If you’re a chef in the Sunshine State, owning and operating a food truck might sound like a dream come true. But first, you’ve got to put in the work. Knowing how to start a food truck business in Florida takes several essential steps to get your business on the road.
From researching the competition to securing all the necessary licenses and permits, the following steps will help you quickly start your Florida food truck business so you can get up and trucking.
1. Do market research
Knowing your local area and its customers is integral to launching your mobile business. You want to serve crave-worthy dishes while ensuring differentiation from your competitors. Market research will give you insights into how to satisfy discerning foodies and compete effectively with other food trucks in your area. Take a look at apps such as Where’s the Food Truck or StreetFoodFinder for inspiration.
There are more than 500 food trucks already operating in Florida.1 That competition can be intimidating, but it also creates opportunities to stand out from the crowd. You’ll want to zero in on the dishes à la carte diners prefer to distinguish your food truck. If you’re going to fry up some conch fritters, they better be the best.
Favorites like burgers and fries, Southern fare, seafood, and Caribbean and Latin American classics are among the most popular options for Florida food trucks.2 Market and competitor research can also help you set prices and know where to park your truck to bring in the most foot traffic.
Once you’ve set your menu and gained a substantial market understanding, ensure your business aligns with necessary legal requirements.
2. Get a business license
To operate your food truck legally, you’ll need to register your business with the proper authorities, including the Florida Secretary of State, the Florida Department of Revenue and the IRS. Proper registration ensures you’re operating legally and are prepared to pay required taxes on your business.
Through the Florida Department of State, you’ll file your articles of incorporation, articles of organization or partnership forms, depending on how you structure your food truck business.3 The Florida Department of Revenue is where you’ll register to collect and pay Florida sales and use tax on the food you sell.4 Register to pay federal taxes and receive your Employer Identification Number (EIN) through the IRS. The IRS will use your EIN to identify your accounts when you pay your federal business taxes.
Once you’ve successfully registered your business with these authorities, you can start working on local licenses specific to foodservice.
3. Get a food permit
In Florida, multiple agencies regulate food trucks. Which one will provide your permits depends on what you intend to sell. Each has its processes and requirements to follow.
The Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) regulates food trucks that prepare food onsite. If you plan to cook food in your truck, you’ll need to be licensed with the DBPR. To get your license, you must meet specific requirements that may include, among others, having a sufficient vehicle to conduct all cooking and cleaning in accordance with safety standards or an outside commissary in which your staff can do those activities.5
The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) regulates food trucks that only sell single-use products to consumers, such as pre-packaged foods or certain processed food items like coffees, candies or popcorn. These food trucks have their own requirements, including storing food products in a commissary rather than a private residence and only purchasing products from approved sources.6
For either permit, you may be required to submit your food truck for an inspection and other reviews to ensure it meets all legal standards for health, safety and operational abilities. You may also need specific health and food processing permits depending on the foods you serve. You should allow at least 30 days to process your application, so planning ahead is essential.7
The cost to receive your license or permit can vary depending on your specific location in Florida, but total initial costs typically range around a few hundred dollars, including a $50 processing fee. The DBPR offers a convenient cost estimator tool to help prepare you for initial costs.
Of course, licensure is just one of the costs you should factor into your budget when starting a food truck business.
4. Set a budget
The total cost to start and operate a food truck business can easily reach more than $100,000.8 This includes the truck itself, initial inventory and tools like a point-of-sale system.
Remember that these elements represent the initial costs of starting a food truck business in Florida. Like any business, you’ll need to plan for ongoing expenses such as replenishing your inventory, paying employees and keeping up with legal compliance costs that can total more than $28,000 a year on average.9
As a vehicle-based business, you’ll also need to budget for ongoing truck costs and maintenance like oil changes and gas. You should also budget an extra 5%–10% each month to cover unexpected expenses.10 This will cover you in case of emergencies or give you added funds to capitalize on new opportunities.
5. Market your business
Once you’ve acquired the licenses, tools and equipment necessary to run a successful food truck business, it’s time to get the word out. Proper marketing will let people know where your food truck will be and why they should plan to get their next meal from you.
To start, consider what your food truck will look like, how it will stand out, and what will make it memorable to customers. Industry experts recommend creating a solid brand with eye-catching graphics and a cohesive message that is easy for consumers to understand.11 Once you have your brand in place, you can set up your website and social media profiles.
A well-made, branded website will give you a dedicated space online to post information about your food truck, host menus and provide a location calendar. Social media profiles will help you interact with your customers on whatever platform they prefer, share photos of your food and the events you attend, and find out about new places to park your truck.
The more you can spread the word about your business, the faster your food truck operation can grow. And, as you grow, you’ll want to ensure your business is protected.
6. Get insurance
Operating a food truck business in Florida comes with insurance requirements. It takes a team to keep a food truck rolling, and worker’s compensation insurance protects business owners and staff if an employee is injured or becomes ill on the job. If your cook gets a little overzealous with their pancake-flipping and throws out their back, workers’ compensation policy could help cover their medical expenses.
Additionally, general liability insurance via Thimble is the most essential type of business liability insurance. Simply download the Thimble mobile app or click “get a quote,” answer a few questions, and get coverage where you need it, when you need it — starting today.
- IBISWorld. Food Trucks in the US – Number of Businesses 2005–2027.
- Mashed. These Are The 12 Best Food Trucks In Florida.
- Florida Department of State. Start a Business.
- Florida Department of Revenue. New Business Start-Up Kit.
- Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation. Hotels and Restaurants — Guide to Mobile Food Dispensing Vehicles.
- Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Mobile Food Permit Requirements.
- Florida DBPR. How long does it take to get my restaurant or lodging license once I apply and pay?
- Food Truck Empire. The Complete Breakdown of Food Truck Operation Costs.
- U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. Food Truck Nation Food Truck Index.
- Mobile Cuisine. 5 Areas to Include in Your Food Truck Budgeting.
- Food Truck Operator. How To: Improving Your Food Truck Marketing Strategy.