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What are the Steps to Starting a Food Truck Business in North Carolina?

Thinking of starting a North Carolina food truck business? Whether you are wanting to operate a food truck, pushcart, trailer, kiosk, or any other type of on-the-go food, there are legal aspects to consider right at the start. It is important to consider state, county, and city requirements and get your permits and licenses in order.

Getting Started: Your Food Truck and Home Base

Generally, your local health department will be a good source of information when it comes to starting your food truck business since they have a significant amount of authority over the area and may be able to provide the steps needed. Before purchasing and designing your food truck, it is important to know the specific requirements as it can be costly to readjust down the road. Start with the must-haves to meet inspection requirements.

Most importantly, you must obtain the proper permits and licenses. You will likely need multiple permits and licenses due to differing state, county, and city requirements. In North Carolina, in order to obtain these, your food truck must operate in conjunction with a permitted restaurant establishment or commissary. Think of this like your food truck’s “home base.” Meaning, each day that you operate your food truck, you must report there for cleaning, servicing your unit, and/or supplies.

What are the Steps to Starting a Food Truck Business in North Carolina?
What are the Steps to Starting a Food Truck Business in North Carolina?

County Health Department Requirements

The Mecklenburg County Health Department has the authority to issue your mobile food unit permit. In obtaining this permit, you must (1) submit your “home base” location, (2) submit the plans and specifications for your unit, (3) arrange a meeting with a Health Department representative at your “home base” for inspection of your unit, and (4) provide, and keep current, a list of locations where you will be operating.

NC State Business Requirements

In addition to health-related permits, your food truck will also need to adhere to the applicable entity requirements. For example, you will need to register your business with the North Carolina Secretary of State and likely obtain an Assumed Name Certificate. Also, depending on type of mobile food unit you choose to operate, you will need to contact the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles to ensure you obtain the proper vehicle registration and inspections.

Because you are selling to the public, you may also need to apply for a NC state sales tax permit. If you plan to have employees help or run the food truck, you will need to obtain an Employee Identification Number (EIN), often called a federal tax ID. This is important for any new business because it allows you to identify your business separate from your personal social security number.

Charlotte NC Food Truck Permits

Luckily, CDOT revamped the historical Peddler’s Ordinance which disallowed food trucks from operating within the Charlotte’s Central Business District and set up a new designated Food Truck Activity Zone. The first two steps to operating a food truck in Charlotte would be to (1) register by contacting Charlotte Center City Partners to obtain permits and meet other requirements, and (2) obtain a Temporary Infrastructure Agreement, a permit valid for one year which allows you to occupy space in Charlotte’s right-of-way.

After the Launch

Food trucks are inspected just like regular restaurants in North Carolina by a health department inspector, sometimes randomly. This includes your “home base,” and if food equipment, sinks, water supply, kitchens, etc. do not meet health and fire guidelines, you could be fined. Preparing and planning to meet ongoing requirements for your food truck is just as important as the initial launch.

Protecting Yourself and Your Food Truck

The process to starting your own food truck can be complicated and mistakes could be costly, so having a small business attorney guiding you through the process can ensure you launch successfully. Dye Culik PC is a Charlotte, NC small business law firm. Our attorneys are here to help with your food truck business dreams. Give us a call at 980-999-3557 or drop us a note.


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