Dreaming of bringing your own food truck to the next food truck rodeo? Owning and operating a food truck may look easy but looks can be deceiving. Successfully navigating the legal requirements inherent in the business is paramount to making sure you can attend the food truck rodeos again and again for years to come.
While attorneys can provide guidance in getting your food truck business off the ground, some of the most knowledgeable and valuable resources for aspiring entrepreneurs are current business owners. Carl Richardson, owner of Big C Waffles is one of the many food truck operators in the triangle area. Known for the “best waffles on earth,” Big C Waffles specializes in gourmet waffles with unique flavors cooked into the waffle. Popular waffle flavors include Bacon, Egg and Cheese, Thin Mint, Pecan, and Donut. Richardson navigated the mine field of licensing, permits, business formation and zoning with little legal help and recently acquired a permanent brick and mortar location in Durham, North Carolina.
There are key legal and regulatory issues that you will need to navigate in starting a food truck business. In North Carolina, to operate, you must receive a permit from the local county health department. Equipment and inspection regulations vary across the state so contact your local health department for more information about this process. “You need to do your research before starting a food truck business to make sure you are ready to be fully committed,” Richardson explains. “It’s not just about startup costs, you’ll need city permits as well as a permit from the Health Department to be considered a Mobile Food Truck Unit.”
Each county has its own rules regarding truck permits. Often, if a truck is parked on private property, a county will require both the truck and the property owner to apply for a permit. Again, check the permit requirements for each county in which you intend to operate. Additionally, counties have different business licensing requirements. Depending on the size of the truck, it may require a special driver’s license to operate. Ensuring you have a properly licensed driver at the helm is essential.
Some NC counties are friendlier towards food trucks than others. This is evident in their zoning and parking requirements. Some, like Durham, have very little restrictions in this area. Others may require hefty annual registration fees and heavily restrict the areas in which a food truck can operate. Check the zoning and parking requirements carefully for each county in which you intend to operate. While Big C Waffles has catered many corporate events including servicing University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill sporting events, Durham is his home location, with their permanent location being established at 2110 Allendown Dr., Durham, NC 27713.
As in any other business, deciding on the right business entity for your situation is key. Possibilities include sole proprietorship, partnership or a corporation. Sole proprietorships and partnerships have their advantages but leave the business owners open to personal liability issues. Creating a corporation provides protection from personal liability but brings added costs and requirements. Richardson states, “My business is an LLC, you have to protect yourself in the event something unfortunate happens.”
While Richardson spoke to legal counsel to point him in the right direction, he did most of the research required on his own. However, one of the best resources Richardson found was other food truck owners. “Talking to other food truck owners and if possible volunteering to help so you can get experience and see how the day to day operations work goes a long way.”
Big C Waffles is living proof that you can start a business from scratch on your own. For some, time constraints, outside obligations, or other factors may prevent you from doing all of the leg work yourself. Finding a business attorney who is experienced in planning and assisting in the formation of small businesses can be an invaluable resource.
- Big C Waffles
- 2110 Allendown Dr.
- Durham, NC 27703
- Follow @bigcwaffles on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter
- Rated 5 stars on Facebook with 96 reviews, and 4 1/2 stars on Yelp.