How to Start a Mobile Food Business in Florida

by Mackenzie Maxwell - Updated June 26, 2018
Food truck in the city

To say that food trucks are popular in Florida would be an understatement. Every day trucks meet in public spaces throughout the state to satisfy hungry customers. In some cases, over 100 trucks park at an event, and all of them have success. If you want in on this success, you can start your own mobile food business in the Sunshine State. However, there are a few important considerations to make first.

Handle the Basics

No matter where you want to start your mobile food business, you need to have a great idea. However, in a market as saturated as Florida, a unique idea is even more critical. Of course, the food itself should be delicious and easy to make on-the-go.

Next, decide on your brand's look and feel. Bring together the style of food you make and the customers you want to attract. For example, if you want to work around any of Florida's universities, you should think about what qualities matter to college students.

Obtain Your Truck

Before you can get behind the wheel of a truck, you need to find financing. Food trucks typically require less startup cash than a traditional restaurant. If you have significant savings, you may be able to get started with self-financing. However, you may want to apply for a small business loan. This will require a business plan; knowing your brand and audience will help.

With your cooking and branding needs in mind, find a truck that suits your business. Be sure that your truck has the space to fit all of the equipment you need to safely cook your food. It should also be in good working order unless you're ready to put some sweat into fixing it up. Some well-used trucks that need plenty of work will cost only $1,500. However, fully decked-out vehicles can set you back up to $75,000.

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Get the Right Permissions

To serve food from a truck in Florida, you must receive a permit from the state's Division of Hotels and Restaurants. The division licenses mobile food dispensing vehicles, or MFDVs, that meet specific requirements.

Ensure that your truck has protection from the weather and any problematic pests. Florida also requires MFDVs to have a three-compartment sink for washing dishes, a refrigerator and steam tables for keeping food at safe temperatures. Your truck must meet plumbing requirements, including a potable water system with a minimum of five gallons, a liquid waste system with at least 15 percent greater capacity than the water system and working flushing and draining capabilities.

If your truck was previously registered as an MFDV with the state, you might only need to show the division any modifications you made. If the truck was never registered in the state, your application might take longer.

Additionally, you must be licensed to drive your truck between locations. Depending on the size and type of the truck, you may need a specialized driver's license. For example, some food trucks require the driver to hold a Commercial Driver's License, or CDL. To apply for this license, you must already have your standard Class E license and be 18 years of age or older. CDL holders between 18 and 21 can only drive these trucks within the state; CDL drivers over the age of 21 can take their food truck out of state. Applicants can apply for a Commercial Learner's Permit, take a CDL course and pass a road test for this license. Contact the Florida DMV to see which license you need for your truck.

References

About the Author

Mackenzie has a passion for helping small businesses flourish. She has written for an SBA lender, several small businesses, and other finance sites.

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