How to Open a Concession Trailer Business in Florida

Any business that provides food to consumers must be properly licensed by the state of Florida, as well as the local county or city governments where it operates. Concession trailers, due to their mobile nature, have additional rules they must comply with, including that each trailer a food service business owns must have its own permit. When opening a concession trailer business in Florida, it is advised that you begin with a solid business plan to help you stay on track and maintain compliance with the various licensing agencies' policies.

Write a business plan that details what types of food you will serve from your concession trailer, how many trailers you will start with, which vendors you will obtain supplies and food ingredients from and where you will obtain the funds and equipment you need to get started. Include in your plan a map of the geographical area in Florida you will serve, and the specific routes you will take with your trailer. In addition to your Florida state licenses/permits, each county or city you operate in will require licenses/permits, as well, so it may be best to start with a smaller geographic area and expand later.

Locate a commissary for your concession trailer business to operate from, and purchase or otherwise obtain at least one concession trailer. Florida requires mobile food services to return to their commissary location at least once per day, and no private residence can serve as a commissary. Ask local restaurants, churches, community centers and similar locations if they will lease you space in their commercial kitchens to conduct your business from, or construct a new location.

Hire an architect or construction professional to create scaled drawings of your commissary kitchen facilities and your concession trailer. Contact your local county and city zoning authorities to ensure you can operate a food business at the intended commissary location and the intended mobile locations. You may also need to obtain a wastewater management/disposal permit for your commissary location.

File a "Doing Business As," or DBA, name with the Florida secretary of state. Use this name to apply for a business license with your local county and city governments. You may receive only conditional approval for your business licenses until you have obtained the necessary state food permits, but you must provide proof that you have at least begun the local business licensing process.

Register with the Florida Department of Revenue for a sales/use tax permit. If you will hire employees, you must also register an Employer Identification Number, or EIN, with the IRS. Use this number to remit employer withholding, unemployment insurance and workers' compensation insurance payments.

Submit an Application for Mobile Food Dispensing Vehicle License with Plan Review to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation's Division of Hotels and Restaurants. Included with your application must be a Commissary Notification completed by the commissary location's owner/manager, copies of all of your necessary permits, your state and federal tax information, and the scaled drawings of your commissary and concession trailer.

Prepare for an inspection from the Florida Division of Hotels and Restaurants. During the inspection, a visual check of your commissary facilities and concession trailer for compliance will occur, and you will be interviewed regarding food safety, food preparation and the methods you will use to conduct your concession trailer business. Upon completion, you will be notified in writing if your license is approved. If denied, you will receive information about correcting deficiencies and re-applying.