Figuring out everything that you will need to begin operating your mobile food vending unit can be a daunting task. There is a lot of information to absorb, so we have compiled this short guide as a reference tool. Keep in mind that this addresses only the State of Florida requirements for the Department of Business & Professional Regulation (DBPR): Division of Hotels & Restaurants. This guide does not cover information regarding setting up your complete Florida business structure such as: obtaining a Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN), Florida State sales tax identification number, setting up a Limited Liability Company (LLC) or a Florida Corporation (INC). There are many resources that are available to help assist you in these areas such as a tax consultant, CPA or a business lawyer.
Once you have taken drawings of your mobile food vending unit to your local health department and they have told you your cart or mobile kitchen will meet the state requirements, it is time to start thinking about getting your "Florida State Food Service License". This can be completed while your cart is still in production. Since the Florida State paperwork takes anywhere from 30 - 60 business days to process, depending on time of year and volume of submissions, it is beneficial to begin as soon as possible.
- Proof of Commissary
- Plans / Schematics for your cart
- A minimum of two photos of your cart
- Food Handling Safety Course, Manager Certification
Below is a detailed description for each step in the licensing process
First, you must become a member of a commercial commissary that is licensed by the Department of Business and Professional Regulations (DBPR) or in certain instances Department of Agriculture (ie; italian ice, icee, pre-packaged ice-cream and snow cone carts). You cannot use a "non-profit" for your hot dog cart's commissary. You are required to utilize a "for profit" commercial kitchen as your commissary location. Basically, this is because non-profits are inspected on a differnt schedule, and in many cases only have limited food service and not a full kitchen approved and are not inspected by DBPR.
In the state of Florida, the general rule is that your commissary must be within a 45 minute driving distance from the location in which you operate your hot dog cart. This is an important first step, because you will need to provide proof of commissary membership when submitting your cart to "Plan Review".
The cost of a commissary membership varies from city to city. The average fee for an annual membership is $400-800 per year, with monthly fees for additional services such as refrigerator / freezer space, and cabinet space for storing dry food product. These fees can vary greatly depending upon your location.
When you sign up for the commissary, please make sure they provide you with a signed DBPR Form 7022 and a copy of their water bill. If they do not have this form, we can provide one for you to forward to the commissary owner.
Once you have obtained your commissary membership, DBPR Form HR-7022 and a recent copy of the commissary's water bill, you will be able to move forward with the licensing process.
If you are purchasing a new cart or a used cart that has not been licensed in Florida within the last 12 months, you will need to submit physical drawings along with your application and complete a process called "Plan Review". These documents provide specifications of your cart for the state to review and ask any required questions. It s important to follow the proceedure very carefully, so as to not upset the apple cart, as they say, and not prolong the plan review process. If you are licensing a used cart that has been previously been licensed within the last 12 months, you will be doing a "change of ownership" instead of a completely new license.
The drawing can be the original plans/schematics/drawings (all the same thing) you received when you purchased the cart or they can be hand drawn with a pen/pencil and ruler. These drawings are a basic map of what your cart looks like and where everything is located on the cart, i.e., sinks, appliances, water tanks and sizes, etc. If you have made changes to your cart since purchse, the plan drawings must be updated to show these changes. You will need a view from the Top and Side at the very minimum. If you are purchasing one of our carts, we will provide the plans or you can download them from our website. If you purchased your cart from a manufacturer other than DreamMaker Hot Dog Carts you may be able to download their drawings from their website or call and ask to have them emailed to you.
You will need a minimum of two photos of the actual cart which show the appliances, propane tank locations, and general layout. One photo must be a side view of the cart. The more photos you can provide, the better, (no more than six).
If you are purchasing one of our carts, we will provide the photos.
It is best if you complete this certification before your actual inspection so the state can assign a temporary license at the time of your inspection. However, you do have thirty days to comply after receiving your license from the state. As the cart's business owner, you are required to take the "Managers" course, not the more simplistic employees course that you receive when you work at Applebees, TGI Friday's, etc. Having the Managers certificate means that you can train and certify others to work your cart when needed, under your supervision. The course fees range from $100-$300, depending on what company you select. Again, it is highly recommended to have your food handling course completed prior your inspection, so as to expidite the process.
There are many companies that provide the food safety courses online or in person through one of the state approved vendors listed below.
Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association
NATIONAL REGISTRY OF FOOD SAFETY PROFESSIONALS
When you submit your application, you will have the option to apply for your license only or apply for your license and plan review at the same time. It is best to request your license and plan review at the same time in order to simplify the process. The "plan review" is the process of state reviewing and approving the drawings/schematics to your cart. The fee for your license is $397 annually and must be paid at the time of your license and plan review submission.
Make sure you have the following documents ready to submit with your application:
- Signed Proof of Commissary Form (DBPR HR-7022)
- Recent water and sewer bill for the Commissary that you have selected
- Detailed Plans/Schematics for your cart
- A minimum of two photos for your cart, one of which is a side view of the cart
- Payment for the License Fee
You can download the application from the DBPR website at: https://www.myfloridalicense.com/CheckListDetail.asp?SID=&xactCode=1035&clientCode=2014&XACT_DEFN_ID=13959 or submit your application online at: http://www.myfloridalicense.com/dbpr/
The State of Florida has 7 separate districts for licensing, and each district has a different license cycle. You have the option of paying for a full year or a half year when you apply for your license, depending on which makes the most fiscal sense given where you are in your license cycle. The license cycles are chosen by legislation, and they do not prorate. A full year’s license is $397.00 and a half-year is $228.50. If there is less than 6 months left in the current cycle, they will want a mimimum of a full year. Further, if the cycle is ending, they request a year and a half to be paid. It is important to check the cycle and see when it is the best time to submit your license request. This fee is paid directly to the DBPR. Please see below to determine your district.
