Are you a frankfurter fanatic? Do you have a passion for Polish sausage? You may consider taking that love to the next level and making hot dogs and sausage your full-time career.
Of course, it’s not as easy as grilling a tray full of ‘dogs and setting up shop. A street cart or food truck is easier to manage than a traditional brick-and-mortar shop, but like any business, there’s still a lot of steps to take before you’re ready to start selling.
Step 1: Plan it Out
As motivational speaker Gary Cardone points out, everyone is going to make mistakes in business. However, you can minimize problems by going into it with clear, coherent goals and a plan to achieve them.
You need to create a detailed business plan. Ask yourself: What is your idea? Where do you want your business to be in five years? Make your goals realistic, and hold yourself to them to the best of your ability.
Step 2: Get Permitted
Even if you’re just a humble cart, you still need to be cleared for basic sanitation purposes.
Contact your local Health Department and talk to the person in charge of restaurant inspections. They will be able to tell you what you need in terms of equipment and furnishing, as well as everything you can’t have in your cart or truck. The Health Department can also help you plan out your inspection and permitting process.
Step 3: Get a License
You also need to speak with your county or city clerk and register your operation as a business for tax purposes. Remember: when the person asks you what kind of business you need to license, tell them it falls under “catering and vending.” This will cover you better than other categories like restaurants, while allowing you more freedom and fewer restrictions in how you operate.
Step 4: Get Your EIN
You can think of an EIN, or Employer Identification Number, as like a Social Security for your business. You can register for this quickly an easily from the IRS’s official site here. You will also need to acquire a sales tax number, so that you won’t have to pay tax on goods you’re planning to resell.
Step 5: Setup a Sole Proprietorship
You’ll need to setup your business as a legal entity, and the easiest way to do that is as a sole proprietorship. This classification identifies you as your business’s only real employee. As your business grows, you’ll probably want to upgrade to a different classification like an LLC, but sole proprietorship will be fine for now.
Step 6: Insure Your Business
We all hope nothing bad ever happens to us…but it’s a smart idea to have some backup just in case.
Many of the same names you associate with home and auto insurance like Geico and Allstate can help you insure your business. This is optional, but given that you’re just a small operation to begin with, insurance probably won’t cost much per month.
Step 7: Secure Processing
If you plan to accept credit or debit cards—and you probably should—then you’ll need to have a payment processor. PayPal is a popular option for small businesses because of it’s ease-of-use, but you can also work with traditional or high-risk processors if you choose.
Step 8: Get a Home Base
Most states won’t allow you to simply prep food and clean your supplies at home. Instead, you’ll need to get what’s called a “commissary.” Your health inspector can clarify this matter for you based on the rules in your state and locality, and may even be able to help you find free options.
Step 9: Buy Your Supplies
Hot dogs, buns, condiments, napkins, paper trays, drinks…all the materials you need can get expensive fast. If you’re running a business, you don’t want to pay full retail on all of it; you want to get a contract with a distributor. Bulk distributors will give you a much better deal per unit than you would get from the grocery store.
You’re in Business!
Once you’ve secured your card or truck and followed the nine steps above, the only thing left to do is start grilling! Good luck!