How to Open a Food Truck in Jacksonville

Thinking about opening up your own Jacksonville food truck?

We’ll show you how and where to get started…

Here we’ll outline some of the things you’ll need to consider before opening up a food truck, what you’ll need, and how to get started.

Before all else…understand the industry, and understand the market.

My best piece of advice is, speak with some local Jacksonville food truck owners before you get started. They will be able to give you insight into some of the pros and cons of the food truck business, tips to save you time and money upfront, and if/when you do get open, maybe you’ll have made a friend who might be willing to help you find some spots.

You may learn some things that could deter you from the idea of opening up a food truck, or it could validate your choice to dive on in.

1) Choose a Category

What has been done already, what hasn’t…can I do it better, how many BBQ food trucks are there (a lot), how many Dessert trucks are there? Etc…

These are questions you need to ask yourself before investing your time and money into a food truck business. Unless you’re solely opening up a food truck because you’re passionate about it, and want to stay busy…seriously do your research.

There is only so much demand for a particular food category. If you are extremely business-savvy and have a great product and service…of course you can succeed doing whatever you want, but it’s worth measuring the level of difficulty and the amount of time and effort involved, vs. doing something completely new and fresh.

When researching different categories of food trucks you can open…don’t forget to factor in 2 very important variables:

  1. the difference in equipment needed for each category, and
  2. the time associated with food prep and actually serving the customers.

Your startup cost can vary significantly depending on the amount and type of equipment you need on your food truck.

If your goal is to set up at big festivals and food truck rallies and feed the masses…don’t have some crazy, complex menu where each dish requires 10 minutes to prepare…speed is key in the food truck business, no matter where you are.

2) The Food Truck

Now that you’ve done your research, selected the type of food truck you’d like to open…it’s time to plan and build.

At this point, you pretty much have 3 options for obtaining a food truck.

  1. Hire a food truck manufacturing company/contractor to custom-build you a food truck from scratch.
  2. Buy a previously-owned food truck and re-wrap it with your logo/design. (Recommended)
  3. Purchase a bare truck or trailer and build it out yourself.

Before deciding which route to go…consider a few things:

Of course, the DIY route sounds the cheapest and ideal to many people that are at least a little bit handy. One thing aspiring food truck owners don’t factor in however, is the amount of time you waste building it yourself. Unless you do nothing besides build that truck…you will spend a good amount of time getting up and running.

You will run into unforeseen obstacles, may have to wait on equipment to arrive, and could end up having to hire someone to fix your mistakes if you make any. I’ve built 2 on my own and each took approximately 3 months. I wound up spending the same amount of money as if I bought one ready-to-go from a previous food truck owner, and the previous 3 months were spent dishing out money vs. bringing it in.

My rule is always, identify how much you can profit in 3 months selling food and see if the DIY route will save you more than that amount, and then factor in your time, stress and capabilities.

If you need a custom-built kitchen that you just can’t find anywhere else, then you’ll have to go the food truck manufacturer/contractor route.

This will be more expensive than the other 2 options, but if you find the right company to do it…you should have a top of the line food truck and someone to call if anything goes wrong. This is where speaking with other food truck owners can be invaluable.

There are plenty of people who have been scammed out of $1,000s…don’t be one of them. Do your research, talk to people who have already done it, and get their recommendations.

3) Licensing/Permitting

Having done it 3 times now…I won’t say this process is fun or straightforward, but it could be worse.

I’ll lay out everything you need to “get official,” so you don’t have to start with a random Google search…or maybe that’s how you made it to this page. Read on.

What you’ll need to obtain you Jacksonville food truck permit:

  1. Register a business/entity with the State of Florida at Sunbiz.org
  2. General Liability and Commercial Auto Insurance. Recommended Agency: Famins.com (813) 681-4893
  3. Business License and completed Risk Review with the State of Florida. Instructions Here and Apply for Mobile Food Dispensing Vehicle & Plan Review Here
  4. Duval County Food Vendor Permit. I’ll explain how to complete the Checklist below, because it is not very clear and seems like a lot at first… Food Vendor Permit Checklist More Jacksonville Food Truck Info

Jacksonville Food Vendor Permit Checklist (Broken Down)

If you’re opening up just a regular old food truck here is what you’ll need on this page.

a) Fictitious Name Registered

Print out a copy of your LLC, fictitious name, or other entity info. from sunbiz.org, showing you’ve registered a business.

b) Department of Business & Professional Regulation – Division of Hotels & Restaurant: Food Service License

Here you will just need a copy of your business license after you’ve received it from the State of Florida.

c) Combustible Materials Checked by Certified Fire Equipment Dealer

Simply put…you need a signed piece of paper saying your fire extinguisher is up to date. My recommendation, call up Sotec Fire in Atlantic Beach. They’ll know what you need.

d) Certificate of Insurance Approved by Risk Management

Here you will need to bring a copy of your COI (General & Commercial Auto) to the Risk Management department in downtown Jacksonville. *It must include the specific language and meet the limits required by the city.

Note: If you do not have worker’s compensation insurance…print out a sheet of paper with the following:
“Your Business Name”
“Your Business Address”

“Today’s Date”
“City of Jacksonville”
“117 W. Duval Street”
“Jacksonville, FL 32202”

“This is to certify that INSERT YOUR BUSINESS NAME HERE is exempt from purchasing Workers Compensation insurance under the Florida Statute 440.”

Print your name and sign it.

e) Planning and Development Department Section (If Applicable)

Good news…it’s not, so skip it!

f) Parks, Recreation, and Community Service Department Section

Skip it!

g) Checklist Compliance Confirmed by Consumer Affairs

If you completed the top section and had your COI approved, then you will get a signature here. Congratulations…the hardest part is complete!

h) Office of Tax Collector Section

Here you will need to make your way over to the Tax Collector’s office with the following items:

  1. Your photo I.D. (driver’s license, military I.D., etc.)
  2. A printed picture of your food truck or food trailer setup, as if you were looking at it from a customer’s perspective.
  3. Vendor Permit, Local Business Tax Receipt, and Completed Tax Collectors Application: don’t worry, you don’t need to bring these because that’s what you’re there for! If everything else is completed…the clerk will check off these last 3 items, sign, and provide you with your brand new Duval County Food Vendor Permit and Local Business Tax Receipt.

And of course…bring money to pay for all of this! The food vendor permit should be around $250 and the Local Business Tax Receipt should be less than $100. If you have all of your papers printed out, and are ready to go…you can hit downtown Jacksonville in the morning, and be done before the afternoon. Just make sure you are prepared and have everything you need.

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