RALEIGH, NC – North Carolina Pastor Michael King is trying to start a food truck ministry. He’s converting old buses his church bought into food trucks to employ the poor and homeless in Rowan County. The first truck—nicknamed the “Mac-Attack Wagon”—is ready to hit the road, but it has been stopped in its tracks by a state regulation called the “commissary rule.”

raliegh food trucks

The rule requires “pushcarts or mobile food units

[to] operate in conjunction with a permitted restaurant or commissary and [to] report at least daily to the restaurant or commissary for supplies, cleaning, and servicing.”

Food truck owners say the commissary rule is the most difficult regulation they must follow in order to run their small businesses. Restaurant owners are reluctant to rent out their kitchen space to would-be competitors, and in the rare cases they do, it’s at a high price.

Regulators Target Vendors

The Mac-Attack Wagon, which specializes in fried chicken, is not the only mobile food vendor slowed down by the rule. The owners of Café Prost haven’t been able to get their food truck off the ground in Raleigh for lack of a commissary agreement, and the owner of the Outlaw Dogs hot dog stand in Durham is fighting the commissary rule in court after being jailed twice for operating without such an agreement.

As with most mobile food vendors, for King it’s a matter of money. He went into the street food business because he didn’t have a lot of it. Instead of buying a restaurant and paying all of the associated taxes and fees, he bought an old bus and transformed it into a kitchen on wheels with his own two hands.

King says the commissary rule is defeating the purpose of his low-capital enterprise. It leaves him with two choices: find a restaurant that will rent space, or build his own commissary. So far, he’s been unable to find a restaurant willing to rent to him, and if he did, it probably would be too expensive. Now he’s looking into building his own commissary, but he’s finding that’s not going to be cheap.

Unnecessary Regulations?

What troubles King the most is that, in his eyes, a commissary is completely unnecessary. He says he has everything he needs on his truck: a grill, a deep fryer, a refrigerator, dry storage shelves, dishwashing sinks, a hand-washing sink, and counter space.

What he doesn’t have is a toilet, a permanent potable water supply, an approved place to dump his dirty water, or a place to clean his trash cans, said Larry Michael, head of the Food Protection Program for the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

“These are all things a commissary is required to have,” Michael said.

Find the entire article by Sara Burrows  from the Carolina Journal <here>