Food Truck Starter Kit

The Food Truck Starter Kit provides everything you need to help you choose a location, set up your truck, obtain a health permit, and open your doors - including a printable version of the Food Truck Guide.

What’s inside

Guides (1)

Guide - Food Truck Guide

The Food Truck Guide is an overview of what it takes to open a food truck in San Francisco. Every business is different, but we provide the basic steps – along with tips, tricks and common mistakes to avoid. Explore below or download the Guide for quick reference.

Related Documents (4)

Business Plan Template – US Small Business Administration (SBA)

The US Small Business Administration (SBA) created this Business Plan Template to help you research and write your business plan.

Business Entity Comparison Table – SF Office of Small Business

This table provides an at-a-glance reference to how the most common business entity types — sole proprietorship, general partnership, C corporation, S corporation, and LLC — compare in a number of key characteristics.

Mobile Food Facility (Food Truck) Permit Process – SF Department of Public Health

How to obtain a Mobile Food Facility (Food Truck) Permit.

Mobile Food Facilities Flowchart – SF Department of Public Works

This Interactive Flowchart was developed by the SF Department of Public Works (DPW) to show the process of obtaining permission to operate on public property.

Permits (11)

Business Registration Certificate

The basic city business registration required for all businesses who wish to operate in San Francisco.

Weighing & Measuring Device Permit

The Weights and Measures program registers weighing or measuring devices to ensure consumer protection and rights. Applies to any business that will be using regulated weighing and measuring devices, including Point of Sale & Taxi Meters.

Weights & Measures Automated Point of Sale Registration

Registration required for businesses that have at least one Point of Sale (POS) station.

Manager's Food Handling Certification

At least one employee at each retail food facility must be certified as a food safety person by passing an approved examination. The certified person can be any owner, manager, or employee responsible for safe food handling.

Mobile Food Facility Permit

Allows the creation and operations of a Mobile Food Facility (MFF) - a pushcart or food truck. Certifies that the facility is sanitary and meets health code requirements.

Food Handler's Card

All individuals involved in preparation, storage, or service of food must obtain a "Food Handler Card".

DPW Mobile Food Facility (MFF) Permit - Public Property

Allows you to operate a mobile food facility on public property - sidewalks, streets, and any area in the public right of way.

Fictitious Business Name

Allows you to use a business name other than your given name, the names of your partners, or the officially registered name of your LLC or corporation.

Temporary Use Authorization Permit

Permit allowing a specific land use for a limited period of time, typically not associated with significant construction activity. Usually used for temporary events and/or for mobile food facilities on private property.

Employer Identification Number (EIN)

An EIN is also known as a Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN) or Federal Tax Identification Number. It is issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). A business needs an EIN to pay employees and to file business tax returns. An EIN does not expire and is unique to your business – once an EIN has been given to an entity, it will never be issued again.

Seller’s Permit

Permit required in order to sell or lease tangible personal property in the State of California.

Food Truck Guide

The Food Truck Guide is an overview of what it takes to open a food truck in San Francisco. Every business is different, but we provide the basic steps – along with tips, tricks and common mistakes to avoid. Explore below or download the Guide for quick reference.

Choose a Location

Visit the Office of Small Business

Make an appointment with a business counselor from the Office of Small Business, City Hall, Room 110 to understand the process and discuss your plans.

Choose one of two location options

Choose between: Selling on Public Property or Private Property. The application process to start your food truck business varies depending on the location you choose.

Option I: Public Right-of-Way

If operating in the public right-of-way (eg. sidewalks, streets, or alleys) apply for a permit to operate your food truck on public property from the Department of Public Works (DPW).

Option II: Private Property

If operating on private property (eg. any space off the street such as a parking lot or private parcel) apply for a permit to operate through the Planning Department. You may apply for permanent use or temporary use on private property.

Note
Operating on public property will require neighborhood notification and can lead to a public hearing if the application is contested by neighboring businesses or residents. Work with your neighbors to gain support and be sure to explain how your food truck can be a good addition to the neighborhood and how you plan to be a part of the community.

Note
Private organizers like Off the Grid and SOMA StrEat Food Park also operate on private property. These companies already have permits but charge a fee and/or a percentage of your sales to participate at their locations.

Note
For public property, there are buffer zones around restaurants, schools, and certain neighborhoods, where you cannot operate. Expect to stay 75 ft. away from any restaurant and at least 500 ft. from any grade school.

Set Up Your Business

Create a plan

Create a plan for the type of food truck you will open.

Obtain a business address

Obtain a business address. Even though you will be selling out of a truck, you will need a physical address (no PO boxes) in order to register your business.