DISTRICT 1. DORAL FL,(Miami area) DADE, MONROE
- Full Year: Starts and ends 10/01. Half year starts 04/01 and ends 10/01.
DISTRICT 2. BROWARD, MARTIN, PALM BEACH
- Full year starts and ends 12/01. Half year starts 06/01 and ends 12/01.
DISTRICT 3. CITRUS, HERNANDO, HILLSBOROUGH, PASCO, PINELLAS, POLK, SUMTER
- Full year starts and ends 02/01. Half year starts 08/01 and ends 02/01.
DISTRICT 4. BREVARD, INDIAN RIVER, LAKE, ORANGE, OSCEOLA, ST. LUCIE, SEMINOLE, VOLUSIA
- Full year starts and ends 04/01. Half year starts 10/01 and ends 04/01.
DISTRICT 5. ALACHUA, BAKER, BRADFORD, CLAY, COLUMBIA, DIXIE, DUVALL, FLAGLER, GILCRIST, HAMILTON, LAFAYETTE, LEVY, MARION, NASSAU, PUTNAM, ST. JOHNS, SUWANEE, UNION
- Full year starts and ends 06/01. Half year starts 12/01 and ends 06/01.
DISTRICT 6. BAY, CALHOUN, ESCAMBIA, FRANKLIN, GADSDEN, GULF, HOLMES, JACKSON, JEFFERSON, LEON, LIBERTY, MADISON, OKALOOSA, SANTA ROSA, TAYLOR, WAKULLA, WALTON, WASHINGTON - Full year starts and ends 06/01. Half year starts 12/01 and ends 06/01.
DISTRICT 7. CHARLOTTE, COLLIER, DE SOTO, GLADES, HARDEE, HENDRY, HIGHLANDS, LEE, MANATEE, OKECHOBEE, SARASOTA
- Full year starts and ends 12/01. Half year starts 06/01 and ends 12/01
Once you have submitted all the required paperwork and fees, you will receive some communication from the DBPR via postal mail and/or email. They will tell you if anything is missing or if any other requirements need to be met. This is one of the reasons why it is so important to check with your health department beforehand to find out if they have any special requirements that you need to be aware of. If this has been done ahead of time, then the chances of the licensing process being held up are slim. Once you receive the approval email/letter, you will need to contact the assigned state inspector at the email address or phone number provided, and tell them that you are ready to schedule your opening inspection. If you are emailing, provide your telephone number and a state health inspector will call you on the telephone to schedule your hot dog cart opening inspection.
The hot dog cart inspection will take place at your commissary, which also acts as your primary license location. Make sure to have the following items with you when you arrive on that day:
- Proof of Commissary form (DBPR Form HR-7022)
- Your copy of the division approved and stamped drawing (blue print) and specification worksheet (will be emailed directly to you from the State)
- Hand wash sink installed and working properly; hot/cold water must be provided/functioning. This is Very important.
- Fresh water/wastewater tanks installed with proper plumbing connections; wastewater tank at least 15% larger by volume than fresh water tank
- LP-gas tanks properly installed and protected (if applicable); generator installed (if applicable)
- Covered trash container
- Method for serving Self-Service Condiments (mustard, ketchup, etc.). Must have dispensers or pre-packaged items. Dispensers can be empty.
- One (1) Roll of Paper Towels
- Soap in a pump dispenser
- Hand Sanitizer in a pump dispenser
- Hand washing sign at hand wash sinks
- Chlorine Test Strips (for testing water)
- Latex Gloves (No bare hand contact with ready-to-eat food without an approved Alternative Operating Procedure)
- Stem Thermometer; properly scaled (0 - 220°F) available to measure food temperature
- Portable Fire Extinguisher with current, valid inspection tag; properly sized and mounted or located within reach. (must be classification: 3-A:40-BC)
- No extension cords installed
- Multiple sets of clean utensils
It is up to you to find the location for your business. Many people go to big box retailers such as Home Depot, Kmart, Car Dealerships, and other shopping centers to get permission to operate on the premises. You can also sign up to be a vendor at local festivals and events and cater to private events. The sky is the limit!
After this, you will just need to keep your commissary membership up to date, and renew your state license annually at the beginning of your license cycle.
If you wish, DreamMaker Hot Dog Carts® can file all of your Florida State paperwork for you. We will complete all of the proper documents, and submit them electronically along with the appropriate fees to the State of Florida. We will interface with the state on your behalf and work with the Plan Reviewers directly in the event that they have questions. We will literally handle the entire licensing process for you, from beginning to end! You will have nothing to worry about or stress over, as we have done this hundreds and hundreds of times before... We are absolute experts at this entire process. All you will have to do is show up at your commissary for your opening inspection. We also have a terrific relationship with the state offices in Tallahassee. We charge a small fee of $200.00 for this convenient service. Let us help you get you licensed as quickly and properly as possible!
If you have any questions regarding licensing or commissary, please feel free to contact us anytime. If we're not available, please leave a message and we will return your call just as soon as possible.