How to start a street food business


According to Los Angeles-based industry-research firms, the street-food business is a $1 billion industry that has seen an 8.4 percent growth rate from 2007 to 2012. The demand of street-food is increasing, because people are seeking inexpensive breakfasts and lunches. Also, employees today are often pressed for time, with shorter lunch hours and more work. These factors make the mobile-food concept more appealing than ever. Moreover, from an entrepreneurial standpoint, unlike most other business opportunities, street trading offers you a realistic chance to start your own business for a reasonable investment, very few restrictions, low overheads and little, if any specialist knowledge, skills or experience.
To start you first need a means. You can choose between food kiosks (they are an excellent choice in areas where your outdoor selling season would be limited by cold or nasty weather), food carts and concession trailers, food trucks (they can carry any number of foods, and in some cases, more sophisticated equipment for storing, serving, cooking and preparing foods) and gourmet food trucks (basically the same as a food truck, it takes food quality to a higher level).
The following step is determining what to serve. Consider what foods are popular in your town, what ingredients are easy to get from wholesalers and what foods are easy to transport. Make sure you can master the recipes. Are you able to prepare them without much difficulty? Try some variations on a them and test your food. It’s important: don’t start out with foods you have not thoroughly tested.
Before you finish putting your menu together, building your perfectly retrofitted cart or truck or setting up your kiosk, you need to get your licensing in order. Each state as well as most cities and even counties have their own permits and licensing requirements. If you need help you can contact the local health department. Typically, they have every information you need. Is all so easy? No. Before you can hit the road, health inspectors will inspect your vehicle to verify: proof of ownership, proper identification and license (of the vehicle), proof of District-issued Food Manager Identification Card, food-purchase record storage, record keeping and copy of license for the service support facility and/or a recent inspection report.
Another problem is the location. This is the most crucial part of your business. Location is key. First, you have to consider where you are allowed to park by law. Next, you have to ask yourself where in those areas can you find the customers who would like your foods and/or beverages. Some places to consider parking are: shopping districts or malls, empty lots, office parks and popular tourist locations. You should also consider events, like festivals, conventions, conferences and college campuses or business districts.
How much does it cost to start this business? It’s difficult to find an answer. For a food cart you might spend $3,000 while for a food truck you could spend $60,000. Then you should add the costs for initial ingredients, permits, licenses, packaging, marketing and promotion. There simply is no exact number, but you can be pretty sure the vehicle is your biggest investment.


  • Proof of ownership
  • Proper identification and license (of the vehicle)
  • Proof of District-issued Food Manager Identification Card


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