Archive for the ‘Legal’ Category

Staying in the state of Ohio as we did earlier this week with a profile of a Columbus food truck, in today’s spotlight, we move southward to Cincinnati where the City Council just approved the cities fourth location for food trucks to congregate to provide their mobile offerings. Back in June, the City Council approved a pilot program giving food trucks three designated places to park.  Twenty vendors have permits from the city to use the locations.

Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan, who introduced the legislation, spoke with constituents, vendors and business owners in the areas around the locations and found all but a few pleased with the program so far. Trucks have been able to park on Court Street, at Fifth and Race streets, adjacent to Sawyer Point parking, with the new location added; they may also park south of the Purple People abutment. This new location is scheduled to have its first vendors show up on Monday.

In a means to appease some business owners near the Court Street location, the Council also voted to limit the hours of this truck spot to 6 am to 3 pm.

It should be apparent that this type of arrangement is more attuned to cities that do not have the same type of foot traffic that many urban centers in the United States have. Rather than just shrugging their shoulders and turning their back to bringing the people of their city more food options, we applaud Cincinnati for their continued support of their community and the food truck industry there.

Here are some of the top food trucks in Cincinnati, the fare they serve and their pricing:

Cafe de Wheels: Burgers, fries, Cuban sandwiches and made to order veggie burgers. It usually sets up at lunchtime on weekdays near the courthouse. It is cash only, and most items are less than $9.

Follow: Website / Twitter

Habanero Burrito Wagon: Burritos (chicken, steak, pork, fish, veggie), $5; tacos (same offerings), $2-3; Mexican sodas/Mexican Coca-Cola; chips and salsa, cookies, desserts. Nothing on the truck costs more than $5.

Follow: Website / Twitter

Señor Roy’s Taco Patrol: Tacos (flank steak, grilled chicken or Al Pastor slow-roasted pork shoulder) are two for $5 or three for $6. Burritos or quesadillas are $6 each, and everything else on the menu is $5 or less.

Follow: Website / Twitter

Taco Azul: Tacos are $2 or three for $5; burritos are $7; and most menu items are $5 or less.

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The Chilimobile: Cheese coneys for $2. This truck can be found in the city parking lot at 5th and Race across from Macy’s.

Follow: Website / Twitter

 

Thanks to our friends over at the Cleveland Plain Dealer, we bring you a story of one Cleveland food truck owner and his adventure into the food truck industry.

Chef Chris Hodgson had to navigate a maze of city laws before he could finally get his gourmet food truck, Dim and Den Sum, on the road last spring. It took more than two months — plus the guidance of a city councilman — for him to collect 14 pieces of official paper to get street legal for anywhere in the city. Among them: Three kinds of peddling permits; a health inspection certificate; a catering license; a vending license; and a fire inspection certificate. Estimated cost: $2,800.

“It’s a lot more difficult than what people think,” said Hodgson, a 24-year-old Cleveland-area native and culinary school graduate who has worked at Michelin Star restaurant The Spotted Pig in New York City as well as restaurants in Cleveland, California and Boston.

“That was probably the biggest frustration,” Hodgson said of his permit chase. “We’re chefs. We didn’t know how to figure out the process.” Help may be coming. The city is putting together legislation to simplify the permit process to one application and one fee, expected to be about $150. The goal is to see food trucks develop here as they have in other big cities.

At the same time, Cleveland wants to balance the concerns of restaurateurs, some of whom see food trucks — with their inexpensive gourmet fare and low overhead — as unfair competition. “We want to make it business-friendly and efficient,” said Kevin Schmotzer, of the city’s economic development department, which is working with other departments on the legislation.

The city also is trying to balance concerns of restaurateurs, some of whom see the food trucks — with their inexpensive gourmet fare and low overhead — as unfair competition.

In Cleveland, the city’s solution will be to limit the gourmet food trucks to “food deserts,” places where healthy food is unavailable, and where, presumably, there are few or no restaurants. Two examples: near the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame & Museum or on certain quadrants of Public Square.

Photo from shawnmariani.com

Dim and Den Sum set up at the farmers markets on Public Square a few times this summer, often selling out most food onboard.

The legislation also may set minimum distances between a parked food truck and a restaurant, Schmotzer said. “We’re trying to make it a great program, an efficient program, one that supports the entrepreneurs of the food carts, because we want them,” Schmotzer said. “At the same time I don’t want our phones ringing with restaurant owners when these things are parked right out in front.”

That tension between mobile food vendors and bricks-and-mortar restaurants played out in Medina recently, when a Valley City woman asked the council to refine its laws so she could sell sandwiches from a cart parked on the city’s historic town square. The council dropped the issue after hearing from merchants on the square who were concerned about potential competition, said Planning Director Greg Hannan.

In June, the Cincinnati City Council designated three downtown locations where food trucks could park, and the city charges fees based on parking there every day for a year. Thomas Acito, owner of food truck Cafe de Wheels, said the locations are OK for attracting lunch customers but are useless for finding evening diners. “We have this whole business district, and we don’t have anywhere we can do business at night or for dinner,” Acito said.

