The Dreaded Health Department – Why so Difficult?
March 31st, 2010 by Neil Williams
The Dreaded Health Department – Why do they make life so difficult?
Every day I speak to folks trying to break into the Ice Cream or Italian Ice outdoor vending business. And every day I hear the frustration they experience when trying to get permits to street vend.
I’m talking entrepreneurs who are just trying to make an honest buck and do it legally. They are treated like they plan on spreading the plague. I understand the need to keep our public safe…..and yes, the health department plays an important role. But you would think the health department would be a little more business friendly.
If I was to list every variation and interpretation of the rules, I’d probably be writing for years. Even within the same county, one person will tell you one thing and the other will tell you another. But if you are trying to break into this business, don’t lose faith. Be persistent and you will find a way.
Vending Italian ice seems to be one of the more popular businesses to get into. The cost of entry can be relatively low, so it makes sense that a lot of people see it as a way to make some decent cash without taking major financial risks.
The lowest cost way to break into vending Italian ice outdoors is to buy a basic push cart with or without refrigeration. It’s much easier to get a permit to sell Italian water ice simply because it is water based as opposed to containing dairy. Some health departments will allow vendors to peddle Italian ice without refrigeration or any type of sink system. They simply tell the vendor to use a separate scooper for each flavor, and not to cross contaminate the flavors. Seems simple enough.
But most health departments will tell people that they need to have a hand washing station. When you only have a few thousand dollars to invest, and most of that is going toward your cart, it’s tough to hear that you need a hand washing sink with running hot water. We sell these outdoor sink systems at TurnKeyParlor.com, but they are very high quality stainless steel mobile sinks and run about $2000.
So what are the options if the health department is telling you that the only way you will get a vending permit is if you have a sink with hot water….and you don’t have an extra $2k to invest? Here’s the good news: one of our more industrious customers (Chico Pagan of Kiki’s Italian Ice to be specific) has found an inexpensive way to try and meet this requirement. You can go to Amazon.com (see the link below) and get a Coleman hot water on demand unit. This, along with a little ingenuity and a 5 gallon “catch” bucket may meet the requirement. Essentially, you put the fresh water tank on top of a table, connect it to the Coleman propane unit and there you have it. Fresh hot water, complete with the spigot and waste water bucket. All for well under $300.
I hope this helps those who have limited funds and are trying to break into the business.
If you came across an idea that helped you meet health department requirements, or anything in general that helped your vending business, please share your story by posting a comment.
Here’s the link to the Coleman system: Outdoor Coleman Hot Water On Demand System
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