Alameda County may force some food trucks to have GPS devices

Alameda County may force some food trucks to be fitted with a GPS device in order to keep track of rogue truck operators.
February 19, 2014 12:00:00 AM PST
An ordinance is in the works in Alameda County that could force some food trucks to be fitted with a GPS device. It's an effort inspired by frustration over keeping track of rogue truck operators who may be putting the public's health at risk.

This could really be a game changer. You see, only a handful of cities in the country have such a requirement. But many counties here in the Bay Area are at least considering it. And one local grand jury recommended that its county look into it.

Magally Quezadas was just days away of opening up her food truck business. But first she had to pass inspection.

"Your hot water looks like it's pretty good," health inspector Beatrice Santiago said.

Magally applied for a license and went through the regulatory checklist to ensure compliance. But not all food truck operators do.

"Well, every county has a struggle with unpermitted food facilities, trucks included," said Heather Forshey with the Santa Clara County Department of Environmental Health

Now Alameda County is drafting a new food truck ordinance that could put tracking devices on vehicles.

"GPS, if it is in there, will probably be something where if we have no other means for locating a particular vehicle, they may be required to do it," said Don Atkinson with the Department of Environmental Health

GPS might help the county track trucks that don't file a route plan with the county as required.

The county says trucks like Gourmet Rockstars operate without a permit. The company catered special events and parties.

Sophal Cheam worked for Gourmet Rockstar for six months as an administrative assistant.

"They never delivered the products to the customers," said former Gourmet Rockstars employee Sophal Cheam. "They would, you know, the customers would call in and place an order and expect it on a certain day and they would never receive it."

Mike and Daniela Patterson say they know that firsthand.

The couple hired the food truck for what they envisioned to be a casual backyard wedding party with gourmet burgers.

They say the truck arrived more than four hours late and the food was less than satisfactory.

"They were disgusting," Daniela said. "It was probably, I mean they, the food was obviously prepared beforehand."

Former Gourmet Rockstars employee Robert Bailey thought he was hired as a cook for that wedding.

"I'm thinking I'm going to start cooking," he said. "They tell me that we're going to stop at Nation's to get food now."

Mike said the food served at his wedding was quite embarrassing.

"I mean, smashed burgers and undercooked fries when you know this company claims it's gonna be all gourmet," he said.

"I'm infuriated," said former Gourmet Rockstars customer Marcia Perez.

Perez purchased a $100 coupon from Gourmet Rockstars through LivingSocial.

Despite repeated attempts, she says her order of a crab, shrimp, and clam chowder feast was never delivered.

Gourmet Rockstars eventually refunded her $100, but not the $46 shipping and handling fee.

As of December, the website was still saying it was accepting coupons.

"They're going to get away with this," Perez said. "They've done this to I don't know x amount of people. It's such small amounts that they're taking from each person and they're doing it with impunity."

The Alameda County DA office confirms they are investigating Gourmet Rockstars.

Former employees tell us the company has been shut down, but the owners have opened new companies such as PopCatering and Gourmet2YourDoor that operate similarly to the way they ran Gourmet Rockstars.

Alameda County has received similar reports.

"They do operate under a variety of names and they've done a variety of fraudulent activities," Atkinson said.

The county ordered the food trucks closed in 2011 for failure to obtain a valid health permit and for operating with imminent health hazards.

One ex-employee says gourmet items sold by the companies are actually purchased from Costco, Asian food markets, and other outlets.

According to the employees, the companies are owned by brothers Mohammed and Habib Quadir.

Calls from 7 on Your Side to both were not returned.

So we decided to go to them. But it was locked up and there was no sign of anyone inside.

We did find their Gourmet Rockstars truck parked outside. It looked as if someone had tried to paint over the license plate with expired registration tags. The truck had an obvious flat and a neighbor said it hadn't been moved for weeks.

The landlord said they are in the process of evicting Gourmet Rockstars from the premises.

Six months after their wedding, Mike and Daniela are still waiting for Gourmet Rockstars to make good.

"We want a full refund," Daniela said. "He ruined our wedding. The one day that we've waited for for over nine years and ya know, he ruined it."

Last year the Santa Clara County Grand Jury suggested that county also look into using GPS to regulate food trucks. Boston and Chicago have already instituted similar policies. However, Chicago's ordinance is being challenged in court.


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