ILNews

Regulations are few, but food trucks do have laws and codes to meet

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Take a food truck to Chicago and you may be required to attach a GPS tracking device to it. Maneuver afood truck through New York and be prepared to possibly limit drink sizes to 16 ounces.

Park a food truck in Indianapolis and enjoy being able to do business in an environment of few regulations. The labor laws and health codes that govern restaurants apply to food trucks, but owners do not have to worry about extra requirements like tracking systems and operating only in specific zones.

Indeed, the lack of regulations is credited with helping to foster the growth of the industry in Indiana’s capital city from essentially one truck in 2010 to 47 trucks and counting today. To sustain the comparatively cart blanche atmosphere, a loose coalition of food truck and some brick-and-mortar restaurant owners are trying to work together to avoid the kinds of disputes that could inspire city hall to cook up a new ordinance.
 

il-food-truck05-15col.jpg Crystal Williams (IL Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

“Restaurateurs are not by nature people who ask for more regulation,” said John Livengood, president of the Indiana Restaurant Association.

Crystal Williams, an associate at Barnes & Thornburg LLP, has become familiar with

the differing regulations as part of her work assisting national restaurant chains that are expanding into the food truck sector. She emphasized these established eateries cannot arrive in a city, flip open their truck, and start serving food. Rather they have to adjust their operations to comply with the unique codes of each community.

For example, Chicago does not allow food trucks to cook on board or park within 200 feet of a restaurant. However, Indianapolis permits food trucks to station themselves in any valid parking space and cook on board but prohibits the sale of food on public property between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

The patchwork of requirements can be confusing and frustrating, but Williams does not expect a call for national regulations regarding food trucks. Each city, she said, knows what it needs and fashions its ordinances accordingly.

A business is a business

When he sketched out his business plan for his food truck, Matt Kornmeyer, owner of the Scratchtruck, admitted he planned for failure. He thought he would need at least 40 customers at lunch each day to survive, but he now averages between 70 and 100 customers and is three years ahead of his revenue targets.

“I still don’t get it,” Kornmeyer said of the popularity of food trucks. “I’m right in the middle of it, and sometimes I sit and shake my head and say, ‘Look at all the people.’”

That kind of success is spurring the growth of food trucks across the United States and luring chain restaurants like Chick-fil-A, Subway and Taco Bell to put trucks on the street.

“I think it’s becoming a new way we are consuming food,” Williams said. “I think it is becoming a middle ground between a large, fancy restaurant and fast food.”

However, Williams cautioned against the assumption that success in the food truck industry comes easy. Owners have to be aware of not only the regulations specific to mobile vendors but also of the laws and requirements, like local employment laws and intellectual property safeguards, that apply to any business operation.

“It’s still a business,” she said. “You still have employees, and employees have rights you have to abide by.”

Williams recommended that anyone thinking about launching a food truck business should first consult an attorney. This will help avert such situations as entrepreneurs investing in an operation and then discovering later that city ordinances prohibit them from selling the food they want to offer or in the places they want to be.

food truck factbox

She emphasized that individuals entering the food truck business must also be knowledgeable about local sanitation regulations. They must be sure that the kitchens used to prepare the food and the kitchen spaces on the vehicles meet the codes.

Matt Frey, who opened Bub’s Burgers & Ice Cream with his wife in 2003, is a brick-and-mortar restaurateur branching into food trucks.

Frey echoed Williams by pointing out that the health codes set for food trucks are very similar to a restaurant. As in his establishment, his truck has to have things like a hot water heater, wastewater tank, hand washing sink, and he has to adhere to the same food safety requirements.

The truck has made catering easier since all the equipment to properly store and prepare the menu is on board, he said. Cooking in the vehicle is a more s

anitary and safer way to cater, plus he is able to prepare a burger that customers tell him tastes exactly like those he serves in his restaurant.

“I think it’s a real clever idea,” Frey said of food trucks.

Wheels v. bricks

Mayor Greg Ballard’s administration has so far taken a hands-off approach to regulating mobile food vendors. The administration favors educating food truck operators, code enforcement officials, and others about the rules already on the books rather than implementing special regulations, said Marc Lotter, spokesman for the mayor.

Food trucks are doing a good job in terms of communicating with each other and working off best practices, Lotter said.

