Food Truck Permits and Licenses
Food trucks are essentially restaurants on wheels, and although they have more freedom than their brick-and-mortar counterparts, they still require various permits and licenses for operation and vending. If you want to start a food truck in LA, there are several logistical considerations you’ll need to keep in mind.
Having a thorough understanding of exactly what kinds of licenses and permits your food truck will need—and how the overall process works—will help you get your mobile business up and running with ease. Below you’ll find an overview of the types of food truck permits and licenses your starting a food truck requires:
Food Truck Distinctions
The technical term for a food truck is a ‘mobile food vendor’, which is defined by the LA County Public Health Department as, “a cart, truck, or trailer that people use to sell food and beverages.” It’s important to note that mobile food vendors fall into two distinct categories—those that sell packaged foods like ice cream bars, chips, soda, candy, etc., and those that sell unpackaged foods.
This difference is extremely important because vendors that sell unpackaged foods (which means foods that are perishable and that need to be kept hot or cold) are subject to more extensive regulations and permitting requirements than those in traditional food service, whether it be a mobile food vendor or not.
Since most traditional ‘food trucks’ sell unpackaged foods, this page will cover the more in-depth requirements needed for a full-service operation.
Not only do food truck operators need to meet the appropriate requirements to open, but they must also pass inspection and follow LA’s rules and regulations regarding health permits and food handling. These rules are in place to protect the health and safety of the public, and you can see them in action by looking for letter grades and certification stickers on every food truck and cart in the city.
What Permits and Licenses do You Need to Operate a Food Truck in LA?
Los Angles is a food truck paradise, and the city ensures the public can enjoy delicious mobile meals safely by implementing various requirements. To start a food truck in LA, you’ll need to complete the application process and be approved for the following:
- Vendor’s License: Also known as a business license, this is the basic license that you’ll need in order for the government to recognize your business as a legitimate operation. A vendor’s license is also used for tax purposes and is how you will acquire an employer identification number (EIN). You can learn more about how to apply for your vendor’s license here.
- Public Health Mobile Food Facility Permit: If you want to sell food in LA, you MUST pass a health department inspection BEFORE you start selling food to the public. New trucks and carts may also need to go through the Plan Check process after their initial inspection. In addition to passing food safety and equipment checks, food establishments must also follow local land use rules, which means you can’t block the sidewalk or expand in a way that disrupts the area or infringes on zoning laws. You can find the form to apply for the permit here
- Driver’s License: Since food trucks are vehicles, you’ll need a valid driver’s license in order to take them on the road. In LA, you don’t need to get a special kind of license or pass any additional exams—all you need is the standard license to drive a mobile food truck. If you don’t have a driver’s license, you can get one at your local Department of Motor Vehicles.
- LA Food Seller’s Certificates: Special training is required for people who will be selling unpackaged foods. There are two types of training for food sellers in LA: the Certified Food Handler (CFH) certificate and the Certified Food Protection Manager (CFM) certificate. Knowing which employees are required to have which permit is crucial, and you can learn about the differences between the two certifications here.
What are the Requirements for Obtaining Food Truck Permits and Licenses?
Now that you know what types of permits and licenses you’ll need to start a food truck in LA, let’s take a look at the requirements for obtaining the necessary credentials. You’ll need:
- To be at least 18 years old
- A valid picture ID
- Vehicle DMV Registration (if applicable)
- Commissary Contract
- A completed Mobile Food Facility Permit application (the permit application may be accessed prior to your appointment)
Additionally, if you’re filing as a Limited Liability Company (LLC) or a corporation, you’ll need to provide Articles of Organization or Articles of Incorporation.
How Much do Food Truck Permits and Licenses Cost?
The cost of the necessary licenses and permits is something you’ll need to account for when you’re planning to start a food truck in LA. Take a look at the standard fees for mobile food facility permits below and keep in mind that certain permits will also include an application fee:
Additionally, the cost of obtaining a driver’s license is $30, and depending on where you plan to operate there is a possibility of the property owner requiring a parking permit which can incur additional monthly or annual fees.
Where Can I Find More Information?
The city of Los Angeles has a wealth of useful resources you can use as you begin your food truck journey. Be sure to spend some time exploring the Health Department, DMV, and Bureau of Street Services websites to learn more about starting your endeavor. It may also be worth checking with your local fire department to ensure your fire suppression system is up to code in your truck or cart and that you have the required documentation validating it.
Once you’ve taken care of the logistics, it’s time to start serving your delicious eats in LA! Partnering with FTALA is a great way to connect with customers, and join an exciting community of local food truck business owners and operators.