Starter Kit for Mobile Food Vending
Starter Kit for Mobile Food Vending

If you're thinking about opening a food truck or other mobile food vending business, start here for a checklist of items to consider and permits that you may need to obtain to get your business off the ground. Please note that this guide does not substitute for legal or professional advice, and additional permits may be required depending on the circumstances of your business.

Mobile Food Vending Checklist

The Mobile Food Vending Checklist covers key items that you may consider when starting your business. Opening your business can be complex and there are numerous government agencies that you may need to interact with to ensure the health, safety and well-being of yourself, your team and your customers. Get a head start on the planning process by knowing upfront what to expect so you don't run into unexpected surprises that may delay your grand opening.

  • Food Truck Regulation and Licensing: The regulation and licensing of food trucks varies by municipality and county. The list of municipalities and counties is available through the New Jersey State Library’s website (click on Municipalities in New Jersey by county). 
  • Food Safety Certification: It is recommended that food managers receive Manager Food Safety Training & Certification. A fee based provider is listed below.
  • Food Safety: The New Jersey Department of Health oversees food safety and its website offers a checklist to help businesses maintain food safety. 
  • Operation: The operational parameters of your food truck will be governed by your local municipality. In many cases, public parking (in the  street, in parking lots at a public beach or park, or at another public venue) will require a contract from the appropriate agency or property owner. A Food Truck operator should identify the owner of the property at which he or she is interested in parking and seek proper approvals.   
  • Storage: Food trucks need to be cleaned and sanitized according to Department of Health guidelines. The truck can be stored wherever the local zoning ordinance allows for the overnight storage of the vehicle. Before parking a truck in a residential neighborhood, be sure to check with your municipal zoning officer.   
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  • Zoning Requirements: Every municipality (City, Township, Borough, etc.) has a Land Use/Zoning Ordinance which regulates the kinds of business activities that are permitted within a designated zone and places restrictions on building on land parcels including building setbacks, building heights, signage, and various other aspects of the land usage.  When evaluating a location for your business you should consult with the Zoning Officer to determine the suitability of the site for your purposes and what obligations you will have, including possible Planning/Zoning board approvals. Check with your local or municipal government office to find the relevant contact information.

  • Community Involvement: Being a member of your community is good for a restaurant or catering business. Supporting community programs, local athletic programs, or joining chambers of commerce, are excellent networking opportunities and demonstrate a business owner's commitment to the neighborhood. Customers are more likely to frequent stores that demonstrate they care about being a part of the community. 

Register your Business

Contact your municipality for information on local regulations. General steps required include:

  • New Jersey Division of Revenue & Enterprise Services (DORES): If you choose to form a limited liability company (LLC) a corporation (Inc.), a Professional Corporation (PC), you must record that new entity with DORES.  This is not required for Sole Proprietorships or General Partnerships.  

  • Tax Registration: all businesses (including proprietorships and partnerships) must register for Tax purposes with DORES. Every business that has employees, more than a single owner, or is organized as a corporation must obtain a Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN), commonly referred to as a Federal Tax ID #, from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

  • Trade Names, Alternate (Fictitious) Business Names, Doing Business As (DBA): businesses may operate using a name other than their legal name, if that name has been properly registered. Sole Proprietorships and General Partnerships must register a “Tradename” in each of the County Clerk’s Offices in the Counties where they wish to conduct business. LLCs, Corporations, and other legal entities may register an Alternate Name with DORES.  Fictitious names for foreign entities (companies formed outside of New Jersey) are sometimes referred to as a DBA. 

  • Mercantile Licenses: Many towns require certain businesses to obtain Mercantile or other local business licenses.  Check with the Municipal Clerk’s Office to determine your obligation under the Municipal Ordinances. Your Municipal Clerk can be found by contacting your Municipal Government offices.

  • Sales & Use Tax: Businesses may be required to collect sales tax during a qualified transaction and submit those proceeds to the Division of Taxation. You may also qualify for a Resale Certificate that can be used when purchasing items for resale. 

  • Taxpayer Workshops: The Treasury Department’s “Taxation University” offers a workshop series to assist small businesses learn more about their state tax obligations.   

Hiring Employees

Business with employees have certain obligations. Be aware of the following before you hire anyone else to work with you:

  • Wage and Hour Compliance: The New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development’s office of Wage and Hour Compliance has requirements for wages, working hours, earned sick leave and other regulations that employers must follow. For more information, visit the Department of Labor and Workforce Development website

  • Workers’ Compensation: All employees must be covered by Workers’ Compensation. In addition, any stockholder (owner) of a corporation that works in the business, even if compensation is deferred, must also be covered by Worker’s Comp.  This does not apply to the members (owners) of LLCs. See your business insurance agent for information on state-approved workers compensation policies. 

Additional Resources

If you prefer a personal touch to getting your business of the ground, check out the Resources tab to find organizations that might be helpful to you along the way. Or, call the Business Action Center for dedicated, free technical assistance.