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Savannah's food truck requirements go beyond four-wheeled grill

Subheadline: 
Upcoming meeting to address sanitation, second kitchens, designated locations

  • Owner and Chef Brian Maher offers a Sazon Flounder and Blueberry Jalapeno Salsa and Crema Mexicana from his food truck. (Steve Bisson/Savannah Morning News)
  • The Dark Shark Taco Attack food truck. (Steve Bisson/Savannah Morning News)
  • Owner and Chef Brian Maher on the Dark Shark Taco Attack food truck. (Steve Bisson/Savannah Morning News)
  • Ben McCrary II plates a Sazon Flounder dish on the food truck. (Steve Bisson/Savannah Morning News)
  • Ben McCrary II plates a Sazon Flounder dish on the food truck. (Steve Bisson/Savannah Morning News)

The city’s recent approval of a food truck ordinance is being praised by budding entrepreneurs and lovers of curbside cuisine.

But there are still some steps that need to be taken before Savannah’s appetite for roaming restaurants is satisfied.

One misconception some want-to-be food truck operators have is that a vehicle is all they need to get started, according to officials with the Chatham County Health Department.

Not so, said Lauren Baker-Newton, a Chatham environmental health specialist.

In addition to their truck, or “mobile unit," operators will need to rent or own a base of operations for food preparation and storage that will be inspected on a regular basis — just like a traditional brick and mortar restaurant, Baker-Newton said.

“The unit cannot exist without the base of operation,” she said. “The two have to work together.”

In addition, the food truck operator must provide proof the proposed vending location was approved by the property owner, and employees must have access to restrooms within 200 feet of the site.

Since the ordinance passed, President Ryan Giannoni said the Savannah Food Truck Association has been inundated with calls from people wanting to start their own operation. The need for a commissary kitchen is one of the first things Giannoni tells them.

“Without that you could have a million dollar truck,” he said. “You just can’t use it.”

Basically, the commissary is like a second kitchen they have to maintain in addition to the truck itself. The requirements are necessary to keep food fresh and the operation sanitary, said Brian Maher, co-owner of the Dark Shark Taco Attack food truck. The requirements and inspections may make it more difficult to get established than what some people think, but it is important for those wanting to get involved in the industry to understand the rules, Maher said.

“One violation for one truck is going to be bad for all of us,” he said. “We all want to do this right.”

To provide information about the regulations, requirements and application process surrounding the ordinance, the city is holding a food truck “rollout” meeting at 6 p.m. Sept. 14 at the Savannah Civic Center. After the session, the Savannah Zoning Department will start accepting food truck applications for site approval on Sept. 16.

The mayor and aldermen passed the food truck ordinance on Aug. 18, one year after staff had first presented the proposed regulations to the previous council. The ordinance allows for the operation of food trucks on private property in commercial, mixed-use, industrial and institutional zones — as long as they are 200 feet from a restaurant — and in designated public spaces during limited hours and special events. The ordinance also includes a lottery system for choosing which food trucks can operate in certain designated public areas such as Daffin Park.

More Info

Breakout Box: 

IF YOU GO

What: Food truck rollout meeting

When: 6 p.m. Sept. 14

Where: Savannah Civic Center

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