12 Licences and Permits Needed to Open a Food Truck

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Katherine BoyarskyAuthor

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. 

Let’s look through some of the specific activities that lead to the need for food truck permits or licences. 

Food Truck Activities that Require Various Permits and Licences

  • 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 will generally need to apply for a Wine Retailer's On-Licence via submission of an application to the Revenue Commissioners.

How to Get a Business Licence

Search for your county or town/city + 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 your local authority or relevant government department for the most accurate cost information.

2. Employer Registration Number (ERN)

All businesses in Ireland need to get an Employer Registration Number (ERN) for tax purposes. They are issued by the Revenue Commissioners.

How to Get an Employer Registration Number (ERN)

You can apply for an Employer Tax Registration Number online through the Revenue Online Service (ROS) or by completing a paper form and submitting it to the Revenue Commissioners.

How Much Does an Employer Registration Number (ERN) Cost?

Obtaining an ERN is free. 

3. Food Truck Permit

You typically need a permit or licence to operate a food truck in Ireland. The specific requirements and regulations can vary depending on the local authority where you intend to operate your food truck.

How to Get a Food Truck Permit

Search for your local authority's food truck permit requirements

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. 

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 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 local authority

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?

In Ireland, the cost of a fire permit for a food truck can vary based on factors such as the specific location, the type and size of the food truck, and the regulations set by the local authorities. The cost may be part of a broader set of permits and licences required for operating a food truck. Contact your local fire department or local authority in the specific area where you plan to operate to confirm on these costs.

6. Mobile Trading Licence

Mobile trading licences are issued by the local council in the area where you plan to operate your food truck. They inspect the facility to ensure that it’s up to code, and meets inspection standards.

How to Get a Mobile Trading Licence

Refer to your local council website and look for guidance on obtaining a mobile trading licence, or street trading licence. 

How Much Does a Mobile Trading Licence Cost?

The cost of obtaining a food service licence for a food truck in Ireland can vary widely depending on several factors, including the location where you plan to operate, the type of food you intend to sell, the duration of the licence, and any additional requirements specific to the area. To give an idea, application fees can range from tens to hundreds of euros. Additionally, different local authorities may have different fee structures.

7. Value-Added Tax (VAT)

If you are planning to purchase goods for your food truck from suppliers within Ireland or other EU member states, you may need to provide your suppliers with a valid VAT identification number (VAT ID). The VAT ID is used for intra-EU transactions and enables your suppliers to charge VAT at the appropriate rate, depending on whether the goods are for business use or for resale.

As a food truck owner in Ireland, you may also need to register for VAT if your taxable turnover exceeds the VAT registration threshold. If you are registered for VAT, you can recover VAT paid on your business purchases against VAT charged to your customers.

How to Register for VAT

To determine your specific VAT obligations and whether you need to register for VAT, you should check the current VAT registration threshold and VAT rules with the Revenue Commissioners. If you do need to register for VAT, you will receive a VAT identification number, which you can provide to your suppliers for intra-EU transactions.

How Much Does it Cost to Register for VAT?

There is no direct cost associated with registering for VAT in the UK. Registering for VAT itself is free of charge. While registering for VAT is free, the ongoing VAT-related responsibilities and potential costs associated with VAT collection, reporting, and payment should be considered as part of your food truck's financial planning.

8. Food Hygiene Training

To allow your employees to serve food to paying guests, there are certain food hygiene and safety regulations that must be followed. The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) provides guidance on food safety and hygiene practices for food businesses in Ireland. It is recommended that all staff involved in the handling and preparation of food, including those working in food trucks, complete a recognised food safety training course. By having trained staff who are knowledgeable about food safety practices, you can maintain a high level of food safety and hygiene in your coffee shop, ensuring the well-being of your customers and compliance with food safety regulations.

How to Get Food Hygiene Training

Consider contacting the FSAI or consulting with a food safety professional to obtain detailed guidance on food safety training requirements and best practices applicable to your coffee shop in Ireland.

How Much Does Food Hygiene Training Cost?

The cost for a Level 2 course in Ireland, which is the most common level of food hygiene training required for most food handlers, can vary from €50 to €150, depending on the training provider and course format.

9. Liquor Licence

If you plan to serve alcoholic beverages, you will need to apply for a liquor licence. As a business that wants to sell alcohol on their premises, you will need to apply for a Premises Licence. In addition, employees who will be responsible for the sale of alcohol will need to hold a Personal Licence.

How to Get a Liquor Licence and How Much Does it Cost?

The sale and distribution of alcoholic beverages are regulated by the Revenue Commissioners, specifically through the National Excise Licence Office (NELO). The process for obtaining a liquor licence in Ireland can be detailed and may involve various steps, including background checks, financial assessments, and inspections. Therefore, it's advisable to contact the National Excise Licence Office or the relevant local authority to get accurate and up-to-date information about the application process, requirements, and fees for obtaining a liquor licence for your food truck.

10. Mobile Trading Licence

A mobile trading licence is required by some regions for businesses like food trucks that operate in various locations. 

How to Get a Mobile Trading Licence

When reviewing local requirements, search for your local authority or council and refer to any regulations for traveling and selling goods, or mobile outdoor sales.

How Much Does a Mobile Trading Licence Cost?

The cost of a mobile trading licence can vary depending on the specific local authority or council where you plan to operate. Contact your local authority or council 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 Licence

Ice cream trucks must adhere to health and safety regulations to ensure the safe preparation, storage, and handling of food. This may involve regular inspections by environmental health officers.

How to Get an Ice Cream Truck Vendor Licence

Review local ice cream truck-specific requirements on your local authority or council’s website.

How Much Does an Ice Cream Truck Vendor Licence Cost?

Ice cream truck vendor licences are similar to food truck vendor permits, and may be the same in some states. Their cost might range from €100 to several hundred euros or more.

12. 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.

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 restaurant 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 regional 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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