Saturday, July 31, 2021

Opening a Food Truck; Part 1

Last year, in a general article about the popularity of food trucks, I wrote about my intention to open a Food Truck here in France.  Well, I have now started taking the first steps in that process.

Over the past thirteen years I have opened and operated restaurants in Spain and France.  As a British person abroad I have had to learn very quickly about the intricacies of bureaucracy and the specific requirements of opening a business in a different country. With regards to opening a mobile catering business there are one or two extra requirements, but I have done my research so all should be fine!

When opening my restaurant here in France I had to attend a couple of French training courses with respect to licensing law and food hygiene.  Even though I have spent the better part of 30 years within the hospitality industry, run my own businesses, held various liquor licences and supervised students within kitchens, I still had to learn to do all this the French way.  Fortunately those certificates are valid for 10 years each so I don’t have to re-do the courses in order to open my mobile unit, so I should be able to skip a couple of steps and get on with it.

I have a registered business so all I want to do is to add the Food Truck to that business setup.  As with all good bureaucracies there is a form to fill in and submit to the relevant authority – job done! But here’s where it starts to get complicated.  The restaurant is registered with the Chambre de Commerce but because the food truck will be serving predominantly take away food it needs to be registered with the Chambre de Metiers.  An entirely different trade body.  My form has been sent by registered mail and I wait to have the new business added.

Before going too much further I also need to apply for a licence to be able to trade on the street.  The licence known as a Carte Ambulante needs to be issued by the Chambre de Metiers, but as yet my registration with them is not finished!  Once I have my Carte Ambulante I can then apply to each town hall that is in charge of any town I want to trade in for permission to park on public land.  The easier option is to park on private land and do a deal with the land owner.

Food Truck
SAMSUNG CSC Visitor7, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Of course one of the major issues is finding a suitable trailer with the correct equipment for my project.  With the popularity of street food on the increase there has been a similar increase in the number of trailer manufacturers and sellers. At this point I should point out that I am looking for a trailer to tow behind my car rather than a truck. So finding the right one at a  decent price should be easy right? Wrong!  I don’t need, or want, an all singing all dancing trailer but I do have a clear idea of what I’m looking for. 

I want to cook and serve fresh fish, calling on my British roots to include fish and chips, but also some of the fantastic seafood found on the Mediterranean coast.  Over the past two weeks I have contacted at least six different companies, filling in their online forms, stating my requirements and have waited patiently for replies.  To date I have received one quotation!  What is wrong with these companies?  Surely with the information I have supplied they can see that I am a potential customer. 

How difficult is it to send an email reply?  I am prepared to accept that here in France many people still prefer to do business via telephone rather than email.  My issue is that I am not a fluent French speaker and I particularly detest the ‘phone but my written French and understanding is excellent and I like to have something written that I can refer back to. 

I could import a trailer but all trailers with a gross weight over 750kg have to go through a homologation process, be inspected and registered for road use.  I could import from America but the running gear is not to European standard or I could import from China but would need to replace the electrical and gas installation! The one quote that I have received is a little on the high side but we have now spoken on the phone and a negotiation is about to be started but I would prefer to have some other quotes to work with. I will keep you informed.

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Dave Winteridge
I am a restaurateur in the South of France but originally from Great Britain. I have spent around 30 years in the hospitality industry and over the past 12 years I have opened restaurants in Spain and France. I am a keen skier, living in the Pyrenees, and ideally for the future I would like to spend less time at the stove and more time at the keyboard.

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