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In order to be compliant with local laws, food trucks in Colorado will need to get many of the same permits as restaurants, including a business license, food handler permits for every employee, and a seller’s permit.

In addition to these, they’ll also need to get a food truck license (also known as a mobile food facility permit).

Many permits are administered by local government agencies at the city or county level, so food trucks (and food carts) will need to consult with local regulatory bodies as well as their industry peers in their area to ensure they’ve applied for every permit they need.

How to start a food truck business in Colorado

Starting a food truck in Colorado can take many months to over a year.

The process involves building a strong food truck business plan, applying for all your licenses and permits, finding food truck funding, choosing a vehicle and ensuring it’s ready to prepare and serve food, renting an additional prep space, planning your ideal parking locations, building a food truck marketing strategy, finding and hiring a great team, creating your menu, stocking the ingredients you’ll need, receiving your permits, and finally, opening your (figurative) doors.

If you’re savvy about your costs and you deeply research the market you want to reach, making sure you’re in high-traffic areas on each day that you operate, food truck businesses can reach the top end of the average restaurant profit margin range, which is 3-5%, or even exceed it. Food trucks have lower startup costs, smaller teams, and lower operational costs, so they can be more easily profitable than typical restaurants.

And once you’re open, success can look different for various types of food truck businesses. Some restaurateurs aim to open just one food truck and keep their local community fed. Others aim to open a fleet of trucks to operate across the city or even across a whole region, or specialize in event catering. Others still use a food truck as a way to test their concept before opening a restaurant.

No matter your ultimate goal, every food truck in Colorado will need specific licenses and permits to operate. Check out our guide to food truck opening and operation, and then read on for details on how to start a food truck in Colorado.

Business License in Colorado

What is it and why do you need it?

A business license is one of the first licenses you’ll need as you start laying the groundwork of your business. Also known as a business tax certificate, it helps your business stay compliant at tax season.

How to get a business license in Colorado

In Colorado, business licenses are controlled by the city or county you live in. If you operate a restaurant with multiple locations across cities and counties, it’s important to get a business license for each business in different jurisdictions. To get a business license in Colorado, you’ll need:

  1. An EIN (employer identification number)
  2. To choose what classification of business you’ll be (LLC? Sole proprietorship? Partnership?)
  3. A business name
  4. An address and phone number,
  5. A thorough restaurant business plan
  6. A COI (certificate of insurance) for your business insurance policy

How much does a business license cost in Colorado?

Colorado business license costs vary depending the county, type and scope of the business. Business licenses in Colorado need to be renewed and paid for regularly, so check with your jurisdiction about how often yours will need to be renewed.

License Name



Business License

Varies depending on county

Colorado SBDC

Mobile Food Facility Permit in Colorado

What is it and why do you need it?

A mobile food facility permit ensures that the space where you plan to prepare and/or serve food is compliant with local food safety and worker safety standards. You cannot operate a food truck, food cart, or any other kind of mobile food business without one.

How do you get a mobile food facility permit license?

Different counties will dictate the factors that need to be considered, including what types of foods are prepared on the truck vs. at an offsite prep kitchen, what types of foods are sold (and how high-risk they are in terms of potential to cause food-borne illness), what kind of cooking will be done on the truck (Deep frying? Griddle only? Microwaving?), and how much preparation will need to be done at all (very little for ice cream vs. a lot for burritos).

In order to be approved, a mobile food facility will need to be able to show they are creating a safe and nonhazardous work environment for their workers, providing safe food for their customers, and following safe protocols for disposal of grease and other waste.

How much does a mobile food facility permit cost?

The cost of a mobile food facility permit will vary across cities and counties, and even within a city depending on the type of food truck operation.

License Name Cost Link
Mobile Food Facility $100 fee

Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment

Public Health Permit in Colorado

What is it and why do you need it?

In most counties, food trucks will need to fill out a Public Health Permit/License application as food vendors, or risk being shut down for not being up to the Colorado Health and Safety Code.

How do you get a public health permit/license?

