Operating a food truck in Chicago has long been a headache for many vendors and mobile marketers. In order to legally sell food from a vehicle on Chicago streets, food must be pre-cooked and pre-packaged in a licensed kitchen before even being loaded into the vehicle, nonetheless distributed to the public. We ran into this issue when organizing the Queso Quest last August, a mobile sampling tour for Qdoba Chicago. In order to legally distribute hot and savory samples of Qdoba’s signature chips and Queso, each sample of chips had to be prepared at a local commissary and packaged in a Qdoba branded to-go bag with the Queso ladled into a plastic container. This whole process took a team of four people about three hours to prepare 2,000 samples before the truck could be loaded up and hit the road. Thanks to a new ordinance gaining momentum in Chi-Town, however, these strict food truck guidelines could be drastically eased.
The ordinance would create “food truck zones” across the city that would accomodate up to two trucks and allow them to operate for two hours at a time. Trucks would also be permitted to park on private property or parking spaces located at least 200 ft. away from a brick-and-mortar restaurant, as long as they do not stay in the same location for more than two hours.
One of the more controversial items of the ordinance would require all food trucks to install a GPS device into their vehicles so the city can track their movements and ensure that they are operating within approved locations. This has vendors wary of undeserved citations, i.e. if a truck makes a quick stop to drop off a catering order.
Another issue drawing some unease is the still undetermined fine regulations for food truck operating violations. One copy of the proposed ordinance listed a range of violation fees from $200 to $2,000.
“A $1,000 fine could wipe out an entire day of sales and shut down a business,” Amy Le, the operator of popular Chicago food truck Duck N Roll, said. “How can you charge a $1,000 fine for selling cupcakes in a spot we are not supposed to but charge less for marijuana possession?”