Business Guide Tips

How to Start a Mobile Food Business

Mobile vending has become so popular that most major cities have businesses that fabricate mobile vending units. Do a little digging on the internet to locate mobile units available for sale. Next, start market research to determine what people will buy. You cannot generate demand for your product unless you unlock an untapped market. For example, you cannot choose to sell Greek food in vicinity where there is disinterest or ignorance concerning Greek food. You can, however, market falafels, hummus, and tabouli as vegetarian fare to an underserved market. Determine how many vendors exist in your target market which sells your product. Visit the competitors to sample their product. It might be helpful to use a scale to weigh their finished product in relation to their price point. Find a business concept which adds value to the customer to distinguish yourself from your competitors. There are several CRM platforms that you can use as you get into this business. There are several online websites that let you compare these crm platforms which enables you to choose the best option according to your requirement and budget.

Restricted or Unrestricted

In most parts of the country, a restricted mobile vendor is someone who sales prepackaged food and does not prepare, cook, or service open food on their mobile unit. The prepackaged food must be from an approved source and have an ingredient label. An approved source is an establishment with a food permit from the local health authority and/or a state food manufacturing permit. Your house is not an approved source for food. Many wholesale distributors offer prepackaged food products. Locate an established restaurant that might be willing to prepare prepackaged products for your mobile business. You can even prepare your own prepackaged products in an approved facility.

Unrestricted mobile vendors are allowed to prepare, cook, and service open food but have increased requirements such as a designated hand sink with hot and cold water, sinks for washing and sanitizing utensils and a certified food manager.

Commissary

Every mobile food vendor needs a commissary. A commissary is typically where you store your mobile unit when not in use, clean and properly dispose of waste associated with operating your mobile unit, and store the food products serviced on your unit. A commissary is not your home because: it is not an approved source for food, it lacks proper facilities for the disposal of waste water (i.e. not the ground or a storm sewer), and your neighbors don’t want your taco truck parked outside their house. A commissary can be the location of a restaurant or wholesale distributor who provides your products. A commissary can be a leased space at an established restaurant, with a valid permit from the local health authority, where you store and prepare you products. A commissary can also be a leased commercial space that meets the criteria above.

Registration

To start a mobile food business you must register with the local city or county health department. You will need to fill out a mobile vendor permit application and provide a permission statement from your commissary. Some establishments may lease a space within their facility but will not provide a permission statement because in doing so they agree to accept legal responsibility for your operation within the facility. In which case, you will also need a food permit application for your commissary. If you leased commercial space you will also need to a food service permit application. A change of ownership request to have your commercial space inspected is also required. The permit application will not be approved until the change of ownership inspection has been passed. Likewise, a mobile vendor permit will not be approved until the change of ownership inspection is passed. You will need to register yourself or an employee as a certified food manager if you operate an unrestricted mobile unit. In addition, all your employees will need to be registered as certified food handlers. All the courses are offered by the health department so that registration can be completed at the same time as the application(s).

Staying Stationary

Locating your mobile vending unit to a permanent space is extremely complicated. Most units have cooling or heating equipment which require electricity and running a stationary operation strictly on gasoline is not cost effective. If you lease a space to park a mobile vending unit and intend to hook-up to the public utilities, outline the use of the utilities in the lease agreement. Failure to do so will cause disagreements when the owner’s utility costs fluctuate. Also be prepared to compensate the owner during the summer months when utilities cut into the owner’s profit margin. Mobile vending units can fall under zoning laws such that if someone thinks your trailer is an eyesore, they can complain and you may be asked to leave. Waste water needs to be disposed of in a public sewer and finding an outlet within range may be troublesome. You are not allowed to store food overnight in a mobile unit or store food from the mobile vending unit at your home. If the facility to which you are attached experiences an act of God such as a power failure or sewage back-up and receives a closure notice: you will receive a closure notice.

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