Getting Started

If you are just getting started, the following list contains basic items you will need:   

  • Business plan (this is a MUST)

  • Washington State business license

  • Web domain and website provider (you need to promote yourself)

  • File your LLC or Corp status w/Secretary of State

  • IRS.gov - File for your Federal Tax ID #

  • City license(s)

  • Bank account, Paypal 

  • POS sales system 

  • Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (Again, you need to promote yourself)

  • State L & I permit (see below for more Labor and Industry info)

  • County health & fire department permits

  • Street use permit (if you plan to vend on public property)

  • Research & find your commissary kitchen (especially if you are in a rural area)

  • Washington state food handler card

  • Cash & Carry/Costco account

  • Accounting software (Quickbooks) and/or Bookkeeper (see below)

  • Plan a press release (consider scheduling a "soft opening")

  • Consider a security system

  • Business cards, customer punch cards, T-shirts, aprons, other marketing and/or swag (Vistaprint)

  • Street Food Vendor Checklist

  • Check municipal requirements or restrictions in your area.

  • Research other menus & cuisine types , study other food truck operators & visit many events to learn what the public wants!

  • Mobile vendor insurance policy.

  • Have a BACKUP generator. (Best generator info found here. )


Getting Your Food Truck Approved for Business in Washington 

Our first recommendation is to research the viability of your food truck business based on the county in which you first choose to get permitted.  Mobile Food Vending in Seattle is a helpful resource guide distributed by the Restaurant Success program site.

The basic requirements to operate a mobile street-food unit: 

Licensing

  • Obtain a state business license and register your trade name through the Department of Revenue (online: http://bls.dor.wa.gov/file.aspx ; by mail: State of Washington, Business Licensing Services, PO Box 9034, Olympia, WA 98507-9034) 

  • Obtain a city business license (each city will have its own requirements:  http://access.wa.gov/topics/business/city ) and research the vending laws in the cities you plan to locate and any zoning restrictions. 

Labor and Industry Approval/Insignia

Health Department or District Approval 

  • Applicants are required to first, create a plan for review and approval before applying for a mobile food unit permit.  There is a fee for both your plan review and for the permit application.  (Each county has different fees and applications.)

  • If you plan to vend at specified locations for more than 1-hour, you will also need a signed sales site (restroom) agreement.  Items required for your plan review may include: unit floor plans, commissary agreement form, restroom agreement, food prep flow chart, route information, detailed menu, and a description of your business plan.

  • Research and find an approved commissary kitchen in your county. (WAC State Food Code 246-215 Part-9 requires mobile units, when not in operation, to be stored at approved commissary.)

  • Obtain water & sewer approval pending location in the county. (Approx 40% of Wa is on septic)

  • Research if your county also requires a catering license if you plan to cater private events.

  • Obtain your food worker’s card (Chapter 246-217 WAC)  15-minute online course found here.

Fire

·       Obtain an Annual Liquid Propane Gas (LPG) Permit For Food Vending (each city may require)

·       Check with your city Fire Department or Regional Fire Authority if an initial safety inspection and/or permit is required. 

Street Vending

 Vending “in the public right of way” requires a street-use permit from Department of  Transportation or the City Planning Department.  In Seattle:  http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/stuse_vend.htm;  the various types of vending permits are listed there.  (Permit Application including three sets of your site plans with dimensions of vending unit.)


Finance Resources

Business Impact NW  Funding for small businesses in Washington. Contact: Roland Chaiton, CGBP - Sr.VP/Sr. Loan Officer - 206.324.4330 x111, Email: rolandc@businessimpactnw.org 

Evergreen Business Capital Community Finance is offering a special 5% fixed rate loan ($1,000 to $15,000) for food truck owner/operators.  Microloans can be used to buy inventory, equipment and also refinance business debt.   Contact: Theo Ransum at 907-795-6504 / www.ebccf.org

Local Bookkeeping Services

The Avitus Group (specializes in small business), Leanna Sauerlender is contact: lsauerlender@avitusgroup.com Cell: 425.229.2310 - http://www.avitusgroup.com 

Out of The Kitchen Operations, LLC  Contact Alhasha McLean: otkoperations@gmail.com - Services Provided include : Operations support, Bookkeeping, Invoicing, Accounts Payable/Receivable, Administrative support, Public Relations, Social Media management, Process & Procedure development, Payroll, Reconciling & Reporting


Know Your Numbers

When figuring out your daily cost to vend at a particular location, be sure to include: your taxes, insurance, depreciation, overhead, travel time, propane, consumables/packaging, vending fees, credit card fees and fuel in addition to your food costs and labor (including prep and clean-up time).  You have to include all these things to get your true cost. Email us for a VERY helpful costing spreadhseet.