Are you a food cart or truck owner who is considering applying for a New York food cart license? As a business owner, are you concerned about your health or that of your employees? Food trucks and carts are highly portable, which makes them ideal for temporary jobs around town or in local markets. There’s no need to purchase and maintain a permanent kitchen, which saves valuable office space. But are new food truck owners’ licenses as cheap as they sound?
The state of New York’s Department of Health is planning to implement a new grading system for food carts and trucks starting in December. Under the new system, owners will get a two-star score if their food trucks pass inspection and have a clean background. Two stars isn’t high enough, though, as owners will still have to undergo inspection twice annually. That means one inspection and another report given to the state by the inspector after the second inspection. Both inspections cost the same amount.
What makes the new grading system so expensive? The state says that it will save money in inspections, enforcement, and penalties for food vendors who don’t follow safety guidelines. It also says the move will help prevent food trucks from operating illegally. How will the new system work? For trucks with three or less non-perishable items on board at any time, each truck will be assigned a point based on the size of the sale and its perishables. Those with higher perishables will pay more.
Owners of food carts with higher perishables will pay more because the truck will have to make extra stops to pick up larger orders and bring them to the processing center. This will save the vendor money and time, which are the owners’ goal. But the state says the move is not designed to favor anyone. Owners of small food carts can still receive a certificate stating they met all industry standards. Owners of large food carts won’t get that certificate, but they’ll get a premium price for it.
There’s no question that the move will hurt some food carts. Some of those who operate out of their homes won’t be able to stay in business if they lose their refrigeration and cooling services. Others, including some with special van programs, will be harder hit because they will need to upgrade equipment to meet New York’s tighter regulations. The state says kid meal and coolhaus carts will still be able to service clients, even with the changes.
That’s good news for owners of mobile dining franchises in New York, but it may hurt others. Hot dog and grill restaurants will have to find alternative routes for their food trucks. And some vendors are already feeling the pinch. Many of them say they’re having trouble paying the high prices for kid meal and coolhaus cards, which are required in order to accept and process the cards. The cards, which also serve as restaurant identification cards, cost as much as $100 each.
On a positive note, the new law does not allow food carts to deliver food to restaurants or commercial facilities. This means owners of mobile food trailers won’t have to pay for food to go out to other clients. They can also provide twin meal and coolhaus cards directly to clients, which means they won’t have to spend money on food cart supplies. This could save owners hundreds of dollars a year.
If you own a mobile food cart or a food truck in New York, the new laws about the sale of food out of your vehicle will probably have a minimal impact on your business. You can still provide great customer service and sell great sandwiches. You just have to plan ahead so you don’t get caught out mid-trip with sales and deliveries being affected by the new laws. As long as you follow the rules, you shouldn’t experience any problems.