How To Start A Hot Dog Cart Business
In part three we discuss local codes and what to do when your city says, no. Keep you head held high. A city that restricts against vendors is probably violating your Constitutional Rights, specifically the Bill of Rights.
- Local Codes Continued
- What if they say, NO!
There is one thing I would say when calling regarding the city codes and ordinances. I’m going to read you a script that I have typed out here that you can use when you are calling.
“Hello Ma’am my name is Ben and I’m opening up a catering and vending service in wherever your located and I need to speak with someone who would know what the city codes or ordinances there are regarding mobile vendors and caterers”. So that’s it. That’s what you have to say. You say “I’m opening a catering and vending service” now if you notice I didn’t say is “hey may name is Ben and where going to be having us a weenie wagon and were going to need some help I just need to know who I need to talk to about getting a license sticker and stuff and all licensed up”. What you’ll end up doing even if it is completely legal is “blowing you off” completely; they won’t help you. So I like to use that cool word CATERING and VENDING SERVICE it’s going to get you further and farther, especially if you have any red tape to go through. Catering seems to slide right underneath the red tape, where you say “I’m a hot dog vendor on the side of the road” and that one you will have to go through the red tape step by step. Not that there is any difference, I’m just sharing with you the ways to word to it, and I know that sounds ridiculous and some cities wont care a bit. Like Pam I interviewed on the hot dog man podcast she didn’t have any problems and her mayor came out and was ecstatic that she was bringing this to the town. Some of you are not going to have any issues like that I’m telling you for those that do, change the wording.
You may get an answer like “sir, we have the bamboozle dept. of arbitrary bylaws that are there to discourage vendors and promote our brick and mortar business regardless of how it violates your bill of rights” that’s just my little rant about city officials and the type of officials that would rather break or destroy my rights to protect or help their cronies. Lets say you’re the mayor and five of your buddies are on the city council and you all own interest in the restaurant business. One of the bylaws that you would create would be “we don’t want the vendor type because they are nasty” they can come up with 800 reasons why they don’t want a vendor there but it all comes down to we don’t want anyone to take anything out of our pockets. And were going to make it impossible for them and we don’t care if it steps on their rights as a U.S. citizen, because your rights in the constitution and the Bill of Rights, there is something called the right to work. It means you have the right to work as long as it is a legal enterprise. So any state, county, or city that restrict vendors; it is illegal it breaks the federal law and all of the cases that I know of like the institute of justice or the mobile food vendor association even got stuff changed just because they knew the law and a city doesn’t want to face, you know the economy is bad and they are we can’t afford a lawsuit and they are like how bad do we want to defend our buddies in the restaurant business. I haven’t heard of any city not bowing to the pressure and I’ve even heard of a few cities going to court and losing and had to pay the legal fees ALL THE LEGAL FEES on both sides. Because they wanted to buck up to the constitutional rights, and know that will help you.
I am a little spiteful to the ignorant lawmakers.
Lets assume she patches you through to the “bamboozle” department and you go hello and I’m planning on opening a catering and vending business and will be using a state approved and licensed push cart and would like to know what if any requirements the city has regarding these. So now your asking for more or you can ask “Can you tell me what permits if any are required and if I’m I allowed on public property with a certain permit” I may want to be on the court house lawn. I talk about this in my book the course the “hot dogs saved my life” courses. What if you want to be on the courthouse lawn, some cities allow that, some cities auction that spot off, and some cities do it on a lottery basis, some cities do say “well yea we never had anybody on the courthouse lawn, your welcome to be on the courthouse lawn have at it”. Then you figure out the best times to be there and I know some vendors that work courthouse lawns and they only have to work a couple days a week because they pick the days that the civil trials are going on because there are more people there. You know this you’ve been to your courthouse before I am sure, Fridays are always busy cause that’s the day they do all the menial stuff like speeding tickets, bad checks, parking tickets and stuff like that so you have hundreds of people there on the same day and often times they are not all seen before lunch and then they break for lunch and everybody closes and then they come back. So you have all these people on an hour break and they don’t necessarily want to leave because they don’t lose their spot and if you sit on that corner you can make a fortune and I know vendors who are making a fortune literally a ton of money doing that just that a couple days of week, hopefully that put a bug in some of your ears.
