General Question

Carly's avatar

What do I have to do in order to set up a small business for an ice-cream truck?

Asked by Carly (4555points) April 7th, 2012

Do I have to get a small business license? Do I have to pay the companies of the products I’m selling to patrons on the street, since I’m making a profit off of their prices?

Is it as simple as buying an ice-cream truck, buying the ice-cream, and selling it for cash on a hot summer day?

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11 Answers

jerv's avatar

It depends on where you are, but there are generally permits involved, and health inspections to certify that you are able to safely sell food.

But local laws vary enough that, without knowing where you are, we can’t say which hoops you need to jump through.

JLeslie's avatar

Call your local government to find out the business permits you need.

SmashTheState's avatar

Talk to other vendors and find out which dicks need sucking at city hall. Having dealt with city hall for many years, I can tell you that the corruption at local level is total and often blatant, especially around licensing. Small itinerant businesses face the harshest barricades because local politicians are usually owned by the largest, richest businesses in the city, who use their influence to prevent smaller businesses from competing. No matter what the rules do or don’t say (and those rules are usually the result of decades of lobbying and outright bribery by larger businesses), you’ll find that the city hall bureaucracy are masters of quiet, faceless obstructionism.

If you talk to others in the line of work you want to get into, you’ll find out where the largest impediments lie, and where the baksheesh needs to be spread most lavishly in order to get your licensing, permits, inspections, and other randomly assorted paperwork in order.

JLeslie's avatar

@SmashTheState one possible negative with your idea is if they perceive the OP as competition they might not be too happy to give info.

In some parts of the country lunch trucks have some mafia connections, not sure about ice cream. You might want to check that out. I would recommend not trampling on another persons ice cream route, choose areas that do not have the service at all now.

Charles's avatar

You have to be willing to accept that you will have extremely low paid competition. It’s like starting your own lawn mowing business – you’re competing with illegal aliens and teenagers.

gorillapaws's avatar

I would be sure to write up a business plan, figure out your costs (business loan, truck maintenance, fuel, product cost, insurance, fees, taxes, legal expenses, waste/loss, etc.) then figure out what you’re planning to sell the ice cream for, and how many sales per day you need to make just to break even. Then figure out how many more units you need to sell to make a comfortable after-tax salary. Crunch the numbers before going all the way in.

IANAL, but you’ll probably want to run your company as an LLC, and there is some minimal expenses for setting that up. Be sure to separate yourself from the corporate identity, otherwise a lawyer could “pierce the corporate veil” and take your personal assets like your home, car, etc. if they ever sued because they claimed you make a kid sick. It’s something to bring up with a lawyer when you’re setting everything up.

Jaxk's avatar

I’d walk softly on the bribery thing. Not all government officials are corrupt.

I would start with the Department of health. You’re handling food so they will have the most and more expensive rules to follow. You may have to take a food handling (or preperation) course. Of course you’ll need a business license and the DMV may have special rules for food service trucks. You’ll need a business plan and with a list of vendors you’ll use.

Overall the path to set up a business is difficult at best. There is no guide I’m aware of that will walk you through it.

Jaxk's avatar

I found Legalzoom to be an inexpensive and efficient means of setting up you LLC or corporation. A lawyer may be more helpful but more expensive. Lot’s of luck in your endeavor.

YARNLADY's avatar

Contact the SBA They are paid to help you.

jerv's avatar

@Jaxk Here in WA state, food handling permits are a relatively inexpensive and short class; one day and $15–20 if I recall. I don’t feel like looking it up, but that is what it was a couple of years ago. Such a permit is required even for flipping burgers at McDonalds, but it’s really minor compared to what is needed to certify a kitchen/cart/truck and make it legal.

Jaxk's avatar


The food service license wasn’t horrible, $129 here just a couple of months ago. What was significant were the regulations for equipment. I have a small roller grill for hotdogs. I also have a pair of tongs for customers to get those hotdogs. Because of the tongs (which need to be washed, I had to install a three compartment sink (about 7ft. long). and of course any sink used for washing dishes can’t have any connection to the sewr line. That means you have to install a floor sink and leave a gap beteen the drain line and the floor sink. It starts to get expensive to wash a pair of tongs. None of this may be necessary for an ice cream truck but when you start looking for how it gets cleaned, you start getting complicated. Anything to do with food service gets complicated.

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