Letter Grades Coming to NYC Food Trucks

Last month, the City Council Health Committee voted unanimously passing a new bill requiring food carts and trucks to post letter grades, just like New York City brick-and-mortar restaurants. With mobile kitchens growing in popularity, and popping up all over the city, it’s no wonder that the city is treating them just like the city’s restaurants we know and love!

Photo credit: Van Leeuwen

Photo credit: Van Leeuwen

 We are supportive of our favorite mobile chefs and their kitchens being regulated on par with their brick-and-mortar counterparts, legitimizing and adding credibility to their businesses. However, what seems like a great stride towards equating the way brick-and-mortar and mobile kitchens are run and regulated is actually just a baby step in establishing the same food safety standards for restaurants and mobile vendors.

 The disproportionate regulatory environment when hiring employees is the number one impediment to the continued growth and sustainability of the food truck industry in NYC.

 While it’s pretty simple for restaurants to continuously hire and replace workers in their kitchens, but the process is surprisingly not as straightforward for mobile vendors.

 Requirements to work in a restaurant kitchen or front of house:

NONE, one person on-site must have completed the Food Protection Test after studying online

 Requirements to work on a food truck:

  1. Every single person including the driver must pass the Food Protection Course for Mobile Vendors(2 full days in an inconvenient location)

  2. File for a Sales Tax Authority to obtain a Sales Tax ID

Photo credit: Associated Press

Photo credit: Associated Press

 A sales tax ID allows individuals to collect sales tax and submit it to New York State. Filing and receiving your sales tax ID takes a minimum of three weeks. We completely understand why this would be required for business owners, but why should a food truck cashier need this when a cashier in a brick and mortar does not? It's another layer that prevents people from wanting to work for food trucks especially in an industry which has a high turn-over.

Unlike the restaurant’s Food Protection Course (online course, takes <1 hr), the Food Protection Course for mobile vendors is long, taking 2 days, 8 hours each day. The whole process takes a lot of time, discouraging potential employees from working on a food truck or cart.

When it comes to food truck letter grades, the NYFTA is in full support of anything that will improve customer satisfaction and food safety, but we also want to make sure that the needs of the food truck owners are addressed when it comes to parity of regulations with restaurants.

 Food truck employees should be subjected to the same rules and regulations as their counterparts in brick-and-mortar locations and not have to deal with rules that are prohibitive and make running a successful Food Truck business in New York almost impossible.

So with many potentially employable people opting for work that require little to no safety verification, it becomes difficult and expensive for mobile chefs to find staff.

Ben Goldberg
Founder of the New York Food Truck Association
nyfta.org