Posts Tagged ‘food trucks’

Don’t Cook and Drive

January 17, 2011

Don’t cook and drive – that’s the current rule in Chicago. Have you seen the ubiquitous trucks that park on street corners and offer everything from hot tamales to hot dogs? These are common in cities like New York and Los Angeles, but they are all but illegal in Chicago, where the restrictions mean that it’s impossible to get a hot meal from a food truck and even cold foods are a difficult thing to find.

Chicago Food Trucks under Strict Guidelines

First of all, it turns out that the requirements say that Chicago chefs who own food trucks may sell food out of their trucks – as long as the food was prepared elsewhere and is sold pre-packaged inside the truck. This means that not only are the hot tamales and hot dogs out, but so are many other kinds of foods.

If you’ve ever bitten into a tuna sandwich from one of those old style food vending machines…you know what we’re talking about. No one liked ‘em then and they pretty much disappeared in part because the bread would become mushy with a number of different kinds of “wet” foods in between the slices after a while.

As if that restriction weren’t bizarre enough however, the other thing that seems to be hindering the adoption of food trucks in the Windy City is the requirement that they must be parked more than 200 feet from the closest brick-n-mortar restaurant. This effectively makes the most lucrative parts of the town’s business centers off limits to mobile restaurateurs.

Start Up Costs of Food Trucks

The big issue it seems is that the food trucks are infinitely cheaper to set up than the traditional brick-n-mortar restaurant. While it’s estimated that a traditional restaurant would cost some $1 million to put together, a food truck business can get going for as little as $150,000. That difference often means the difference between starting a business and not starting a business, especially in this economy.

A new city ordinance is currently under consideration to try to get the law changed to make the city more friendly to food trucks, but unless and until it does get passed, chefs be warned – don’t cook and drive in the Windy City.

Food Trucks and Hot Dog Stands to Be Graded by L.A. Health Inspectors

October 26, 2010

These days, even the food truck isn’t safe from getting their grades posted for all to see. It used to be that when a food truck went into business, it was almost like an underground operation.

Sure, they had to have their health department inspections done just like everyone else. But let’s face it, food trucks where people buy everything from a skewer to a shwarma to a bagel with a shmear have never really been places where people would go and look for inspection information. The City of Los Angeles however is hoping to change that.

Letter Grades Required for Regular Restaurants

For those not familiar with the rules in Los Angeles, the city send around inspectors to check on the cleanliness and food safety of restaurants in the city. They then assign a letter grade to the restaurants. This must be conspicuously displayed in order for the establishment to continue to do business.

Shaming Restaurateurs into Doing the Right Thing

The idea is that restaurateurs will be shamed into keeping cleaner establishments in order to make sure that they don’t have to explain to worried customers why their restaurant ranked a C (The lowest grade possible. Any lower and they’d have to shut down before they could continue to function).

However, the rule has not been applied to mobile restaurants or food trucks, on the theory that it would be too much trouble for such establishments to comply with it. A recent vote by the city Board of Supervisors, however, may change all that.

Catering Trucks to Go First

If the plan is implemented, as expected, when the final vote on the ordinance comes up toward the end of October, the first group that would be subject to the new rules would be applied to full service catering trucks that offer more than just a hot dog on a bun. The trucks would have to let the city know about their routes and be prepared for surprise inspection visits.

Hot Dog Carts are on the Agenda As Well!

The final phase of the plan would see even the humble hot dog stands and other places offering things like churros subject to the rule. We do wonder where exactly the hot dog stand is going to post such a sign, given the miniscule size of their operations.