Becoming a Mister Softee Vendor (Part 3): Want to Serve? Hurry Up and Wait!
Becoming a mobile vendor is not quite as easy as ehow would have you believe. So in anticipation of Softee Season 2011 we’ve asked Chrissy (aka Miss Softee) to show us the process of what it takes to become an ice cream vendor in Midtown. We’ll meet the potential new vendors, and track their progress through the selection and training process as all of the candidates make their way towards being a full fledged Mr. Softee vendor. So far you’ve met the first few hires here and here. Now see what it takes to get your paperwork in order to become a licensed mobile vendor. Take it away Miss Softee!
Becoming a mobile food vendor isn’t just about coming up with a cool persona, finding awesome outfits to wear to work, or letting culinary creativity loose with awesome toppings… it’s a long process with many confusing steps along the way! Such a long process that even though we started with 20 total hires at the beginning of February, we’re already down to 16. It’s inevitable that people will drop off along the way, so most smart employers will tend to hire more people than they ultimately need. I can’t speak for every business, obviously, but here’s what a potential Mister Softee driver has to do to work in Midtown for the RollingCones. (Yup, I’ve given us a new name!)
Register to take the Mobile Food Vendor (MFV) Food Protection Course. But, you can’t just do this online… that would make it too easy! You have to go in person to the Department of Health and wait in a queue with all of the vendors and anyone else who’s got business at the DOH and a $53 money order in hand just to sign up to take the class! (It’s a crap shoot if their credit card machine is actually working.)
And, when you do, they hand you a packet of information about the license and regulations more than 50 pages deep (printed front and back) that I’m pretty sure is intended to scare, intimidate, confuse, or otherwise dissuade you from continuing.
((((Waiting for your actual class date can be up to a month from the date you register. Meanwhile, start Step 2))))
Apply online for an Authority to Collect Sales Tax. Every vendor has to have this in order to make it to Step 4 (the actual license application). This induced multiple panicked calls from new hires, confused emails, and overall disdain. Thankfully, this one can be done online and once you get through all the questions and submit it you can…
((((wait some more for your tax paper to come in the mail — becoming good friends with your mail-person during this process))))
Take the MFV Class. This is supposed to last 8 hours, over two days, but the actual teaching time is more like 3 hours, with attendance taking over an hour and potty breaks sprinkled in for good measure. The curriculum is pretty basic, and if you have two brain cells and can kind-of rub them together, you will probably pass the final exam! It’s nothing like the more rigorous Food Protection Course most licensed food safety handlers go through. This week the RollingCones went through this process, so I’ll elaborate a little more…
First off, you hike up to the Central Harlem Health Center, where your class actually turns out to be held in a dusty nondescript basement you can only get into from the back entrance of the building.
Once in the classroom, there are props…
a food cart…
and a course book riddled with sometimes funny…
sometimes creepy illustrations. The curriculum covers proper hygiene and hand washing techniques, temperatures to cook food to, and parking restrictions imposed by the city.
The class was male dominated, as is much of the mobile food vending industry. But, they are a true cultural melting pot, with the workbook being offered in more than seven languages, the minorities in the room were clearly the majority.
I spoke with one man who was taking the class to work a Halal cart in Midtown, having come from Egypt just a few months ago to the US, but unable to transfer his school credits, and therefore his work title. Do you know what he did in Egypt?? He was a reporter for a major press outlet with a Masters Degree in Journalism and a basketball championship under his belt. But I digress…
Once you’re done with the class, there is a 15 question test, which, in it’s simplicity, almost seems like a bad joke. (Like, there are pictures and true/false questions about the importance of bathing daily.) Once passed, you receive an official letter which must be guarded with it’s life before…
Actually applying to be a Mobile Food Vendor!! The process for this goes on… but more about that next week! So, stay tuned as the RollingCones get moving and each step of the way, get closer to actually becoming licensed Mobile Food Vendors serving for ya’ll!!
<3 Miss Softee