Foodservice Equipment Reports

Food Safety Concerns Deflate Pop-Up Restaurants

Health officials in Sacramento County, Calif., are cracking down on pop-up booth restaurants, telling owners that they can no longer operate inside the cafes, bars and other businesses that have regularly hosted them.

The county’s dozen or so pop-ups were contacted earlier last month by the Environmental Management Department, which, among other things, enforces health and safety regulations for restaurants in seven cities in the county, populated by more than 1.4 million people. The message: Pop-ups that serve dishes inside shops that don’t carry the required permits for vending food are not allowed under California’s Retail Food Code.

The department also informed pop-ups that they exist unfairly next to food trucks and nearby brick and mortar restaurants.

The temporary dining trend has flourished nationally over the years, particularly in Northwest cities like San Francisco and Portland, Ore. Pop-ups typically operate in a makeshift style, sometimes under tents set up in the patio of a business, or inside with folding tables. Their costs of operation are significantly lower than those for food trucks, carts and restaurants, and many have set up shop within other businesses, such as art galleries and breweries, for a steadier revenue flow.

The county hasn’t penalized any of the pop-ups yet, though various “administrative actions” can be taken if they continue operating. As it stands, pop-up owners have few options. They could use a temporary food facility permit, which would only allow them set up at approved community events such as farmers markets.

Some also have catering permits, allowing them to prepare food at a commissary kitchen and deliver it to a public or private event. Catering permits don’t allow pop-ups to act as a temporary food facility at a community event, let alone inside an establishment that doesn’t carry a retail permit, which would require the business to have specific flooring, walls and ceilings, plumbing and permanent equipment including hand-washing sinks and waste fixtures.

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