Choose a business structure

Choose a business structure. LLCs, Corporations, and Limited Partnerships register with California Secretary of State. General Partnerships and Sole Proprietorships register with the County Clerk.

Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN)

Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN), also known as a Federal Tax ID Number from the IRS. This is used to identify your business and allows you to hire employees. If you are a sole proprietor, you may be able to use your Social Security Number instead.

Register your Business

Register your Business with the City through the Office of the Treasurer and Tax Collector (TTX).

Choose and file a business name

File a Fictitious Business Name (FBN) Statement at the Office of the County Clerk if you will be using a name other than your given name, the names of your partners, or the officially registered name of your LLC or corporation.

Apply for a Seller’s Permit

Apply for a Seller’s Permit from the CA State Board of Equalization in order to sell taxable goods in the state of California.

Obtain workers’ comp insurance

Obtain workers' compensation insurance. You will need this in order to obtain the Department of Public Health (DPH) Permit to Operate.

Prepare Your Space

Mobile Food Facility Classification

Determine the level of Mobile Food Facility Classification you fall under and review the requirements for your classification level.

Find a place to prepare your food.

All mobile food vendors must operate in conjunction with a food facility, also known as a commissary, such as a licensed commercial kitchen. Thus, you will need to rent a commercial space for preparing food, and storing your inventory.

Purchase a truck, cart, or trailer

Purchase a truck, cart, or trailer, but make sure you know and understand the health requirements.

Note
Be sure to obtain or create schematics of your truck. You will need these to obtain a food permit.

Note
If you are operating certain types of mobile food facilities (classification 4 and 5), appliances, plumbing and other structural items may require certification by the CA Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD).

Parking and maintenance

Secure a location for parking and truck maintenance. All mobile food facilities that prepare food must be parked at a designated food facility when not in use.

Food & Alcohol

Manager’s Food Safety Certification

Obtain a Manager’s Food Safety Certification for yourself and/or a designated employee. This person is responsible for teaching other employees proper food handling.

Food Handler Card

Ensure all employees have a Food Handler Card. SF DPH offers a few options for obtaining this card.

Develop a menu

Create a list of all foods to be served with information on how, when and where each food item is prepared and cooked. You will need this list to obtain a food permit.

Mobile Food Facility Permit to Operate

Apply for your Mobile Food Facility Permit to Operate from the SF Department of Public Health (DPH). Your application will require a list of food to be served, truck schematics, Commissary Verification, Restroom Verification, Proof of Worker’s Compensation Insurance, Proof of Food Safety Certification, Written Operational Procedures, and a Business Registration Certificate.

Note
If you chose to operate on private property, you must also submit a Private Property Owner Verification form to DPH.

No trans fats

Don’t serve any foods containing trans fats, per California State law. SFDPH enforces the trans fat compliance program to ensure that no food containing artificial trans fat is stored, distributed, served, or used in the preparation of any food.

Recyclable or compostable containers

Use containers that are compostable or recyclable if you serve takeout or allow customers to take food home. The SF Mandatory Recycling and Composting Ordinance prohibits certain food service ware, like Styrofoam containers.

Note
If you chose to operate on public property, you must provide a copy of your final DPH permit to the Department of Public Works (DPW).

What If...

Restrooms

If your truck operates at a location for more than an hour, you and your employees must have use of a restroom within 200 ft. of the truck.

Cash register

If you will have a Point of Sale (POS) station (also called a cash register), you must register it with the SF Department of Public Health Weights and Measures Program.

Employees

If you plan to hire employees, be sure to follow all wage and employment guidelines.

Note
If you make any changes to your food truck’s Written Operational Procedures, menu or equipment you will need DPH approval.

After Opening

DPH Operating Instructions

Follow all DPH operating instructions to maintain a safe and healthy truck for customers and employees.

Clean up after your truck

Always clear your truck location of trash or debris before you leave. When operating on public property, be sure you don’t obstruct the sidewalk.

Post required posters and permits

Post all required posters and permits including No Smoking signs, minimum wage information, health inspection results, written operational procedures, etc.

Equipment maintenance and permit renewals

Mark your calendar. Schedule equipment maintenance and set reminders to renew your permits and licenses as needed.

Health Inspections

Be prepared for SFDPH Health Inspections by checking walls, floors, and ceilings for damage, following best practices for food storage, collecting garbage, ensuring workers have good hygiene.

Pay your taxes.

Prepare and pay your local, state, and federal taxes. Learn more from the SF Treasurer, SF Assessor, CA Franchise Tax Board, and the IRS.