are a little more complex to set up. If you are thinking about going with any of these options then you will need to register your food truck business with The Divisions of Corporations.

Business license

Once you have registered your company you will need to apply for a general business license to operate your food truck in Florida at the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

Helpful resources: 

Cost: 

  • Assumed Name Certificate (Business licence) – $50
  • Limited Company (Business licence)  – $125

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 pay 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” (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 to the Florida Department of Revenue to register to pay tax and If you intend to employ staff or are structured as a corporation or partnership a Florida EIN.

Cost:

  • EIN – Free
  • State tax permit – Free

Helpful resources: 

Step 3: Food hygiene certificates

Next up you will need food hygiene certificates to prepare, cook and sell your products to the general public.

In the state of Florida you need two food hygiene permits:

  • Certified Food Manager Certification –  As part of section 381.0072 Florida statutes 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, cooking, and service. The certificate can be obtained by doing an online course and lasts up to 5 years.
  • Florida 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 that must be obtained within 60 days of employment and lasts for 3 years.

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 Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS).

This is a permit, under Florida Food Establishment Rules that allows 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 may also need to apply separately for a Commisionary Letter of Agreement. 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, filling water tanks, and disposal of wastewater.

Cost

  • Mobile food unit application – $347 per year / $178.50 for 6 months
  • Commisionary Letter of Agreement – $free

Helpful resources:

Step 5. Food truck inspection

If you plan on preparing and processing food at a separate commisionary away from your food truck or in other food truck itself then you need to apply for an additional permit from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

You should hear back within 3 – 5 business days to arrange an inspection within 2 weeks. Inspectors will check for things like the condition of your catering equipment, such as refrigeration and thermometers and your water supply.

Important documents you should have on hand for the inspection include a Certified Food Manager Certificate and HACCP where you can show and verbalize your food operation.

Helpful resources:


Related articles:


Step 6: Driving License

Aside from the licences and permits, you need to operate in Florida 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 license 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 Florida Highway Safety.

Cost:

  • Standard Class E Driver’s license and registration – $48
  • CDL Licence – $5000 – $12000

Helpful resources:


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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 Florida you will need commercial insurance to cover you on the road and business liability insurance to protect you against lawsuits. Some cities in Florida will require a certificate of insurance below issuing a mobile vending permit.

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

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 license costs

  • EIN – Free
  • State tax permit – Free
  • Assumed Name Certificate (Business license) – $50
  • Limited Company (Business license)  – $125
  • Certified Food Manager Certification = $60-95 for training & exam
  • Food Handler’s Card – $7-8
  • Mobile food unit application – $347 per year / $178.50 for 6 months
  • Commisionary Letter of Agreement – $free
  • Standard Class E Driver’s license and registration – $48
  • CDL Licence – $5000 – $12000
  • 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 Florida

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 you don’t 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.

Can a food truck sell alcohol in Florida?

In short food trucks cannot sell alcohol in the state of Florida as there are currently no laws that support the sale of alcohol from non-fixed locations, such as mobile catering units whether on public or private property…

Under current law, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation’only issues alcohol licenses to fixed businesses such as restaurants and bars that have been certified by the local authority

Helpful resources:

Can I park my food truck anywhere in Florida?

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

For example, public land in towns and cities in Florida 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 the licenses, permits and certificates you need to operate a food truck in Florida:

  • Step 1: Choose a business structure & get a business license
  • 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 Florida Department of Agriculture and
  • Consumer Services (FDACS)
  • Step 5. Get a food truck inspection
  • Step 6: Check your driving License
  • Step 7. Get commercial Insurance