What are the rules for setting up a food truck in Spain?
In Spain, you may occasionally see several churros vans on the streets, but the majority of food trucks come out during festivals or markets.
In cities like Barcelona for example, food trucks are all the rage at events and the city even has a food truck collective called Van Van, which appears at all the city celebrations and markets.
According to LACOMMA, a Spanish food truck manufacturer, demand for food trucks has tripled since the pandemic. The explanation for this growth lies in the low investment required to start the business and in how the hospitality sector, one of the hardest hit by COVID-19, has reinvented itself since.
There are even food trucks in Spain run by chefs with Michelin stars such as Carlos Maldonado from Talaverano, who continues to drive his food truck to events, and Dabiz Muñoz, who has a food truck in the centre of Madrid.
If you want to start a food business in Spain, but don’t have the capital or the know-how to open a restaurant, then you may want to consider a food truck instead. The initial investment to create such a business is much less than that needed for a restaurant.
It’s possible to start your food truck business with around €15,000. The truck itself is going to be your biggest expense. You could go for a cheaper vintage model that may bring more character to your brand or a more expensive modern air-conditioned one, that will help you during the long hot Spanish summers.
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But, it’s not just all about the money, as with many different processes in Spain the legal and administrative sides can be tricky to navigate. This is because, as well as having to adhere to European regulations on food hygiene, each region also has its own slightly different rules. Since there is no regulation on a national level, each region will have different requisites too.
The first step when trying to legalise your food truck is to go to your ayuntamiento or town hall and find out the steps in your local area, as they are the ones who will be in charge of granting your final permit.
One of the first documents you’ll need is your Food Handler Certificate to certify that you can handle and prepare food in a safe way and that you’re not going to give your customers food poisoning.
You must also take into account the type of truck you want to use. If your truck weighs more than 3,500 kilos, it is mandatory to obtain a truck driver’s licence too. The lighter ones can be driven with a normal licence.
In order to set yourself up legally as a self-employed person you will also have to register as autónomo and register yourself in the corresponding IAE epigraph for your industry. Most gestores or accountants in Spain can easily help you with this process. Once you have done this you will also need to sign up for the Social Security system, meaning you will contribute monthly fees.
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It’s important to decide where to park your truck or if it will move to various locations, this will all depend on the rules made by your City Council, as established by Royal Decree 199/2010. Sometimes you may not be able to have a permanent space on the street and may have to just stick with going to festivals and events instead.
Depending on your area, there may also be more documents you will need than the ones above. Your ayuntamiento or town hall should be able to tell you which ones you will need.
Deciding what type of food to sell from your truck may be one of the hardest decisions. It could be easy to go with much-loved classics like burgers, pizzas or hot dogs, but there’s already a lot of competition for food trucks of that type. Find a niche to stand out from the crowd by offering vegan food for example, Thai curries or Chinese bao buns, or whatever you are personally good at making.
To get some inspiration, take a look at Lonely Planet’s Around the World in 80 Food Trucks book, which features several of the most successful food trucks in various regions across Spain, as well as recipes from some of their most popular dishes.
Remember, it’s not enough to just have your truck, these days you need a good brand and an online presence. It’s important to create a website and create social media handles to promote your truck and its offerings.
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