In 2019, Elio’s Wood-Fired Pizza started a new food trend in LA by selling pizzas out of a pick-up truck in a parking lot. However, at the start of 2021, the business was shut down by a health inspector citing concerns about a stone oven being placed on the back of two pick-up trucks.
People don’t often consider pizza as street food because it is usually sold out of restaurants, no matter how big or small. But this business model is interesting because it reduces the capital needed to start selling pizza while adding a mobile component to the food service.
The factors he locked in on before he shut down were: packaging, food preparation, social media marketing, and storage. Considering how all he has during food service are a couple of tables for the ingredients and to arrange the pizza, he prepared and stored his ingredients at home. He didn’t have to buy plates or pizza pans to serve and cook the pizza in. All he needed to prepare for packaging were pizza boxes. As for marketing, his wife was responsible for posting pictures of freshly cooked pizzas on Instagram.
If you were to take on Elio’s business model, how would you go about improving his approach? The concerns of the health inspector that shut down the business are valid — what if some diesel from the pickup trucks leaked during food service? Would the wood fire set by the stone oven cause an explosion? Here are some ideas to keep you from being shut down if you consider jumping in on the sales of this food trend.
1. Secure your permits
One of the common reasons why street vendors get shut down is due to the lack of permits. Why? People might not be that interested in filing all the paperwork and paying the extra dues. But if you really wanted your business to succeed, wouldn’t you do anything and everything to keep it from being shut down? It’s worth the effort. Contact your local government on how to secure permits before you start selling your food. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
As a mobile food service, you will need to get a mobile food service permit. To do so, you need to comply with all the requirements of the health department, sign up for a mobile food service class, apply for a business license, and undergo an inspection before you start selling.
2. Make sure you comply with the inspection checklist
Your local government has an inspection checklist that they will need you to comply with to pass their inspections. It’s an extensive list of requirements, but it can help assure food safety standards for consumers all over the state.
The checklist for mobile food services includes soap and disposable towels, a wastewater disposal plan, the use of gloves when handling food, and having your business name at least four inches big on a sign. This might not apply to all mobile food services, so make sure to contact your local government to confirm if you really do need to comply with all of their requirements.
3. Get your pickup routinely checked
To minimize the risk of a night out turning into a tragedy in a parking lot, it would be best if you get your pickup a routine diesel maintenance service. You might be able to get the health inspector to let you keep that unconventional aesthetic of having a stone oven on the back of a pickup. Getting the truck checked often will help reduce the chances that the diesel will leak. It could also save you maintenance costs later on because your pickup will be in good shape.
While you’re getting your trucked routinely checked, you could also give it a car wash. It’ll be like always cleaning a kitchen after food service. You, your service crew, and your patrons will be able to enjoy delicious, wood-fired pizza in peace.
These pointers can be considered a rule of thumb for street vendors to keep their businesses from being shut down. They’re going to be applicable if you decide to push a cart on the street or if you drive around the country in a food truck.
Joining in on the latest food trends can be a difficult risk for entrepreneurs to take. But how in the world are you going to let an opportunity slide? It’s already got a proof of concept. All you’ve got to do now is take the failures as case studies that will give you valuable business lessons in the future. Your success will be way sweeter and more secure when you’ve learned to deal with anything and everything that can go wrong.