Kornmeyer, who launched the Scratchtruck about 13 months ago, believes the city will enact food truck regulations at some point. To provide a blueprint for any future ordinance and to prevent any, in his word, “crazy” regulations like not being allowed to park within a thousand feet of a restaurant, he has organized the Indianapolis Food Truck Alliance, an informal coalition of truck operators who have developed a code of conduct.

One provision in this code bars food trucks from parking within 100 feet of brick-and-mortar restaurants.

The Indiana Restaurant Association occasionally fields complaints from brick-and-mortar establishment owners about food trucks, Livengood said. And usually the issue is a mobile unit parked right outside their doors.

“I hope the food trucks that did this will understand it’s not in their interest to pick a fight,” he said, noting if a war breaks out between restaurants and mobile vendors, city government will likely side with the restaurants.

Kornmeyer puts his Scratchtruck on the street Tuesday through Saturday and alerts his customers to the location via social media.

He advocates maintaining a cordial relationship with downtown restaurants yet, at the same time, he chafes against their concerns. He said his food establishment offers only food and personality, and if restaurants are worried about him taking away their business, he continued, they should look at their menus instead of trying to hamper the food trucks.

Moreover, he questioned why regulations are penalizing food trucks for changing the game. No one ever prohibited consumers from downloading a book in front of a bookstore, he said, yet restrictions are being written to protect a “dinosaur industry.”

Frey’s restaurant has locations in Carmel and Bloomington. He agreed with Kornmeyer that brick-and-mortar entrepreneurs have to adjust to changing times, but he does get irked by food trucks’ nomad existence, noting restaurants have invested in real estate and pay property taxes as well as utilities.

Also like Kornmeyer, Frey would rather restaurants and food trucks develop the rules of operation themselves. Cooperation between competitors is possible and will stunt any need for government involvement.

“In my book, there’s always a solution,” Frey said. “You just have to be willing to negotiate and compromise.”•



ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
2015 Distinguished Barrister &
Up and Coming Lawyer Reception

Tuesday, May 5, 2015 • 4:30 - 7:00 pm
Learn More


ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. A traditional parade of attorneys? Really Evansville? Y'all need to get out more. When is the traditional parade of notaries? Nurses? Sanitation workers? Pole dancers? I gotta wonder, do throngs of admiring citizens gather to laud these marching servants of the constitution? "Show us your billing records!!!" Hoping some video gets posted. Ours is not a narcissistic profession by any chance, is it? Nah .....

  2. My previous comment not an aside at court. I agree with smith. Good call. Just thought posting here a bit on the if it bleeds it leads side. Most attorneys need to think of last lines of story above.

  3. Hello everyone I'm Gina and I'm here for the exact same thing you are. I have the wonderful joy of waking up every morning to my heart being pulled out and sheer terror of what DCS is going to Throw at me and my family today.Let me start from the !bebeginning.My daughter lost all rights to her 3beautiful children due to Severe mental issues she no longer lives in our state and has cut all ties.DCS led her to belive that once she done signed over her right the babies would be with their family. We have faught screamed begged and anything else we could possibly due I hired a lawyer five grand down the drain.You know all I want is my babies home.I've done everything they have even asked me to do.Now their saying I can't see my grandchildren cause I'M on a prescription for paipain.I have a very rare blood disease it causes cellulitis a form of blood poisoning to stay dormant in my tissues and nervous system it also causes a ,blood clotting disorder.even with the two blood thinners I'm on I still Continue to develop them them also.DCS knows about my illness and still they refuse to let me see my grandchildren. I Love and miss them so much Please can anyone help Us my grandchildren and I they should be worrying about what toy there going to play with but instead there worrying about if there ever coming home again.THANK YOU DCS FOR ALL YOU'VE DONE. ( And if anyone at all has any ideals or knows who can help. Please contact (765)960~5096.only serious callers

  4. He must be a Rethuglican, for if from the other side of the aisle such acts would be merely personal and thus not something that attaches to his professional life. AND ... gotta love this ... oh, and on top of talking dirty on the phone, he also, as an aside, guess we should mention, might be important, not sure, but .... "In addition to these allegations, Keaton was accused of failing to file an appeal after he collected advance payment from a client seeking to challenge a ruling that the client repay benefits because of unreported income." rimshot

  5. I am not a fan of some of the 8.4 discipline we have seen for private conduct-- but this was so egregious and abusive and had so many points of bad conduct relates to the law and the lawyer's status as a lawyer that it is clearly a proper and just disbarment. A truly despicable account of bad acts showing unfit character to practice law. I applaud the outcome.

ADVERTISEMENT