County supervisors give yellow light to food trucks

Yesterday (August 10), at the request of Supervisor Janice Rutherford, the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors were given a presentation on hot food trucks by the county’s Chief of Environmental Health Services, Terri Williams.

Williams described the range of food sales here in the county: Differences between permanent versus temporary versus mobile food facilities; and the two types of mobile food facilities (those which sell pre-packaged goods versus those which prepare the food then sell it).

She discussed the need to inspect all food sales locations in order to protect public health.

She talked about how food trucks are regulated in other jurisdictions, such as in the city of Los Angeles, where the trucks are required to submit schedules to the city.

Those schedules sometimes change, she said, leading to a sort of “underground,” Internet-based truck location system, which she inferred might make them more difficult to find.

At this point, Rutherford chimed in, noting that the goal of the trucks is actually to be found, and that we do have the Internet here, so we should also be able to locate them.

Good one, Janice!

Williams also compared critical violation rates at regular restaurant inspections compared to what was found during the recent Inland Empire Food Truck Fest in Ontario. (The rate found during announced inspections at the fest (.98%) was more than twice typically found during unannounced restaurant inspections (.42%), but still less than one percent.)

San Bernardino and Riverside counties are the only two counties the department found in all of California which currently ban hot food trucks, except at specially permitted events.

The supervisors’ options boiled down to basically three choices: Keep the status quo; amend the existing ordinance to add a category for “hot food truck events”; or to lift the ban entirely.
Before the board made its decision, however, several interested parties made own presentations before the board.

The board heard from folks as far away as Los Angeles. It heard from those who build food trucks and those who run commissaries where the trucks are cleaned and refreshed for the next run.

It heard from brick-and-mortar restaurant representatives concerned that the inexpensive startup costs of the trucks would create an unfair advantage, and that the trucks would siphon off customers.

It also heard from a restaurant owner who was eager to expand his business via food trucks.

It even heard from a professor who was concerned that if any of her students had dreams of operating their own food truck, their entrepreneurial spirit might be crushed if the ban remained.

In the end, the supervisors chose plan “B,” opting to modify the ordinance to add a category for “hot food truck events.”

Of course, now comes the fun part…ironing out all the details. But at least we’ve got the the upcoming truck fests in Riverside and Ontario, and other smaller events such as the I.E. Auto Show and the Laugh Out Loud Comedy Festival, to give us a glimpse into the future.

To read county reporter Joe Nelson’s article on the board’s vote, click here.

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