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 Indiana health codes for food carts, etc.

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  • Total Posts: 2
  • Joined: 7/26/2006
  • Location: Evansville, IN
Indiana health codes for food carts, etc. Wed, 07/26/06 9:08 PM (permalink)
Hello all, I just discovered these boards as part of an extensive pre- pre- pre- preliminary look into the feasibility of opening up some sort of food cart.

I've toyed with the idea for years, and every time I go to a public function where food and drink are needed but scarce, I think more and more about how I could be providing a valuable service and probably turning a tidy profit if I did it right.

The simplest of these "fantasy scenarios" has me merely bringing a cooler full of bottled water to a hot, outdoor event(costing me $3.98 for 24 at WM, or 16-and-a-half cents each), and unloading them for a buck apiece. The profit, subtracting the cost of ice, is around 18 bucks! Now, I would by no means advocate opportunistic price gouging as some unscrupulous sorts did at Ground Zero or Katrina, but seems like a little innocent entrepeneurship never hurt anybody. That's the whole precept of commerce, isn't it? Buy low, sell high?

Anyway, moral ambiguities aside, I'm also partly inspired by an individual who ran a pushcart food stand in my hometown of Collinsville, Illinois, going back as far as I can remember (at least the early- to mid-70's). Looking like it had been built out of plywood, the "Sam's Hot Tamales" cart rarely left the guy's front yard, yet he always seemed to do brisk business (he lived on a busy street), and eventually became a bit of a local institution.

One important factor for me is start-up cost: 90% of the pages I've found by Googling all seem to be hawking the same line of carts, which start at a thousand bucks, which I simply don't have. Beyond what I have to have, I'd like to conserve what little funds I have to work with by building/improvising where I can.

As far as food items, I think hot dogs are a good jumping-off point, perhaps with pre-packaged chips, candy and cans of soda/bottles of water here and there. I'm also contemplating where in my area I could set up (public property near school functions, sports events, perhaps even taverns after closing time), taking into consideration the legal aspects of setting up shop in a public place, rather than having to deal with the property owner each time.

Now, I'm no fool--I know that, in this day and age, I can't just jump in with both feet, throwing together a stand made of a Radio Flyer and an orange crate, much less should I expect to become the hot dog king of Evansville, Indiana overnight. It may take up to two or three weeks, ba-domp-bomp. Still, having now taken it to the next level (past "Wouldn't it be nice" and now to "Hey, why couldn't I do this?"), my first steps have been:

1) getting as much info as I can about the business, mostly free on the internet (there's no shortage of it); and

2) making inquiries to local authorities about the necessary legalities, permits, etc. I went to City Hall on Monday, and was referred to the Controller's office, who then said they would give my name and number to the Health Department, through whom I would have to take my next steps.

After waiting 48 hours, I called the HD today, and of course no one was available to help (ah, bureacracy in action!). The Internet is being stingy with its Health Codes and related statutes, so I now turn to you, total strangers, having already searched for "Indiana" and "health department." There are some helpful threads, but nothing that meets my specific needs on that subject.

There is also, to my knowledge, no sticky thread with an all-purpose "Wisdom of the Ancients" guidebook. I did print off some insights about getting started, including a lengthy guide from . Still, it doesn't beat a little personalized Jedi training from the Masters.

Therefore, I entreat upon you, O Wise Ones, guide this clueless Noob through the Valley of the Shadow of Hot Dog/Sandwich cart operations. Any and all advice is welcome. Thanks.

    • Total Posts: 6025
    • Joined: 10/14/2003
    • Location: West Palm Beach, FL
    • Roadfood Insider
    RE: Indiana health codes for food carts, etc. Wed, 07/26/06 10:17 PM (permalink)
    Originally posted by bottlecap

    One important factor for me is start-up cost: 90% of the pages I've found by Googling all seem to be hawking the same line of carts, which start at a thousand bucks, which I simply don't have. Beyond what I have to have, I'd like to conserve what little funds I have to work with by building/improvising where I can.

    Hear ya on the cash deal.. You an me both on that one. CowboyBob here in the forums sent me a book he wrote.. Real good reading! Drop me an email and I'll forward you his email address. He has an entire chapter dedictated to "Stick Set-Ups", which is nothing more then a 10x10 canopy you can buy for about 50 bucks, plus rest of the setup requirements. Good, clean, cheap way to get into the biz..

