Here’s Just How Hard It Is to Open a Taco Truck in NYC
It may seem as if everyone is opening hip food trucks in cities these days. But it’s more complicated than it looks. Before you warm your first tortilla, if you’re in New York, for example, you’ll have to get through 68 pages of regulations on mobile-food vending. Many of them sensibly protect cleanliness and food safety, but others are more draconian. Some highlights (and lowlights) of the Big Apple regs:
You’ll need a license to run a food truck. Any operator without a permit “shall be deemed an imminent health hazard,” and fines are stiff. But that’s only your first city license. Second, you’ll need to obtain a permit and pass an inspection by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene confirming the city deems the truck sanitary. That takes care of the vehicle. As for you, you’ll need to take a 15-hour food-protection course and submit proof of completion. Did you make it through those steps? Congrats, you’ll be issued a permit and a sticker. But be careful: You have to display the decal properly on the truck, making sure that a “six (6) inch space shall be left clear on all sides of the decal.” If you don’t—you guessed it—you face fines (and even revocation of your permit).
For more on business regulations, watch this Fortune video:
Finding your spot:
No food seller can “vend within any bus stop, taxi stand, within the portion of the sidewalk abutting any no-standing zone adjacent to a hospital as defined in subdivision one of section 2801 of the New York state public health law, within 10 feet of any driveway, any subway entrance or exit, or any crosswalk at any intersection.” Certain police precincts are banned. On the plus side, the city helpfully provides this information in “English, Spanish, traditional Chinese, Arabic, Urdu, Bengali, Russian, Gree, Farsi, and Hindi.”
Cooking and serving:
No meat can be “de-boned or cut into portion size in or on a mobile food vending unit.” You may not have been expecting rules on thermometers or ice, but the former will need to be “metal stem-type, numerically scaled, indicating thermometers, thermocouples, or thermistors,” and ice must be “in chipped, crushed, or cubed form” and “in single-use or wet-strength paper bags.” In fairness, section 89.19 (h) on condiment presentation is a model of simplicity.
Waste and cleanliness:
It’s crucial that the truck be clean, but it can be cleaned only while in certain locations. Waste water tanks “shall have a minimum capacity that is at least 15% greater than the potable water supply capacity and be clearly and permanently labeled ‘waste water.’” The truck must have a sink used only for hand washing. Operators must not wear sleeveless shirts or show bare midriffs. If you violate “personal hygiene” in that manner, yes, there will be a fine.
A version of this article appears in the November 1, 2016 issue of Fortune as part of our “Red Tape” feature.