How to Start a Mobile Food Business in Florida

  Reviewed by: Michelle Seidel, B.Sc., LL.B., MBA
  Written by: Andra Picincu      Updated November 28, 2018
Food truck in the city

Nowadays, food trucks and mobile food vendors are all over the place. This industry is currently worth over $2 billion. Companies like Spencer on the Go, Fivetenburger, Sunrise Deli and Mama's Empanada are dominating the food truck market in Florida. If you have a passion for food, consider starting a mobile food business in the Sunshine State. These services are in high demand among locals and tourists alike.

Research the Local Market

Despite its apparent simplicity, this business model comes with its challenges. Entrepreneurs can expect to spend more than $28,276 on licenses, permits and other legal documents. They must also factor in the cost of supplies, truck maintenance, utilities and more.

If you're ready to start a truck food business, research the local market. See who your competitors are, how much money they make and how they advertise their products. Some specialize in international cuisine, such as Mexican, Asian, Italian or Portuguese food. As a food truck business owner, you'll need to choose a niche and find a way to stand out from the crowd.

Create a Business Plan

Next, come up with a plan for your food truck business. Emphasize key aspects such as the costs involved, potential revenue, types of products and services, legal fees and type of equipment. Also, set prices for your offerings. Factor in your other expenses so you can determine how to price your products to make a profit.

Your business plan should start with an executive summary followed by an in-depth description of your company's vision and goals. Figure out how you're going to prepare the food, how your product offerings will compete with the menu items of your competitors, who your audience is and more. Write everything down. Also, include a market analysis, ownership information and advertising strategies.

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Estimate the Costs Involved

Many entrepreneurs jump into this business without being aware of the costs involved. At first sight, it seems quite simple. There's no need to lease space or hire employees. If you have strong cooking skills, you can do everything yourself. However, there are other costs you need to consider when making a business plan.

First of all, you must decide whether you'll rent or purchase a food truck. This type of vehicle costs at least $50,000. Expect to pay up to $200,000 for a customized, brand-new model. If you rent one, you'll pay around $3,000 a month depending on the duration of the lease. Check out Food Truck Rental, Roaming Hunger, Mobi Munch and other companies that offer food trucks for short- and long-term rental.

Some food trucks feature built-in kitchens but come at a higher price. If you purchase a cheap truck, you'll have to set up the kitchen yourself, so the costs will add up. Another option is to rent a commercial kitchen rather than purchasing cooking equipment.

Most states, including Florida, require food trucks to have a commissary. This fee covers electrical power, potable water, parking space and other amenities that are necessary for maintaining a mobile food unit. Depending on the availability of services, you'll pay $500 to $1,500 per truck every month. A commissary may not be required if you’re selling only prepackaged foods like cookies and chips.

Other things like hiring staff, obtaining a health permit and purchasing ingredients will cost you another few thousand dollars. Food truck vendors are not allowed to store their products and supplies in private residences, meaning that you’ll need to rent a warehouse or use approved commissaries. Factor in these costs as well, and then determine how you’re going to price the food.

Make Your Business Legal

Once you've figured out the financial aspects, take the steps needed to make your food business legal. Choose a company name and legal structure, such as an LLC, sole proprietorship or partnership. Register for an employer identification number so you can pay taxes, issue receipts and open a business bank account.

Next, apply for licenses and permits. Food truck businesses that operate in the Sunshine State must obtain a general business license as well as a mobile food establishment permit and a food permit from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Food permits are not required for those who offer only legumes in a shell or whole produce. If you're going to purchase wholesale spices and similar ingredients, it's necessary to apply for a seller's permit so you don't pay sales tax.

Make sure you obtain a fire safety inspection certificate from your city's fire department. You will also need a food truck site permit. Without this certificate, you won’t be able to run your business.

Be aware that your food truck will be reviewed and inspected by the local health department to ensure it meets food quality and safety standards. Other legal requirements may or may not apply depending on the type of food sold and processed.

About the Author

Andra Picincu is a digital marketing consultant with over 10 years of experience. She works closely with small businesses and large organizations alike to help them grow and increase brand awareness. She holds a BA in Marketing and International Business and a BA in Psychology. Over the past decade, she has turned her passion for marketing and writing into a successful business with an international audience. Current and former clients include The HOTH, Bisnode Sverige, Nutracelle, CLICK - The Coffee Lover's Protein Drink, InstaCuppa, Marketgoo, GoHarvey, Internet Brands, and more. In her daily life, Ms. Picincu provides digital marketing consulting and copywriting services. Her goal is to help businesses understand and reach their target audience in new, creative ways.

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