One sees hot dog carts on many street corners as well as at county fairs and other events. This fun and rewarding business seems easy enough to break into but if you want to become a hot dog cart vendor there are some requirements you will need to obtain before beginning your new venture.
Hot dog cart businesses must obtain a special health department license because you will be handling food. Find your local health department (see Resources) for your state by clicking on your state. You might also need a street vendor's license because you will be selling your hot dogs on public streets. Check with your local city hall or county government to procure the street vendor license. While you're there, ask if any other permits or licenses are necessary to open your hot dog cart business. You will also need to obtain a sales tax number so you can pay sales tax to the state on the hot dogs you sell. States usually have an office in the local city hall for convenience.
Hot dog cart business owners need to purchase a hot dog cart (see Resources). Standard hot dog carts usually come with the equipment you'll need, but if yours does not then you will need a steamer to hold the hot dogs, a bun warmer and a sink to wash your hands.
Supply requirements for a hot dog cart include napkins, straws and wrap to put the hot dogs in before you give them to your customers. Food supplies include hot dogs, beverages, and optional food snacks such as crisps, which your customers will probably want. Locate a local wholesale supply house to buy these items at wholesale prices.
Food Handling Requirements
Many municipalities require anyone who is handling food, including hot dog cart owners, to attend a food-handling course before starting their business. When you get your health department license, find out if you must attend a class. If you must attend, the representative will advise you when and where he holds this class.
Secure a location or locations to sell your food. You are not allowed to park your hot dog cart on the city street without a permit to do so. If you do, the local police will ask you to move on and you can incur a fine. If you want to park your hot dog cart on private property, such as a shopping mall, you must obtain the owner's permission and usually this requires paying the owner a percentage of your take each day. Another alternative is to go to city and state festivals when they occur. Contact your local Chamber of Commerce to find out when festivals will occur and how to get a vendor permit for a spot selling hot dogs at the next festivity.
You will need a comprehensive business insurance policy that covers your hot dog cart for damage or vandalism. In addition, food handlers' insurance covers your customers in case of accidental food poisoning.
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