Dim and Den Sum started out by doing late-night stops outside nightclubs such as the Flying Monkey Pub in Tremont or the Happy Dog in the Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood. Mike Snyder, owner of the Flying Monkey, said Dim and Den Sum is a good addition to his block, on Jefferson Avenue at the corner of Professor. Nearby is a Thai restaurant, Ty Fun, and fine dining such as Fahrenheit, across the street. Dim and Den appeals to his customers, who want food that is quick, but sophisticated, Snyder said.

The Flying Monkey doesn’t sell food, so Snyder lets his customers bring Dim and Den Sum into his establishment. “The guys who run the truck are great,” Snyder said. “Their food is great. They clean up after themselves. They have their own garbage cans. We haven’t had a problem with them at all.”
Hodgson said, however, that lately he has been focusing on serving the lunch crowd, because business there is better. “We have to find big groups of people,” Hodgson said.

Plus, doing lunch and late-night both was turning Dim and Den Sum into an exhausting, round-the-clock operation. “We’re a small group of chefs, and we get tired,” Hodgson said. Dim and Den Sum fans keep track of the truck’s movements and menu by “liking” the business on Facebook, checking its mobile app, going to dimanddensum.com or following @DimAndDenSum on Twitter.

Myra Orenstein of Cleveland Independents, the organization for locally owned restaurants, said not all restaurateurs fear competition from gourmet food trucks. “When you look at Cleveland independents, they don’t look at each other as competition,” said Orenstein, who is president of her own marketing and advertising company, CATV Inc. “Anything that can be done to enhance the food scene is welcome.” Restaurants and food trucks attract different diners, Orenstein said. While food trucks are for on-the-go dining, a restaurant sells its ambiance and service.

Cleveland hopes to encourage gourmet food trucks, a trend that has caught on in cities such as New York, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Chicago, San Francisco and Austin, Texas. One measure of the trend’s strength: Food Network this year launched a reality series, “The Great Food Truck Race,” in which gourmet food trucks competed for a $50,000 prize.

Food Network also hosted a contest last summer in which fans across the country could vote for their favorite food truck. Dim and Den Sum took third place among 280 contestants. Cleveland’s growing foodie culture and local-food movement make the conditions right for the high-end food trucks, Schmotzer said.

City Hall wants to encourage these entrepreneurs, many of whom don’t have the resources — access to upwards of $250,000 — to open a bricks-and-mortar restaurant. “You have a lot of people who have some amazing talents but they just don’t have the capital, especially in this lending environment,” Schmotzer said. “To get the experience of running something, this is a good stepping-stone.”

Gourmet food trucks, with their penchant for sophisticated cuisine using locally grown and raised food, are a great outlet for the urban gardens and farms that are blossoming across Cleveland, said Councilman Joe Cimperman, who helped Hodgson navigate the city permit process.

“The idea is to leverage and maximize the kind of economic development that occurs because of local food,” Cimperman said. “It’s a complete and totally sustainable economic development eco-system.”
Food trucks are not just for entrepreneurs, either, Orenstein said. A number of restaurant owners she knows are looking into getting their own food trucks on the road.

Lucas Dunn’s food cart business, Pedaling Hummus — a cart pulled by a bicycle — debuted on Public Square a few weeks ago. Dunn got started through a city pilot program aimed at spurring micro-economic development, promoting locally sourced and healthy food and supporting local artists through street vending businesses.

Dunn said, however, that business was slow, and he hopes to do better in the spring when more people will be out and about. Dunn’s also hoping to sell on the Case Western Reserve University Campus, where he thinks the students might be more familiar with his menu, which features chickpea spread and pita chips. Running a food truck business in Cleveland, however, does have its drawbacks: six months of chilly-to-cold weather.

Dunn said he may switch to hot chocolate and granola bars during the winter; Hodgson said he will shutter his meals-on-wheels operation during the cold months.

But Hodgson’s seven months on the road was so successful, he’s using the profits to open a bricks-and-mortar restaurant in Ohio City in May. He’s planning two more trucks. And in the meantime, he’ll do catering and special events. “My goal was to come here, establish a smaller business, show that we could get people behind it and open a restaurant,” Hodgson said. “I did it in seven months. And I’m still in shock.”

You can follow The Dim and Dem Sum Truck at Twitter.

Apparently, at some time in its history, Atlanta was being overrun by gangs of renegade ice-cream trucks, covering every area of the city and terrorizing its people. Because of this, governmental agencies looking to protect the citizenry; placed archaic laws on the books which prevented these mobile dairy gangs from taking over the public right of way for more than 30 minutes at a time per location. Unfortunately, these laws have been a key factor in preventing the food truck industry from spreading into this Southern metro area.

Currently, mobile food vendors in Atlanta have been relegated to serving their food in private lots or at traveling festivals. Although this route may work well for some, for young entrepreneurs looking at food trucking as their primary means of income, it does not come close. Hope is on the horizon though, thanks to Councilmembers Kwanza Hall and Natalyn Archibong.