Fill out the application from your local public health department, prepare your facility for inspection, and review all food safety requirements. Once you’ve passed inspection, you can obtain your public health permit.

How much does a public health license cost?

It depends on your risk level; selling prepackaged food is cheaper, and less risky, than preparing meats and other foods on your premises. These license costs vary by county and can range from $100 to over $1,000.

License Name Cost Link
Public Health Permit/License Around $100 – $1,000+

Will require application to your local public health department

Food Seller’s Permit in Colorado

What is it and why do you need it?

Any business that plans to sell tangible goods that are subject to sales tax needs a seller’s permit. This permit allows the business to charge sales tax.

How do you get a seller’s permit?

You can register for a permit online through the SBA License and Permits portal.

How much does a food seller’s license cost?

There’s no fee to apply for a seller’s permit, but you may be asked to pay a security deposit to cover unpaid taxes if the business eventually closes.

License Name



Seller’s Permit

$0 (but a security deposit may be requested)

SBA Licenses and Permits

Liquor License in Colorado

Can food trucks get a liquor license in Colorado?

In most states, food trucks cannot obtain a full liquor license. The best they can do is to get short-term liquor licenses for special events, but selling alcohol regularly should not be part of your Colorado food truck business plan.

How much does a liquor license cost in Colorado?

A liquor license in Colorado can cost from $1550 – $5000. See the full fees associated with different types of liquor licenses in Colorado here.

License Name



Liquor License $1550 – $5000

Colorado Liquor Enforcement Division

Employee Health Permit (Also Known as a Food Handler License or Card)

What is it and why do you need it?

An employee health permit allows food trucks to safely sell and serve food onsite. These licenses ensure that every employee knows how to do their part to keep your diners safe from foodborne illness. They’re often referred to as ServSafe, after the company that administers many food handler tests, or as a Colorado food handler license or card.

How to get a food handler license in Colorado

Every employee who prepares or serves food in Colorado must get their food handler license within 30 days of being hired.

If managers have already gotten their Food Protection Manager Certification, they’re exempt from getting a Colorado food handler card. Some jurisdictions have their own food safety training programs and standards, so they’re exempt from requiring employees to get a Colorado food handler card.

To get a food handler card, employees must pass a test about food safety and preparation with a grade of at least 70% (or higher in some jurisdictions).

How much does a food handler license cost in Colorado?

Colorado state law requires that the test and license not cost more than $15, in order to make sure anyone working in a restaurant can afford to get certified.

License Name



Food Handler License

Up to $15 per employee

Colorado Food Handler Training

Food Truck Laws, Requirements and Regulations in Colorado

In addition to all the above permits and licenses, food trucks will need to comply with food safety ordinances, OSHA regulations, proper waste disposal regulations, driving regulations, public health laws, tax laws, regulations about temperature control for food (as well as for running water), parking regulations, drivers license laws, liquor laws, and many more.

Get ready to bring your food to whenever your customers are

Opening a food truck is a process that takes many months. You’ll need to start with a thorough food truck business plan, and then, one of the most important tasks to tackle early is the licenses and permits process. Some permits will require you to have a different permit ready to submit with your application, so use the state specific websites to determine exactly which permits your business needs. Map out the requirements for all of them, and go through them in cascading order.

Once your permits are in progress, you can move onto other tasks that will require your attention, including finding a great team, planning your pay structures, finding food truck funding, figuring out your menu and testing recipes, and choosing ingredient vendors.

Finally, you can compare your options for the best food truck point of sale system. Ensure the platform you choose has capabilities that will help you grow sustainably for years to come, like online ordering (and order-ahead), email marketing to let your customers know where you’ll be and when, payroll, and inventory.

Find the original article from Toast, along with additional resources, here.

DISCLAIMER: This information is provided for general informational purposes only, and publication does not constitute an endorsement. Toast does not warrant the accuracy or completeness of any information, text, graphics, links, or other items contained within this content. Toast does not guarantee you will achieve any specific results if you follow any advice herein. It may be advisable for you to consult with a professional such as a lawyer, accountant, or business advisor for advice specific to your situation.