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What food licenses do you need to start a food truck in Texas?

May 10, 2024
Food Licenses and Permits
Food Licenses and Permits

Over the past decade, the food truck industry has grown substantially. In fact, it is now estimated there are over 35,500 food trucks currently operating in the USA (per IBIS World) with 3,500 of these in the state of Texas alone (per Trucklandia). The low investment costs allow new and existing business owners to operate a food truck at a much lower cost than traditional brick-and-mortar stores.  Food trucks - once thought to be just a fad – have proven they’re here to stay.

At American Course Academy, one of the questions our customer service support team receives most often is “What food licenses do I need to start a food truck?”  At first, it seems a like an easy question to answer. However, food licenses and permits vary based on type and where you live. Also, there are several other licenses and permits required  that don’t apply to food at all. So, before you take to the streets with your new food truck business, make sure you familiarize yourself with all of the licenses and permits involved

Below is a detailed list of the most common food permits and licenses required for food trucks in the state of Texas and how they can be obtained.

Food Licenses & Permits

 Health Permit

The first step for any food truck owner will be with the health department. Getting a health permit to operate your truck is one of the first things you need to do. This permit determines where it’s legal for you to operate. The health inspector will inspect your truck and let you know if there are any deficiencies that need to be corrected before they issue you a Health Permit.

The department that oversees everything having to do with health in the great state of Texas, The Department of Health Services (DSHS), has great collateral and guidelines for food trucks which are referred to officially as ‘Mobile Food Units.’ The fee for a food truck is currently $258.

 Food Manager Certification

In Texas, it is required that each food truck have a certified food manager. Most often, this individual is the owner, manager, or chef. The purpose of the class is to learn the proper food handling practices, rules and regulations according to the Texas Food Establishment Rules and Regulations (TFER). The food manager certification course is most often a 2-day class lasting 14 hours. The Texas Department of State Health Service website provides detailed information on how to obtain your Texas food manager certification. The fees for a food manager certification vary but are generally $30 - $35 online.

 Food Handlers Card

All food truck employees handling food, equipment, utensils, or contact surfaces are considered food handlers in the state of Texas and must obtain a valid food handlers’ card - also known as a food handlers’ permit or food handlers license in different states.  However, they are all the all the same food safety certificate. The food handling course generally takes one hour to complete and can be taken online. To take our Texas food handler course, visit the American Course Academy website. You will be able to download your food handler certificate immediately afterwards. The fee is only $6.99.

What additional licenses are needed?

Along with registering your business and obtaining food truck business liability insurance, you will need the appropriate food truck permits and licenses for your city and the state of Texas to sell food legally. The following are the most commonly required food truck permits and licenses in Texas. Depending on the county, venue you select, ingredient preparation and type of food sold, not all of the following additional licenses and permits listed below may apply. However, it will serve as a good checklist to help ensure you are familiar with common business rules and regulations in your area to prevent any delays.

  1. Texas Sales Tax Permit
  2. Employer Identification Number
  3. Driver’s License
  4. Fire Certificate
  5. Parking Permit
  6. Commissary Letter of Agreement
  7. Standard Operating Procedures
  8. Special Event Permit

 Starting a food truck takes substantial time, effort and investment. Though the competition has increased in the Texas market, this has also increased the popularity of food trucks and ‘normalized’ food trucks as a food venue. There is still PLENTY of room for growth. Moreover, if you plan to open a restaurant eventually, a food truck can be a great starting point. As you figure out how to start your food truck and get your business up and running, you might ultimately decide the mobile truck business is the way to go and continue to invest in different trucks around Texas – the possibilities are endless.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog and on this website is for information purposes only and is not intended as legal, accounting, tax, HR, or any other professional advice. You are responsible for your own compliance with laws and regulations. You should contact your attorney or legal counsel or other relevant advisor for advice specific to your circumstances.

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