You may get the NONE, “Nope you can’t setup anywhere” or may get “you can setup as long as its on private property” that’s a common one. Some states have special timed permits like out west they have special 3 day permit that allows you to vend anywhere you want for 3 days and sometimes it can cost $75. Well what if I don’t want to pay that every three days? Then you’ll have to find a private piece of property and that works great for an event or something big like that, but that wouldn’t work if your ongoing with your vending, if you rationalize the cost.
Everyone of you will have different codes and stuff, and this your getting piled onto you at one time its less than an hour and we’ve covered all that and you go “OH My GOODNESS GRASHES” I hope I don’t’ have to cover that and you probably wont and some of you might have to cover a piece of it but I doubt all of you will have to cover all of that stuff.
Our health department is easy in Tennessee the challenging part was the city zoning. That will be a change eventually; I haven’t bucked up yet because of some other reasons. Eventually that will be changed.
What I did was I figured out how to vend out of city limits and how to get in city limits during other times and then it didn’t matter because code enforcement only works till 5. So after 5, code enforcement didn’t care where you were because they weren’t enforcing codes, they were at home with their families or at the ball game or at the movies.
I know a lady; I don’t condone this, which is illegal in the United States. Her husband died, they were in New Mexico, I think, and they moved to Tennessee. He was killed in a farm accident or on the road or something and anyway she was stuck in the country and she didn’t want to go back to Mexico or whatever and she didn’t speak much English and she got a hot dog cart. She started working bars and she dint’ have a license yet, she had nothing and she been doing this for at least 2 years that I know of, and now she has multiple carts. She has employees and she’s not even licensed. I’m not condoning this but what I’m saying is there was no way she was going to give her a license to an illegal citizen, she can’t even be in the country and she is working bars at night. Bars that don’t allow food anymore because of the smoking, you can’t have food and smoking in one establishment, there are a lot of bars like that now with the state laws. She created a heck of income because working at night.
You may get the “setup anywhere” from the official and they might want a fixed priced for the year and least now your building your knowledge on what your budget requires. This way you can know how much you need to budget for the year so your not like “hey I can go get that big cart with the grill, in fact I’m going to get three grills on it’ and then you go to get licensed and then your like “I didn’t know licensing was $400 I’m call Ben and see if he’ll take back a couple grills so I can buy my license”. You want to know this stuff in advance you want to know in advance what your budget is and what your able to work with and were going to talk more about that when we get into finding the right equipment, and menus and stuff. We’ll get there tonight but standby.
I’ve already talked about taking down their names. Now what if the answer is NO here are some options you have.
- Check nearby cities – find out if nearby cities have the same restrictions. Some cities didn’t require a permit as long as I was permitted in another city, county. So some cities I didn’t even need a permit.
- Outside the city limits – you can go outside city limits, which is what I did. I set up in front of a tire shop, at first. Then I went to a factory and then I figured out I could make just as much working 2 days at the factory than I could working 6 days at the tire shop. Then I started finding out other places outside the city limits like Dollar General, Big Lots, the nursery. Within seven weeks I had three carts paid for by the profit of that first cart. Some of you are not going to have that kind of success some of you may have better success than that. I started out BROKE I was going to Food City, which is our local grocery store, and I was buying hot dogs right off the shelf cause I couldn’t afford them in bulk. If you have to start out like this its ok it will teach you the value of this business and the effort that your putting in better. Remember that working outside the city limits is very possible, working factories and stuff.
- Catering – catering is pretty much legal everywhere, and I haven’t heard of a city that denies caterers. So from here if you need to take a step back and if you get the NO, NO, NO’s that we don’t allow it, take a step back and approach it a few days later with different people. Now you’re a caterer, “yeah I’m a caterer do you require anything for caterers, what type of permit? What do I need to do?” They sometimes go “Caterers, oh yeah you don’t need to do anything we allow caterers” and now all of sudden you’re a caterer. Now you went from hot dog vendor with a push cart to a caterer and now you get to go in town and now you can go into your town with cart because your caterer, I know this sounds ridiculously simple, but its that simple and many people are using that. I talk to several hundred people each week and that comes up often and you can be that’s where I steer people as of recent.
- Ask for the code – ask to see the code, don’t be belligerent just be polite and ask to see the codes or for a copy of the codes. The codes are public domain so they have to give you the code or give you access. If they tell you something stupid like here is our code book and hand you a 4000 page book, say “sir do you care to show me where it is exactly where it says I can’t vend here?” This has happened, because I talk to a lot of vendors I hear a lot of the experiences, I have had this happen a lot where a vendor did exactly that and they can’t find it they will play dumb, literally dumb.
Go to part four here.
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