Navigating City Regulations and Local Health Code Requirements for Food Vendors | FTE Episode 030

You can listen to the full interview with Salvagno sharing his experience passing health-code regulations when you download Your First 365 Days on a Food Truck

In this the fourth installment of our series of conversations with Anthony Salvagno (photo below) of S’witch It Up, we explore how Salvagno was able to navigate his local city regulations and identify the health code requirements in his city of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

anthony salvagnoIf you’ve found that navigating local health code regulations is a pain… trust me you’re not alone as this is one of the most common issues would-be food truck operators encounter when staring a business.

Identifying city regulations like where you can park or operate a specialty food business is both confusing and complex in many parts of the country. One reason is current laws aren’t clear on how to handle a mobile food business.

The food truck crazy has developed quickly and the laws around operating this type of business will take awhile to catch up. As a result, what you need to start a food truck will vary greatly from city to city and you’ll want to get a clear understanding of the local laws and regulations in your area before investing any money into a food truck or other specialty food business. You might find that food trucks have been banned entirely from your city, which is only one reason conducting this research is critical.

The goal with this episode is to provide you with some general guidelines that you can use to identify the local law and regulations within your city. Of course, if you happen to live in the city of Albuquerque this interview will be extremely relevant.

When listening to this interview keep in mind that neither myself or Salvagno are lawyers. We are simply having a conversation based on our experience and knowledge of the subject. Everyone’s situation is different depending on their location.

Here’s a small example of some of the regulations that vary from city to city:

Parking Restrictions: Some cites will require a permit to park on the street. Other municipalities will not require this. Most cities require that you are parked a certain distance from restaurants or other businesses.

Health Codes: Many of the health code requirements were mostly recommendations on how to ensure your food is safe to eat. According to Salvagno, the majority of these are best practices that you would want to follow even if the “rule” didn’t technically exist to ensure your food was safe to eat. Another common health code requirement is to have two or three sinks onboard for washing. Again, make sure you understand local health code requirements prior to buying a food truck as each municipality has different requirements.

Fire Regulations: You may need more than one fire extinguisher in some areas. Also, depending on the type of food or equipment you need to make food may require different safety equipment such as a hood with a UL300 suppression system. This is a standard in the restaurant industry.

Other Requirements: One of the unique requirements for vendors in Albuquerque is that they must have the name of their business and business address posted on their truck. Check your own cities requirements to ensure you’re not missing any obscure or unique rule like this.

What You’ll Learn

  • How Salvagno got all the information he needed about city regulations and health code requirements from a group called the Southeast Team for Entrepreneurial Success. Salvagno filled in the missing pieces by speaking with local food truck owners.
  • You can contact your local food truck association or co-op for information about regulations. Just about every major city has one one of these in place and its membership is made up of (not surprisingly) food truck entrepreneurs. This is a great place to start.
  • Why you should be asking a lot of questions from current food vendors in your area.
  • Why the official city or government is another good place to find city ordinances. You may need to do some Googling to find some of these documents.
  • Some of the fee’s and penalties your business could incur if you don’t follow the rules.
  • Why you might be required to work through a commissary.
  • Why you shouldn’t use a sole proprietorship to start a food truck business. There’s just too much risk to your personal finances if something goes wrong. You want that added layer of protection.
  • Some of the legal benefits of creating a limited liability company (LLC)

Mentioned During the Podcast

365 days on a food truckSoutheast Team for Entrepreneurial Success (STEPS): This is a local business organization in Albuquerque that pointed Salvagno in the right direction regarding the rules and health code regulations within his city. According to Salvagno, this group know’s everything you need to know about starting a food cart in Albuquerque.

GeDunk Food Truck – A food truck owner that was extremely helpful to Salvagno when getting started. Figured we should give them a shout out here.

@ABQFoodTrucks – One of the organizations that helps support and promote the local food truck scene in Albuquerque.

The Boiler Monkey –  This is another local food truck that Salvagno references during the interview that he was thankful for the insight from. I’ve linked up to their Tumblr account where they share the story of how they found their bus and the process they used to convert it into a catering vehicle. Lots of detailed photographs here. I’ll be chatting with The Boiler Monkey in just a few short weeks.

City Regulations Overview in Albuquerque – This is a post that Salvagno put together outlining the fire code and health code regulations in his city. You can also get a link to the packet he went through in his area.

LegalZoom.com – This is the service Salvagno used to create an LLC for his food truck.

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