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 http://thehotdogcart.com/hd_tips.html
. 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.