If you’ve been dreaming of starting a food truck business in the Sunshine State, you may need to put the brakes on (temporarily). Getting a food vendor license in Florida takes organization, determination and the ability to pay the initial fees. It’s important to have all your ducks in a row before you start, though, so your business doesn’t get shut down.
To ensure your business is ready to roll, you’ll need to get licenses and approvals at the state and local level.
Most food vendors will need to be licensed through the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.
To get your street vendor license in Florida, you’ll need to start by getting your license from the right department. Licenses are issued by three departments:
- The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
- The Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR).
- The Department of Health.
Fortunately, you don’t need to visit all three. Each one specializes in a specific type of license.
You’ll need to get a license from the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services if you are only going to sell prepackaged foods, bulk nonhazardous foods such as popcorn or cotton candy, fresh-squeezed juices and raw fish products that don’t require processing. Most food vendors will need to get licensed through the DBPR.
To obtain a license, you may need to complete a commissary letter of agreement. A commissary is a restaurant or other facility that will allow you to prepare food. If you are required to work with a commissary, you will also need to obtain a food permit.
You can complete your Department of Agriculture application online or by mail. After you submit your Florida vendor license application, a field inspector will contact you to do an inspection. After that, you will pay your permit fees.
If you are planning to run a food truck or a hot dog cart, you will need a Mobile Food Dispensing Vehicle License (MFDV) from the DBPR. To qualify for a license, you will need to:
- Have a mobile vehicle.
- Have adequate dishwashing facilities.
- Have a hand sink.
- Have proper food storage equipment.
- Have power and a plumbing system.
You will also need to have either a water and sewage hookup or contract with a commissary that will allow you to use their water and sewage connections.
To apply for an MFDV license, you will need to complete a plan review, apply for the license online, schedule an inspection and pass the inspection. If you have concerns about the process, the DBPR is available to assist you.
The scope of the Department of Health is limited when it comes to food vendor licensing. They only issue licenses to vendors who operate at schools, civic and fraternal organizations, bars and lounges and theaters. Most mobile food vendors will not need to get a license from the state Department of Health, but you may need a license from your county health department.
If you are unsure of whether you need a Department of Health license, you can contact them or contact your county department of health.
Unfortunately, the state licenses are only the first step in getting a food vendor license in Florida. You will also need to contact your local city and/or county and ensure you meet their regulations.
For example, in Key West, there are only 25 mobile vendor licenses available, and you can apply for one each year in November. In Orlando, you need to submit an application along with a copy of your state license. You also need to complete a business tax receipt application.
Some cities have restrictions on where you can operate, so review your local requirements carefully. Once it’s all said and done, you’ll need to keep everything maintained in case there’s an inspection.