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Commissary Requirements For Vending Cart Operators

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One of the biggest barriers to starting a vending cart business is the requirement by most cities and counties that you operate from or in conjunction with a commissary.

The definition of what a commissary must provide to the vending cart operator vary from city to city and county to county. It can be as simplistic as having a place where you can dispose of contaminated water to a facility that provides or has space for cart washing and food preparation.

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You will find that the larger the community the more onerous the commissary requirements will be. Large metropolitan areas will have specific departments controlling and licensing vending carts and commissaries. A small town may not have a requirement for a vending cart to use a commissary at all.

If you are planning to start a vending cart business one of the first key steps is to find out what the commissary requirements are in the city or county you will be operating in. This in itself can be a difficult exercise. There is no countrywide standardization on which government body is responsible for vending carts and for licensing commissaries - if in fact a licensed establishment is a requirement.

The first place to start is the department that handles vending cart licenses. A specific licensing department may handle vending cart licenses or it may be part of a health, restaurant, or environmental department.

Always start with the smallest geographical government entity. By that I mean, a town is smaller than a city, a city is smaller than a county. Most government entities have a general information department that will point you in the right direction.

Once you determine if a commissary is required, request a list from the department. In some cases, they will have a list, in many cases they won’t. Some will allow you to use any restaurant or licensed food preparation facility. Others will require that you use a licensed commissary.

You will have to pay for the service and depending on the location, it can be tens of dollars to hundreds of dollars a month. If the licensing board allows you to use any approved food preparation facility one of your alternatives may be the use of a church. Church groups are generally open to having their facilities utilized for a small monthly donation.

Know your communities licensing and commissary requirements before you purchase a vending cart. The costs for commissary services can take a business from profit to loss. Make sure all your costs are entered into your budget calculations.

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