These councilmembers, looking to bring additional economic stimulus to the city, have introduced a measure that would allow truck owners to leave the festivals and actually sell their mobile creations in the curbside right of way beneath the I-75/I-85 viaduct on either side of Edgewood Avenue between Jesse Hill Avenue and Fort Street.  According to Councilwoman Hall, “We want to take a seedy, desolate area and try to drive some economic impact, I could see someday getting 20 to 30 trucks in that area.”

The proposed legislation would allow the city to issue operating permits in a monthly lottery where winning vendors would be selected to hold one of the eight proposed vendor slots. As long as the lottery was held openly and allows for fair participation, this could be the start of something great for the industry in Atlanta. Dependent on sales results and if customers feel safe while dining in the area, City Council and the Transportation Department could increase the number of awarded permits and add additional locations outside of this pilot district for truck owners to operate.

The proposals submission does not assure a quick ratification as it may take some time before it is brought to a vote. The city’s attorneys still need to comb through the language of the bill, and the Atlanta Street Food Association will review the issue and give the Public Safety Committee its recommendation to updates or changes to the legislation.

Yumbii Food Truck

The mother of the owner of the Yumbii food truck supports the measure and would love to see her son’s truck be part of the revolution. Rebecca Young stated, “If Yumbii can help revitalization in that area, we would be happy to be a part of that,” she said. “It’s going to have to be secure and we would have to assure people that it is secure. But other cities have had food trucks in areas that had security issues and they were able to turn it around and make it a place people wanted to be.”

Be sure to bookmark this article to keep track of the progress this legislation, we will be constantly monitoring the situation and updating our report as things change.

 

As we previously reported, Los Angeles County supervisors were to vote on pending food truck legislation this week. On Tuesday, the supervisors voted unanimously in favor of the proposal, and in 30 days, the new law will go into effect.

The regulation authorizes health inspectors the ability to  now conduct two surprise field inspections and provide the same health board grades to food trucks as brick and mortar restaurants receive. The previous requirements provided for a single field inspection and one in the commissary in which the truck is stored overnight. Prior to Tuesday’s vote, there was no grading system in place. Now a truck will receive a county grade of A, B, or C and will have to post thier grade in an area visible to its customers.

According to Dr. Jonathan Fielding, head of the Los Angeles County Health Department, the new regulation will not result in any increases in fees the food truck operators are charged within the first year it is in effect.

We see this new law as a stepping stone for municipalities around the country to use as a guide in  assisting them in opening paths for food trucks to start providing services in areas where previously they had not.

Los Angeles County set to ratify new food truck regulations.

Photo from Mobile Hunger

There are an estimated 10,000 food vehicles which navigate the streets of Los Angeles County. On Tuesday, all five of the L.A. County supervisors gave preliminary approval for a new ordinance that would require mobile food vendors to submit travel routes to give county health inspectors the ability to conduct surprise inspections.

The results of these new inspections would provide the county with enough information for them to release grades, similar to the grades restaurants currently receive, for each of these vendors. With this approval, the ordinance must be ratified by another vote, sometime next week. Once ratified it would go into effect 30 days after the final vote in unincorporated areas of the county; local city councils would need to ratify the new grading plan for it to be effective within city limits.

The first phase of the plan will expand the grading program to about 3,200 full-service catering vehicles. The second phase would begin next July and will expand to about 2,800 more limited food facilities, such as hot dog and churro carts.

The proposed ordinance covers almost any truck selling any type of food, including motorized and non-motorized vehicles, food carts and “any vehicle from which animal food, bakery products, fish, shellfish, fruits, vegetables, meats, poultry, preserves, jelly, relish, milk or other dairy products, food or food products, ice or beverages, whether in bulk, canned, wrapped, bottled, packaged, or any other form, are sold.”

Currently food trucks are required to have the health department conduct a single annual inspection. Once finalized, food trucks would also be required to submit to at least one additional field inspection per year. The reviews conducted will give health inspectors the ability to close trucks down if they do not receive a grade of C or higher. They will be making sure the trucks follow the same regulations as brick and mortar establishments in regards to public and personal safety. Hygiene standards are also reviewed, so inspectors will make sure food is stored properly and the kitchen and serving areas are kept clean.

According to Matt Geller, vice president of the Southern California Mobile Food Vendors Association, “It brings more legitimacy to an industry that is fairly new in the mainstream,” Surfer Taco truck owner, Moises Alvarado stated, “Some people think maybe we don’t even get a health permit now they’re going to know just how clean we are. I think it’s going to mean more business for us.” In addition to customers knowing what grades each truck received, the placards will establish that the trucks are being regulated and are safe to eat from.

Health departments around the country have been hesitant to allow mobile food vendors permitting to sell in their municipalities. The primary reason they give is that since the trucks are mobile there would not be any way for them to track these operators down to give them surprise inspections. Apparently these officials have not read our article on how to follow them. Mobile Cuisine Magazine believes that by having a travel itinerary requirement in Los Angeles Country as a new precedent, we may see another surge of cities around the country authorizing new food trucks to begin selling their mobile fare.