13 Licences and Permits Needed to Open a Food Truck
Here are the food truck licences, inspections, and permits you need to open your new restaurant on wheels, and where you can find them for your area.
It’s not enough to have a food truck idea or concept and a standout truck design. In order to operate legally, you’ll need a detailed business plan, and permits and licences specific to mobile food and beverage establishments. For example, if you offer catering services from your food truck, like The Humble Toast, you’ll need specific restaurant permits for that service.
Here are the licences and permits required to open and operate a food truck business.
What Do You Need to Open a Food Truck?
Before opening a food truck, you’ll need to have a thorough business plan and a written agreement with your “commissary,” or the facility where you prepare and store food. Some states like Massachusetts refer to food trucks as “mobile food establishments,” so keep that in mind when searching online for resources specific to your area.
Let’s look through some of the specific activities that lead to the need for food truck permits or licenses.
Food Truck Activities that Require Various Permits and Licenses
- Preparing and selling food
- Selling pre-prepped food
- Selling packaged time/temperature controlled for safety (TCS) food items like ice cream
- Selling beverages with TCS requirements like milk
- Doing food prep that’s considered “complex,” meaning cooking, heating, or food processing that requires hazard plans
Using a truck to transport food for grocery delivery or takeout typically doesn’t require a mobile food establishment permit.
Here are a few of the licences and permits you may need to open and operate a food truck business.
1. Business Licence/Certificate
Most businesses require a licence, restaurants and food trucks included. If you already have a business licence and want to open a new location, you may not need to complete this step. If you’ll be serving alcoholic beverages from your food truck, you’ll need to obtain an additional business licence depending on your province. For example in Ontario, you will need to apply for a Special Occasion Permit (SOP) from the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO).
How to Get a Business Licence
Search for your province or territory + business licence to find your local application requirements.
How Much Does a Business Licence Cost?
Costs include the licence itself and registration fees, which can vary based on factors such as your location, the type of food you'll be serving, and the specific regulations of the local authority where you plan to operate. Contact the appropriate local government office responsible for business licences in the specific city or province where you plan to operate your food truck.
2. Business Number (BN)
All businesses in Canada need to get a Business Number (BN) for tax purposes. They are issued by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).
How to Get a Business Number (BN)
You can apply for a BN via Business Registration Online (BRO).
How Much Does a BN Cost?
Obtaining a BN is free.
3. Food Truck Permit
You typically need a permit or licence to operate a food truck in Canada. The specific requirements and regulations can vary depending on the province and municipality.
How to Get a Food Truck Permit
Search for your state’s food truck permit requirements to find out what’s needed.
How Much Does a Food Truck Permit Cost?
Food truck site costs depend on location, which might be separated by zone, as well as the time of year and other factors. They can range from $100 to over $1,000.
4. Health Permit
Health permits require an application with the local health authority, inspection of equipment, a food plan, a menu with consumer advisories, and building plans. They also require a Use and Occupancy Permit and Certificate of Inspection and are reviewed by the local health authority.
How to Get a Health Permit
Contact the local health authority or relevant government agency to inquire about the necessary permits, licences, and regulations for operating a food truck legally in your area. There are often many requirements and documentation needs, so be prepared.
How Much Does a Health Permit Cost?
Fees can vary depending on establishment size and type of permit, like a catering permit, and the jurisdiction
5. Fire Permit
A fire permit might be a regular inspection by the local fire department, and will depend on where you’re selling from.
How to Get a Fire Permit
Check your local food services or inspectional services department, and review if you need to apply for a temporary permit, or an annual permit good for a designated location and length of time.
How Much Does a Fire Permit Cost?
The cost of a fire permit for a food truck in Canada can vary widely depending on factors such as the specific location, the size and type of the food truck, and the regulations set by the local authorities. Permit fees can also differ between different provinces and municipalities.
In some areas, fire permits for food trucks might be included as part of a broader business licence or mobile vending permit. These overall fees can range from a few hundred dollars to over a thousand dollars per year.
6. Food Service License
Food service licenses are issued by the local city or county health department. They inspect the facility to ensure that it’s up to code, and meets inspection standards.
How to Get a Food Service License
Refer to your local health department website and look for mobile food service.
How Much Does a Food Service License Cost?
Food service license fees range by location and number of employees, and go from $100 to $1,000.
7. Reseller’s Permit
A vendor permit or reseller's permit will allow you to make certain nontaxable purchases (wholesale food inventory, for example) if these items are purchased for use in the manufacture of products for resale (meals). This way, a reseller's permit prevents the double collection of sales tax on these types of products; rather than collecting sales tax on the product when you buy it, it's collected when your customer buys it. The provincial or territorial tax authority then requires the business to report regularly on sales tax collected and pay it to the province/territory.
How to Get a Reseller's Permit
You will need to determine which sales taxes apply to your food truck. In most provinces and territories, the two main types of sales taxes are the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST). Some provinces have their own Provincial Sales Tax (PST) in addition to the federal GST. As discussed in section 2, register for a Business Number. This serves as your unique identifier for tax purposes. Apply for a GST/HST account online through the CRA's website using the "Business Registration Online" (BRO) service. Alternatively, you can complete Form RC1, Request for a Business Number, and mail it to the CRA.
