Lunch goers in San Francisco startup neighborhoods like SOMA and the FiDi have lost one of their better food options today, as the EAT Club food bus has suspended operations after receiving a cease and desist from the city. The shutdown of its San Francisco service follows a disagreement over how to classify the EAT Club vehicle under city food codes.
EAT Club’s food bus launched in May, bringing a wide variety of quality meals to food deserts in San Francisco. The idea was to bring all of the awesome foods available from a wide variety of restaurants throughout the city, and make them available through a single mobile app. It did that by carting around food from three or four different restaurants every single day, in heaters or refrigerators designed to keep food at the perfect temperature when customers picked it up.
Since no food was actually prepared on the bus, folks at EAT Club argued that it didn’t fit under the usual codes for food trucks, and so hadn’t been licensed as such. The startup believes that it’s best classified as a “delivery vehicle” and therefore shouldn’t need a license to operate in the city.
There’s just one problem — while the EAT Club food bus carried food from a restaurant to areas where customers would purchase its goods, it didn’t rove the streets to do so. Instead, it just kind of sat in one place all day waiting for customers to place orders on its app, then come pick up food from a static location.
And, according to San Francisco’s Department of Public Works, it’s not allowed to do that.
The department issued a cease and desist to EAT Club, telling the startup that it needs a Mobile Food Facility Permit. Until EAT Club does so, the Public Works Department demands that it “cease operations in the public right-of-way.” In other words, don’t park in the street all day serving food, guys!
While EAT Club has stopped serving San Francisco from its food bus, the company will continue operating its legacy food delivery business in Silicon Valley. And it’s looking for ways to make the bus work in the city. That means continuing to meet with city officials to work out some sort of compromise, or finding other ways to actually use the bus for deliveries — like maybe taking it to various startup or corporate offices during lunchtime.
EAT Club has raised $6.5 million from investors that include August Capital, First Round Capital, Siemer Ventures, Great Oaks Venture Capital, Launch Capital, Tekton Ventures, Zulily and Blue Nile co-founder Mark Vadon, and other angel investors.
To see what the EAT Club bus was about in happier times, check out this video:
* The FiDi is my favorite acronym in the history of lame city acronyms.