Looking to Start a Boston Food Truck [2016]

A Boston Food Truck Startup Guide

Boston’s vibrant tourist and college scene makes it a perfect place for the booming business of food trucks. From gourmet Vietnamese food to classic New England clam chowder, dozens of food trucks in Boston are serving up tasty dishes on street corners, in parking lots and all across other venues in the city.

But before food truck owners can serve up their first burger or bánh mì, they should study the steps they must take in order to set themselves up for long-term success.

Boston Food Truck StartUp Essentials

These include:

  • Schedule a plan review. Set up a meeting with the city’s Inspectional Services Department to go over plans for the physical layout of the truck if it’s not built, or for an existing truck if it will be customized.
  • Determine where you want to sell. To sell on public sites in Boston, food trucks must enter a lottery system.
  • Incorporate. Food trucks can face significant liabilities, from lawsuits over food poisoning to employment disputes. Forming an LLC or corporation helps to protect you by separating your personal and business assets. Plus, incorporation brings with it the benefits of a professional registered agent who will keep you posted on the compliance requirements that may impact you. Finally, incorporating can help you qualify for certain loans and government programs, especially if you are a veteran or minority business owner.
  • Acquire a mobile food truck permit from the city of Boston. Components of this permit include a health permit, fire permit, hawker/peddler license, business certificate, Trimble GPS contract, Certificate of Insurance and a business plan. Boston spells out the process in a handy online guide. In addition, the BizFilings Business License Wizard is a useful, free tool for you to check that you are up to date on all your licensing requirements.

In Boston, licensing requirements are manageable, and the city has overall been receptive to growth in the market, providing guidance to business owners as well as supporting opportunities for food trucks to sell their wares, including at the annual Lilac Sunday celebration, a festival of flowers and food trucks that boasts a large local gathering.

Get serious about your Boston food truck

To take advantage of all opportunities, food truck entrepreneurs must get serious from the get-go, even if they are only a one-person enterprise. Founders should start with a watertight business plan and work to understand and manage cash flow from day one. They should explore the benefits of business insurance and consider incorporating early on.

The bottom line is food truck owners who start out planning for growth and success put themselves in a better position to achieve both.

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As Vice President of Wolters Kluwer’s BizFilings, Jennifer Friedman is responsible for growing revenue through brand, digital, and direct marketing. BizFilings is a leader in online incorporation services for small businesses. Over the past twenty years, BizFilings has incorporated hundreds of thousands of businesses.

 

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Having been blogging about the local food truck scene since it started in 2011, I have a difference in opinion on a couple things here. One, I don’t find that the city is a good partner to food trucks. There has been no change in any regulations as the industry grew and evolved. For example, they still require trucks to purchase and use a GPS system that is not used for anything by the city. There have been no new spaces developed in quite a while and ones that have been added, have not done well. And the Lilac Festival… Read more »

Great advice Jennifer, I would also add that as with any business, you should definitely take time to scout out the competition. What are other people already selling? What seems to work best and where? If people have been selling in a particular area for some time, there is obviously a reason they are still there, etc..

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