All your friends and family tell you that you are whiz in the kitchen that you should run your own food truck. Sounds like a surefire way to make a living off your passion for cooking, right?
If you want to be a part of a growing industry then it is definitely a smart move. According to IBISWorld as of November 2016, revenue in the food truck industry was $870 million, with about 3,703 businesses. While there is a lot of potential in the food truck industry with the right research and prep work and of course culinary skill, you also need to have a good handle on the food truck laws in your operating area to really have a thriving business.
Each city, county and township has its own regulations for food trucks and some environments are tougher to operate in than others. Before you set any of your plans in motion, you should do all your research on food truck laws in the areas you hope to operate and talk to current food truck owners to get a true lay of the land. From what you learn, you may decide to choose different territory for your business.
Here is what you need to know about the food truck laws in Philadelphia:
Get ready for lots of paperwork
Besides creating a business plan, figuring out your finances and buying or renting your food truck, you will have a lot of red tape that you have to cut through before you can even hit the road. This is very important to realize. If you are depending on being up and running and making money within a couple of months, you might find yourself in more financial constraints the more delays there are.
Your first stop should be to the Health Department, Office of Food Protection. Here is the list of information you need to provide to get things rolling. You can go to their offices at 321 University Avenue, 2nd Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19102 during their walk-in hours for help filling out the application.
The list includes a commissary application, a mobile food vending application, a fee assessment and a preliminary sanitation worksheet and business/liability/fire/auto insurance. You also need to get your truck inspected and apply for a commercial activity license, a non-permanent retail food license and a vendor motor vehicle license. Philadelphia requires that all your permits be in order before you can hit the road. Also find out from the health department about food truck license cost.
Use this quick check list to make sure you have all parts of your mobile food vending application:
- Plan drawn to scale showing all food equipment
- Food establishment plan review application
- Mobile vending unit fact sheet
- Equipment List
- Menu description and preparation
- On-site food preparation
- Menu description and preparation-pre-approved licensed facility
- Mobile food unit commissary verification
- A copy of the city of Philadelphia Food Establishment Personnel Food Safety Certificate
- Processing Fee
Sign up for a food safety course
Anyone who deals with food in the public realm needs to be certified in the proper methods for food safety. Proper storage of food and proper hygiene in the kitchen will be covered. Take a course and get certified and feel good about getting something checked off your list. The food safety course must be approved by the Philadelphia Department of Public Health and you must receive an official City of Philadelphia Food Safety Certificate that you must display on your food truck for your customers to see.
Go through inspection
Once you have your paperwork in order and have been certified in food safety, you need to have the food department come out and inspect your food truck before you can hit the road.
And more licenses?
Other licenses you should look into are the Philadelphia Business Privilege License, the “Food Establishment, Retail Non-Permanent Location” license and other licenses like sidewalk sales license and curb market licenses.
Set up a Commissary/Support Facility
Food truck law requires that you have an off-site commissary where you can prep and store your food safely. This is where you should also thoroughly clean all your supplies. You can have your commissary outside of the city limits as long as it still adheres to all the food safety requirements.
Talk to a Health Inspector in person
Because information you find online might not be the most up-to-date, it is best to talk to a Health Inspector in person to make sure all your ducks are in a row. Sitting down with a health inspector and going through all the food truck law requirements will help make sure that you don’t make a glaring omissions that could cost you time and money later on.
Schedule appointments for your food truck
A big issues with food trucks is finding places to park to sell your food. While it might seem pretty easy. Just drive up and park in an empty spots, it is a lot more complicated than that. There are different rules for where food trucks are allowed to park and what permits you will need. Check to see if there are any restrictions on parking near restaurants or whether you need to be parked near a bathroom if you are going to be in that spot for a long time. Just like in other big cities, in Philadelphia finding places to park your food truck can be difficult so set up appointed dates to go local businesses or large office parks.
Lastly, make sure you connect with the Philly Mobile Food Association, a network of mobile food vendors and colleagues across the Greater Philadelphia area. They can offer you support and guidance as you forge your food truck business. When you are new in the business, it is best to have as much support as possible as you navigate the new world of food trucks.
With the right tools and know-how and a whole lot of sweat, you can make your dreams of being a successful food truck owner a reality. Keep these food truck law requirements in mind as you get started!