How To Start A Food Trailer or Food Truck Business in Austin, TX

How To Start A Food Trailer or Food Truck Business in Austin, TX

So you’ve decided that you are going to open up a food trailer or food truck, congratulations! We have created a basic outline to help you with the necessary steps needed to open up your business. Although the outline is intended specifically for mobile food vendors in Austin, TX, the process and regulations are often similar in different cities and states.

 

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Step 1: Filing a Limited Liability Company For Your Food Trailer

It is very common for food service businesses to form an LLC. You can find out more info here.

 

Step 2: Texas Sales and Use Tax Permit

Before you can receive your Mobile Food Vendor Permit you will need to have a Texas Sales and Use Tax Permit. You can find out more information here.

 

Step 3: Join The Austin Food Trailer Chamber Google Group

This is a free and open email group that a few industry heavy hitters in Austin (Trish from Capital Kitchen, Case from Trucklandia, Phyllis from Cheesecake experience and I) started. There are currently over 200 trailer owners in the group. You can ask questions, post answers and tips for others or can search the archives. Send an email to be added to the group.

 

Step 4: Buying a Food Trailer or Food Truck

Although you may be able to find good deals on Craigslist for used food trailers or food trucks, there are also many great food trailer and food truck builders in Texas. One benefit of buying a newly manufactured food trailer is that the builders are usually knowledgeable about what is required to pass a City of Austin Health and Fire Inspection. You will also have the peace of mind knowing that all of your equipment is new and not damaged or aging.

Here are a few local builders to consider:

Smokin Joe’s Trailers

Sanchez Trailers

Custom Made Trailers

 

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Step 5: Buying Insurance for Your Food Trailer or Food Truck

We recommend purchasing $1,000,000 worth of liability insurance and property coverage on your food trailer or food truck as soon as you purchase so that you are immediately protected from accidents or theft.

With a food truck, you will also need commercial auto insurance before you drive the truck on public roads.

We can help here! Get a quote for your food trailer or truck

TIP: Many landlords require you to have $1,000,000 worth of general liability insurance before they will let you sell food on their property.

 

Step 6: Registering Your Food Trailer or Food Truck with the DMV

Before you can apply for an Application for Mobile Food Vendor Permit, you will need to register your trailer with the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles here.

 

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Step 7: Get Your Food Managers Certification For Your Food Truck

In order to pass your health inspection, you will need your Food Managers Certification displayed inside of your food trailer. You can find out more information and testing options here.

 

TIP: We suggest paying a bit extra to have your Food Managers Certification stay valid for 5 years because the class takes a full workday day to complete.

 

Step 8: Get The Application For Your Mobile Food Vendor Permit

This is the application packet that you will need to submit to the Health Department before they will inspect your food trailer or food truck and issue you a Mobile Food Vendor Permit.

TIP: The Health Department has a How To Start A Mobile Food Business Guide and a resource webpage for mobile food vendors.

TIP: All applications must be walked-in to 1520 Rutherford Lane, Austin, TX 78754 only on Tuesdays and
Thursdays from 7:45am-11am. After the application is approved then a physical mobile unit inspection is scheduled.

If you have questions call Health Department at (512) 978-0300 or visiting at (1520 Rutherford LN, NE corner of Rutherford LN @ Cameron RD, Building 1 East Entrance).

 

 

Finding A Central Prep Facility

In order to complete page 2 and 3 of the Application for Mobile Food Vendor Permit you must find a Central Prep Facility to use. Many food trailers and food trucks use their CPF strictly to dump grey water, get fresh water, and dump grease.

Here are some local CPFs in Austin

Capital Kitchens

Just Add Chef

Hudson Bend Commercial Kitchen

Manon’s Shared Kitchen

TIP: By using a CPF that specializes as a commercial kitchen to many different food businesses, the Sanitarian will be acquainted with the facilities, which will likely speed up the application process.

City of Austin Restroom Facility Agreement

In order to complete page 5 of the Application for Mobile Food Vendor Permit, you will need permission to use a restroom within 150 feet from the location of your food trailer.

 

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Passing Your Fire Inspection

AAA Fire & Safety Equipment

Longhorn Fire and Safety

Ace Fire Equipment

Please refer to the Application for Mobile Food Vendor Permit for more details about the fire inspection. We suggest calling the Austin Fire Department at (512) 974-0160 if you have any questions regarding the safety of your food trailer because the requirements listed in the packet are not exhaustive.

 

Step 9: Finding a Location for Your Food Trailer

Congratulations on passing your inspection! Finding the right location for your food trailer will be one of the most important decisions you will make. Make sure that you understand the rules and regulations regarding certain neighborhoods.

This map shows areas of the City of Austin that have adopted additional ordinances. Ordinances may affect your hours of operation or proximity to certain structures.

