In regards to the cart, again, only you can figure out what you want, but I can tell you what you will need… and these things are not already built in when you’re buying a cart online. Here is the full list of requirements if you want to read at all, but for the nutshell version I can tell a few things that the City of Columbus requires right here and now. Although your three-sink compartment is most likely already built in, you will also need to add on a fourth, separate sink used solely for hand-washing that also (obviously) has it’s own faucet. I don’t recall the exact costs of this, but it’s a pretty penny. Something else that the full list of requirements will not tell you, is that in order to pass your fire inspection, you will also need to install a thermocouple at the junction where your pilot light meets the burner. This is also another very large cost you need to comply with before you’re allowed to hit the street. Here are Columbus, Ohio’s Division of Fire requirements for a Pushcart which you will not find anywhere else. Lastly, I found it advantageous to install a second holder for a second propane tank, which also added an extra $100 or so onto the costs of the cart.
You didn’t really think you could store the cart in your garage, did you? Again, here is the full list of requirements but for quick reference, basically you need to find someone that has a full food-service operation (A three sink compartment for proper dish washing, and proper refrigeration are the minimum requirements of the food-service operation) who also has the room to store your cart there before and after your shift. And don’t forget, sometimes it rains and snows, so you’ll also need to find someone to store it indoors for you. Good luck with that, and don’t plan on finding it for free.
You’ve heard it all your life. Location, location, location. Maybe you think getting downtown is the key to victory. I can tell you from experience, it’s not. Again, having unique products that will inspire viral word of mouth is helpful, and if you’re running a larger operation than I am then you’re going to have a better chance at success (as well as much, much higher costs). However, remember, people aren’t stupid, and they all want their cart to be in the best possible location. Well, guess what… the City of Columbus is well aware of that too, and that’s why all street vendors need to enter a lottery every two weeks, in hopes of winning the ‘best’ spots for a two week period. I quit fooling with this pain in the ass procedure rather quickly,especially since you cannot enter the lottery over the phone. I also found that regardless of the fact that I was set up right in the heart of things at lunch time, perched proudly right at the corner of Broad and High… most people already know where they’re going for lunch and walk right past you. I also tried working with nearby buildings with coupon cards and the like, and in all cases, no one building would approve of this either because the rental management team needed to approve it, or they feared they would piss off the restaurants that were already established in their building.
You might think that getting set up at fairs and festivals are the way to go. And while it might be, you’d better have $1,000 or so set aside just to buy your spot. Red, White and Boom and Comfest all sound like great ideas, but I can tell you that the Asian Festival alone (one of the smaller festivals) requires you to put up $700 before they will even consider your application.
Something else to keep in mind, when you get your Peddler’s License, you’ll be told that you can go anywhere in the City of Columbus. Try telling that to the Short North Business Administration when you want to set up for the Gallery Hop (Even if you do have written permission from a store owner). They’ll laugh at your petty piece of paper while they kick your butt right back out of there with well manicured heels. Or try explaining your “City Wide Permit” to anyone on Ohio State’s Campus… where there is already a five year waiting list for key areas.
The truth of the matter is, yes, you can make money selling hot dogs. But before you go into it all doe-eyed thinking that hard work, creative marketing and dedication is going to be enough, it’s not. You either better have a LOT of money set aside ($10,000 or more) to jump start your business with a much larger operation than I have… or be prepared to wait a good year and a half before you even begin to make a dent in your goals. My purpose here isn’t to discourage anyone, I’m just keeping it real.