All food trucks in the state of Georgia have to have a commissary kitchen, or base of operation, to stay legal or get a permit. So, a trucker could lease their own kitchen space--which is expensive--or you can share a kitchen space.
Now, there are places like PREP Atlanta that offer you your own space so you can have your own permit, and therefore your own health department score. But, PREP is on the other side of town for me, so that is a 45 minute drive on a good day. (Now that 85 is jacked, it is bound to be worse!) That just didn't seem like a viable option for me, so when a space in a shared kitchen on our side of town came available we jumped on it.
The kitchen we joined is an open kitchen space, so we don't get our own room like we would at PREP so that means you don't get your own health department score. (This situation was 'grandfathered' in, so it would take a variance under current code do duplicate.) We SHARE the score and the cooking and dish-washing space. At the time we joined, our kitchen had a 91 score, not stellar, but not bad. What we didn't know at the time was that other counties have minimum score requirements in order to get permitted. For example, Fulton County requires new businesses to have a score of 95 or better. Since our space has a 91, we cannot get a permit in Fulton. The other trucks in my kitchen are permitted in Fulton--they could renew with a 91--but I can't get a new permit. What a jip! It makes no sense to me...but there is nothing I can do about it. So right now I am missing out on vending opportunities in Fulton.
Our current kitchen managers have had the kitchen reinspected in an effort to get the score that we need to get the Fulton permit, but since it is a shared kitchen, we share in the mistakes of other trucks as far as the health score is concerned. So that means that even if I don't handle chicken, when another trucker defrosts raw meat in the same sink as cooked meat the entire kitchen and all 5 trucks get docked those points on the report card that is posted in our windows. This kind of thing has happened 3 times now! This has been a very frustrating and costly experience. I cannot do business as a vendor in Fulton County until I have a kitchen score of 95 or better.
We are now looking for a new kitchen space, not only because we are tired of suffering the consequences of others mistakes, but also because our current kitchen is closing and PREP is still not a viable option. This has also been quite an experience since we are on a budget and time is running out!
Our thought is that we should find a space that is small enough to be manageable and in our budget, but large enough to be a small restaurant in the near future. At the same time this space needs to be near the highway, since we are a truck. And it also needs to be close to our target market. We think that the best spot for us will be near a gym or health food store for example. Ideally this space will be what is called 2nd generation restaurant space, meaning that another restaurant has already been there and moved out so that all of the big ticket items like the grease trap and hood have already been installed for us. The problem with this is that there aren't very many options out there, and Cobb County has changed some of their requirements in recent years so there is no guarantee that these items will be up to code. So obviously there are many variables in the situation to keep track of! Ideally we would have the money we need to invest in the space we want in the location that is best. But that is not where we are right now. The struggle is real!
We will keep you posted when we finally sign on the dotted line, but in the mean time, if you would like to discuss investing or donating in order to get us into our ideal kitchen please contact us ASAP. Thank you!