Find out more info here:

Mobile Food Establishments Codes

TIP: Don’t be shy about asking other food trailer owners questions about their food park. They will often be happy to share advice with you and give you the “inside scoop” about their location! Or join the Austin Food Trailer Chamber and ask around there (It’s free!) Send us an email to add you to the Google group.

 

Helpful Links

Propane Delivery Companies:

Absolute Propane

Garnett’s Propane

Grey Water and Grease Removal Companies:

Texas Disposal To have grey water removed from your trailer OR portable restroom servicing

Diesel Green Fuels To recycle used cooking oil

Kitchen Towel/Laundry Delivery Companies:

Admiral Linen

Linen Service

Food Parks in Austin:

Austin Food Park

Mueller Trailer Eats

The Picnic

The Thicket

The University Co-Op

Insure My Food was designed by an insurance agency that gets food trailers and food trucks

We understand the challenges and needs of your business and are committed to supporting the mobile food community.

Not only do we offer food trailer and food truck insurance in almost every state, we insure many types of mobile food vendors including concession trailers, food carts, pop-up vendors, street vendors, food stands, and catering trailers.

 

Contact Us for a free, no obligation quote or if you have any further questions.  From our small business to yours, we’re here to help you succeed!

Featured Client – Raw Chef Renee

Featured Client – Raw Chef Renee

Raw Chef Renee

Each month, Insure My Food shines the spotlight on a featured client doing big things in the mobile food industry.  For November, we introduce Raw Chef Renee based in Katy, Texas but also ships throughout the entire state!  Are you a current client interested in contributing to our blog?  Send an email and let us know!

Tell us a little about your truck and how you began…

I discovered the raw lifestyle in 2007 (searching for a way to provide healthy meals for myself and my family) through Alissa Cohen and fell in love with the food. It was my kids who suggested that I photograph my meals that I made for them, which led me to try different raw vegan recipes. I developed a passion for making raw food through Alissa Cohen. I began teaching classes through her certified program in 2010.

 

I was a flight attendant for Continental (United) Airlines for 20 years at that time. Starting as a Personal Chef helped me to develop a love for making meals for others. My early menus consisted of meals I made for my family. Soon, I began working my gourmet raw business through Tru Meals in Houston, TX. When Tru Meals closed, I was still interested in continuing my professional business. At that point, my Darling Hubby saw an article on food trucks and the idea to have a completely raw, vegan, living food trailer was born! After 6 months of juggling both careers, I prayerfully decided to work my certified food trailer full time because it became something I really loved to do. I stay mostly in the Katy area (close to home), but I do move around the city and do events in Houston.

How did you first go about finding spaces and events to sell around? Any tips for first timers?

Finding a good spot is a challenge for food trucks! Most places want to charge you a space rental fee, but there ARE places that will let you park for free….you just have to search them out. I started by asking myself what part of town I’d like to be in. Then, visit businesses (taking samples of my food and showing them the menu is always a good thing!) and ask permission to park there. You will hear “No’s” before you hear “Yes'”, but don’t give up! 🙂

Describe one of the major successes or memorable moments you’ve had since opening your trailer.

Since opening my food trailer, a major success for me is when I see my regular customers come back each week!!! I love it when people stand outside of my window and talk about how much they love my food!!! People really open up to me about the struggles they have to live a healthier lifestyle and it warms my heart to be able to share my passion with them. 🙂 I also love doing Demos for groups and teaching classes!

What is the greatest piece of advice you’ve either been given or can give to people looking to start in this industry?

I read the greatest piece of advise from the Bible at Matthew 6:22 where it encourages me to “Keep a focused (or simple) eye”. With that in mind, I pay more attention to my family and spiritual needs while keeping my business in the proper place in my life. I do certain things on certain days for the business which helps me to maintain and balance all of my responsibilities.

 

Another valuable piece of advise I was given came from my mentor, Alissa Cohen. She told me to “Circle my wagons” which means to have people around you who encourage you, build you up and want to see you succeed. Running a food truck business is hard work and sometimes, when business is slow, you can get very discouraged. So, positivity energy keeps me going and helps me to weather the storm when times are hard!!!!

What are some challenges you have as a food truck owner in your area?

Weather is definitely a challenge for me because people don’t seem to come out when the weather is bad, or I am not able to bring the trailer out to serve in rainy or cold weather. I have set up an online order system for those days, which includes delivery, pickup, or shipping (within Texas) options, so that helps!

Networking within your territory can sometimes be a challenge – what are some of the best ways you’ve found to connect with people in your area?

My regular customers allow me to text them when I’m in the area. Also I post my schedule on my website: www.RawVeganChefRenee.com.

 

I have also found that connecting with vegan meet-up groups or vegan social media groups helps to spread the word!

Let’s talk about social media presence – where can we find you online?

I have my own website, and we are on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

 

I enjoy taking photos and video testimonies from customers at my trailer and posting them. People love seeing their photo and will share it on their social media page or invite friends to look at it on my pages. Word of mouth or page to page referrals work very well!!!