Before there was Off the Grid, there was SF Cart Project, the consulting business that Matt Cohen started in 2009 to usher San Francisco food trucks through a permitting process so convoluted it brings out the Tea Party in lifelong Democrats. Andrew Baber, Cohen's second-in-command, estimates that the project has helped 10 to 20 percent of the city's new-generation trucks get on the streets.
The two have found, though, that their initial meetings with clients were simply scribble sessions. "We were having the same meeting over and over with everyone who came to us looking for an introduction to the business," Baber says. "Where to get the truck. How much it was going to cost. Where you could park. How to structure your menu. People would be writing down pages of notes."
So SF Cart Project has just published Instrucktional, a how-to guide for prospective truck owners; Baber estimates that it covers 80 to 90 percent of the basic issues he's been fielding, from finding a good electric generator to figuring out just which forms to present to the Department of Environmental Health. It's the food-truck equivalent of "Going Legit," SFoodie's six-part series on how to start up a small food business in San Francisco, only with specific details.
The 35-page guide, which can be downloaded in PDF form, includes links to online resources, a flow chart for working with the Health Department, and a folder of permit applications to print out. It is not the type of thing you buy for a friend who's mildly curious about quitting her job to sell Taiwanese fusion street snacks. The cost of Instrucktional: $340, though there's a $247 introductory price listed until September 1, and because it's an e-book, there are no returns permitted.
Baber, who developed similar guides for attorneys before working with SF Cart Project, argues that, even purchased at full price, Instrucktional costs the equivalent of an initial session with the consulting firm. Baber plans to update Instrucktional continually to reflect San Francisco's evolving regulations, and he says that Cohen and he are considering future editions aimed at prospective truckers in other Bay Area counties, and possibly beyond.