    And if I dont hear from ya, Best of Luck there!!! Another good resource is

      • Total Posts: 308
      • Joined: 9/20/2005
      • Location: Ft Wayne, IN
      RE: Indiana health codes for food carts, etc. Wed, 07/26/06 11:11 PM (permalink)
      Hi Bottlecap,
      Welcome to the forum. This forum has been the single best resource for the type of info you need. I am always getting educated here. I am in Northern Indiana. I run a small hot dog cart. Typically It is not very rough in this state to get started. Rules and regulations can change from county to county. As far as getting started cheaply, it is kind of hard to get into it for a small investment. However that being said, maybe you can start by selling bottled water, ice cold soda, peanuts, popcorn on the side of a busy road. It would not require a major investment at all. Thereby building the nest egg up to getting your first cart. Just a word of advice though. When you do buy the cart make sure it has everything that you will need to properly operate. I bought an "entry level", cart. And have paid even more money trying to make it work out, and adding on, and so forth. I should have saved the extra money and gotten a functional cart with two to three steam tables instead. Making mine work for right now, but still. I was reading a story about a middle aged man in Ft. Wayne who was selling water, peanuts, and fresh fruit on the side of the road. Man I tell you he was working that road for all it was worth. He was actually running up and down the road with his products in hand ready to sell to anyone that held a dollar bill out the car window. He hustled! He wants to own his own grocery store one day., and I bet he will. Another thing to think about too is your level of commitment. It is a big commitment. I have had many stumbling blocks along the way, and still do. I am very committed to the cart, however the wife is not. This had made points of contension between us. Between working a full time job and trying to get the cart out on a regular basis has been quite the challenge. I am going to attend Hot Dog U in the future hear. CSD runs this school in Wisconsin. I am sure I can get some very valuable information there and in turn use it to really put my cart to work. Maybe you should check into it. Go to, and check out the site. CSD( Chicago style dog), has been a great source of info for all of us here at the forum. The Evansville area will be a great spot. E-mail me if you want. I really am interested to see what you decide to do. Keep your eyes on the prize.

        • Total Posts: 308
        • Joined: 9/20/2005
        • Location: Ft Wayne, IN
        RE: Indiana health codes for food carts, etc. Wed, 07/26/06 11:22 PM (permalink)
        Oh sorry,
        by the way. I do not know how reliable the information is. But I do see this little cd you can buy on Ebay about building your own carts. You can build one, however make saure it abides by state code. Just put hot dog carts on your ebay search and it will show up. Anyone else have one of these cds that can give good info?

          • Total Posts: 2
          • Joined: 7/26/2006
          • Location: Evansville, IN
          RE: Indiana health codes for food carts, etc. Thu, 07/27/06 11:30 PM (permalink)
          Yeah, I saw that CD advertised on another site--it's just hard for me to throw down money on something when I'm not sure what I'm getting. The EBay page he was advertising it on gave a few pointers and pictures that were helpful, though!

          I'm also not sure about putting up 300 bucks for Hot Dog U until I hear some testimonials from some alumni. Not to cast aspersions on the guy who runs it, but you know--buyer beware and everything.

          UncleVic, I'm going to send you a PM with my e-mail addy. Thanks to the both of you for the helpful tips. I've still been looking online, and tonight I finally found a few pages that should really be handy.

          They all come from the Vanderburgh County (Indiana) Department of Health website, which includes the Indiana State DOH food establishment sanatitation requirements (I'm posting this in case there are any other Hoosiers who need them):

          I also finally got a call back from the lady at the Controller's office, who put me in touch with the one guy at the DOH who would supposedly be in (I tried yesterday, but all of their inspectors were out in the field, inspecting). Anyway, I called that guy three times today--he wasn't in. I finally left him a message for him to call me back at his convenience, which means I should be hearing from him by late November.

          In any case, I'm not worried if some other local uses this information to start up their own hot dog stand and "steal my idea;" the area is plenty big and virtually untouched, and I'm probably not going to have the startup cash & preparations made until next year, by which time, I might be able to learn from someone local who starts between now and then.

          Myway, that story of the guy in Ft. Wayne is downright inspiring! I would like to be able to sell whatever foodstuffs I want like that without the risk of having Johnny Law come down on me like a pile of bricks because I didn't fill out form 23-B in triplicate and pay the $3,000 fee to sell apples for 10 cents.

          Did I mention that I don't care much for bureacracy?

          Onward and upward!

            • Total Posts: 4388
            • Joined: 1/28/2004
            • Location: West Peoria, IL
            RE: Indiana health codes for food carts, etc. Fri, 07/28/06 12:01 AM (permalink)

            Hot Dog U was created and is run by the gentleman who posts on this website as chicagostyledog (1840 posts). He has been successfully selling hot dogs for 3 years in Kenosha, WI. You can see his story at I am sure if you had questions, he would be more than happy to communicate with you by e-mail.
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