Get the basics on running a food truck



The minimum requirements for a mobile retail food establishment that serves open food include:

■ Hand sink

■ Liquid waste retention tank

■ Hot and cold running water

■ Potable water inlet

■ Potable water distribution pipes

■ Liquid waste servicing connection

■ Commercial hot/cold holding

■ Screened windows

■ Easily cleanable, non-absorbent floors

■ Durable counters and tables

■ Equipment in sound condition that can be easily cleaned

■ Solid waste storage that can be easily cleaned

Source: Mesa County Health Department

The best place to start a plan for launching a mobile retail food establishment, also known as a food truck, may be The Business Incubator Center, 2591 Legacy Way, in Grand Junction.

The center operates a commercial food kitchen that can act as the legally required “commissary” for the mobile unit and often does, said Annalisa Pearson, one of a team of program managers at the center who also oversees the commercial kitchen.

The commissary is a place where food can be prepared in advance, kitchenware can be washed in a commercial-grade dishwasher and waste and wastewater can be disposed of according to law, Pearson said.

The center’s commissary is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Time in the kitchen can be scheduled in advance at the rate of $12 an hour plus a monthly service fee of $35.

Most food trucks require a commissary to operate, Pearson said. Currently, eight operate out of the center’s kitchen, less than 10 percent of the mobile units licensed in Mesa County in 2013, she said.

Another helpful place to start is the Mesa County Health Department, authorized by the state to license all retail food establishments in the county, including food trucks and pushcarts.

Dale Dunning of Dale’s Rib Shack and Adam and Shannon Padilla of Phatty’s Burritos all said Mesa County was easy to work with when they started their mobile retail food businesses.

“We want to help them. We want to be their easy hoop to jump through,” said Monique Mull, manager of the Mesa County Health Department Consumer Protection Program.

“We know that we’ve licensed 82 (in 2013) but that doesn’t mean that they all operate here,” Mull said.

“It is a state license. Some only operate at festivals. Some drive around to work facilities. Some set up on corners,” she said.

The biggest misconception held by beginning food truck operators is the expectation they will be allowed to prepare food out of their home kitchens.

“A truck that does not need a commissary, we would call it a self-contained mobile unit. That would mean that they have adequate storage. They have a way of utensil washing, which is that three-bay sink. They have enough refrigeration, enough hot-holding, enough freezer space, so they can do everything on that truck that is related to that food business,” Mull said.

“There is no home storage or home preparation. It’s all at a commissary or on that truck,” she said.


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