What if your health department says you can't serve chili dogs? This happens frequently, but it's not always true. If your health department says “No chili allowed,” don't panic.
No Chili Allowed… Don't Panic
There are a few different reasons why your health department may say you can't serve chili from a food cart. Before you throw in the towel, take a minute to get the facts.
No Chili… Really??
First, ask (politely) to see the rule in writing. Sometimes, health department people will say chili isn't allowed just because that's what they've heard. That doesn't mean they're lying on purpose, but they might not know what's actually in the code. So ask for them to show you where it talks about chili in the code. Or if they provide it to you online or as a pdf, use CTRL-F and search for the word CHILI.
It might not be in the code, so you can point that out to them and move on.
Consider Delicious Alternatives
Or you might find that it really does say you can't serve chili in the rules. Now what? Well, read the information thoroughly to see what else it says. In some places, you might not be able to serve chili with meat, but you can serve vegetarian chili. There you go! There are some fantastic delicious vegetarian chili brands out there. Taste test them and use your favorite.
Sometimes, there are other ways to comply with the rules while still serving the kinds of foods you want. For example, I was not able to use cheese on hot dogs from my cart. No cheese? Well, I had to work around that while still complying with the law. So I got a cheese product (like Cheez-Wiz or canned cheese) that isn't exactly cheese, but works great to melt on a hot dog. And guess what – people love it!
So just because somebody says you can't serve chili (or cheese or whatever), don't give up. Ask to see it in writing, read all the information, and plan accordingly. Where there's a will, there's almost always a way.
Did you know there's a whole site dedicated to great tips for street food professionals? Check out Vendors United.