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Top 5 Legal Issues for Food Truck Owners

By Betty Wang, JD on May 20, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

It's no secret that starting a food truck business is all the rage these days. Food trucks have found that sweet spot by tapping into the current popularity of foodie culture, the powers of social media, and, in many cases, cheaper prices.

Unfortunately, serving innovative food at fair prices isn't the only thing food truck owners have to think about. Foodie entrepreneurs must also do their legal research before hitting the road -- or risk getting shut down.

Here are five legal issues that food truck owners commonly face:

  1. Licenses and permits. Like any other business, food trucks require licenses and permits. While the details vary by location, many areas have a cap on the number of vendor permits they distribute in a certain amount of time. Because food trucks are so popular these days, this can put a delay on your process.
  2. Health and safety issues. Food trucks are essentially restaurants on wheels and thus are subject to the same health and safety regulations. The difficulty of maintaining or ensuring that everything is up to par for food trucks should be considered. For example, considering a food truck's limited space, is a brick oven in a truck safe? Can all the people crammed into one food truck properly clean with so little room?
  3. Costs. While running a food truck is cheaper than maintaining a brick-and-mortar restaurant, it's still not cheap. Food trucks can range in price from as little as $30,000 to more than $80,000 -- and that doesn't even include the cost of supplies, permits, vendors, licenses, employee salaries, insurance, and more.
  4. Competition. While food trucks are outnumbered by restaurants, they arguably cater to similar clientele. This can lead to problems with unhappy restaurant owners and local lawmakers; they often turn to enacting regulations to prevent possible issues with unfair competition.
  5. Inconsistent laws. Even though food trucks have been around for quite some time, their recent popularity has sparked the need to reassess food truck laws more closely. According to The New York Times, regulation and enforcement of food truck laws is often incredibly erratic. Sometimes, you're only allowed to park in a spot for 30 minutes; other times, it's an hour. Sometimes, you can't sell if you're within 500 feet of a school zone; other times, you can. Sometimes, you get a ticket; other times, you'll get towed.

As exciting and innovative as the food truck business is, it's always best to know what you're getting yourself into before you dive in. If you have any questions, or if any legal issues arise, it may be wise to consult an experienced business lawyer in your area.

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