How Much Does a Reseller's Permit Cost?
The cost of obtaining a GST/HST account (reseller's permit) in Canada is generally free.
8. Employee Health Permit
If employees will handle food and beverage items, they typically need to complete food handler training. The specific requirements for food handler certification can vary by province and municipality, as different regions may have their own regulations and approved training programs.
How to Get an Employee Health Permit
This permit is obtained by taking an accredited course, and completing the associated exam. There are online and in-person courses available, but be sure to check with your local health department to see which courses are approved in your location.
How Much Does an Employee Health Permit Cost?
A food handler’s permit could cost around $100 or more. Check your local requirements to find out the exact fee.
9. Liquor License
Some provinces allow mobile sale of alcoholic beverages, or food trucks that set up in specified locations to sell frozen cocktails, wine, and more. Beer and wine requirements can differ from liquor and spirits, and in some states there’s a blanket license that covers all types of alcohol.
How to Get a Liquor License
Search the website of your province's regulatory body responsible for overseeing the sale and distribution of alcoholic beverages (the AGCO in Ontario, for example) for province-specific and drink-specific requirements, and review how to get a liquor licence here. Here’s a tip—liquor licences can take months to get approved, so put this on your early to-do list.
How Much Does a Liquor License Cost?
To determine the exact cost of licences and permits for your food truck to sell alcohol, you should contact the relevant provincial or territorial liquor control authority or commission.
10. Peddler License
A peddler license is required by some local municipalities for businesses who go from town to town to sell goods.
How to Get a Peddler License
When reviewing local requirements, search for your municipal licensing agency and refer to any regulations for traveling and selling goods, or mobile outdoor sales.
How Much Does a Peddler License Cost?
The cost of a peddler licence can vary depending on province, municipality, and specific regulations of your location. Contact your local municipal or regional authorities to confirm the accurate and up-to-date information on the fees associated with this licence, as well as any other charges or requirements that may apply. When inquiring about the cost, it's a good idea to ask for a breakdown of the fees and any potential renewal fees that might apply in subsequent years.
11. Ice Cream Truck Vendor License
In some areas, the local chief of police or another municipal authority may review all ice cream truck vendors for safety.
How to Get an Ice Cream Truck Vendor License
Review local ice cream truck-specific requirements on your municipality’s website.
How Much Does an Ice Cream Truck Vendor License Cost?
Ice cream truck vendor licences are similar to food truck vendor permits, and may be the same in some provinces or municipalities. The application fee can range from $50 to a few hundred dollars. You may also need to pay an annual fee to renew it.
12. Fish Dealer Licence
In some provinces, fish dealers who purchase, sell, or trade seafood products may need to obtain a fish dealer licence.
How to Get a Fish Dealer Licence
This licence is usually issued by the provincial government and may have specific requirements for record-keeping, reporting, and traceability.
How Much Does a Fish Dealer Licence Cost?
Different provinces and territories may have different fee structures and cost considerations for fish dealer licences, so it is advised to confirm with your provincial government directly for up-to-date cost information.
13. Parking Permits
Parking permits are important to keep up with, or food trucks can face tickets, fines, or even the risk of being banned from certain high-traffic areas or events.
How to Get a Parking Permit
Before parking your food truck and starting to sell, look up local parking permit requirements on the city or town website.
How Much Does a Parking Permit Cost?
Parking permits can be free, or cost up to a few hundred dollars depending on the event, location, or time.
Licenses and Permit Laws in Canada
Here are some examples of food truck business requirements in different states in Canada.
Food Truck Licenses and Permits in Ontario
The official government website for Ontario provides information on starting and running a business such as a food truck. You can find details about permits, licences, regulations, and resources for entrepreneurs.
As a city-specific example, if you're planning to operate in Toronto, the city's official website provides information specifically tailored to food truck vendors. This includes details about permits, locations, and regulations.
Note that many regions in Ontario have small business centres that offer resources, workshops, and one-on-one support for entrepreneurs. These centres can provide information on local regulations and requirements"
Food Truck Licenses and Permits in Quebec
To become a mobile food vendor in Quebec, take a look at both the official government website which details requirements for starting and running a business such as a food truck, and the Quebec Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Food (MAPAQ) website. MAPAQ is responsible for food safety regulations in Quebec
Ready to get on the road?
To get a food truck up and running, you should be prepared to spend upwards of $1,000 to cover licensing costs, inspections, and fees. Once your business plan is completed, you’ll be ready to tackle restaurant startup costs and start filling out applications for permits. This can take a few months, so plan ahead.
A solid business strategy should include everything, from a strong brand identity and company culture to a reliable food truck tech like a POS.
Use our free business plan template to walk through every part of the planning and development process, then review your local requirements for food truck establishments. Look at municipal and provincial regulations for your type of food truck business, and be extra careful with alcohol requirements and heavy traffic areas, as that’s where the fines will be the highest.
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DISCLAIMER: This information is provided for general informational purposes only, and publication does not constitute an endorsement. Toast does not warrant the accuracy or completeness of any information, text, graphics, links, or other items contained within this content. Toast does not guarantee you will achieve any specific results if you follow any advice herein. It may be advisable for you to consult with a professional such as a lawyer, accountant, or business advisor for advice specific to your situation.