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Jul 17, 2011 09:46 PM

NY Times article questions the benefit of Food Trucks.

Interesting article and i have to say that they (food trucks) will have to be reigned in by city officials in order to let fair competition prevail.

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  1. It was a very interesting article and I liked the points that it made.

    But I don't get why you say "they will have to be reigned in by city officials in order to let fair competition prevail".

    It seems to me that their existence is part of fair competition. If a patron would rather eat at a food truck than at a traditional brick and mortar restaurant, then restaurants need to re-evaluate their offer.

    And I found it interesting that "The Big Gay Ice Cream Truck" (I think is the name from the article) is going into a traditional brick and mortar location, in addition to the truck. So the growth from a food truck must be limited forcing those who want to build a business into a traditional store front.

    9 Replies
    1. re: thimes

      Me think that the cities need to try to keep the quality as high as possible to prevent having crappy trucks doing sub-par food and taking up space from better trucks.

      at some point "vote with your wallet" is not enough.


      1. re: Maximilien

        I am surprised that Houston (where food trucks are THE hottest trend) doesnt appear even once in this article. I have to surmise it is because everyone gets along down here. I have never heard of a single restaurant in this city feeling threatened with the perceived "competition". The biggest challenge for our "mobile cuisine" community is that there is a long list of ridiculous ordinances they have to comply with, but our mayor (who heartly supports the entrepreneurial spirit of these small business owners) has appointed someone who promises to cut through the silly red tape. We hope that soon these trucks will be able to park less than 100 ft. from seating areas (which they can't do now). And our food trucks park everywhere they can find pedestrians -- there's one parked in front of my favorite nursery every Saturday and thanks to that one attraction, the owner tells me she's seen a spike in business when the food truck is there. She invites a different one every week.

        1. re: Cheflambo

          Ive just moved from houston about a month ago, and although food trucks are starting to pick up steam there it is in no way comparable to the markets they have created in NYC, LA, Austin and a few other cities I'm forgetting to mention. The houston food truck scene is still in it's infancy.

        2. re: Maximilien

          For the most part "voting with your wallet" works. Food truck offerings tend to be more expensive, due to limited hours and inconsistent sales. A food truck may draw people in initially on the basis of novelty but it won't get people in a second or third time if the products aren't good.

          In Chicago, where food trucks are restricted to serving foods prepared elsewhere, the offerings are very pricey compared to traditional lunch restaurants (hard to get a meal for less than $10-12 and even then you're compromising). For that price point I can get a very good meal at a number of places, so if the truck doesn't "deliver" then it won't last long.

        3. re: thimes

          Limits fair competition because a Brick and mortar restaurant pays property taxes and has likely paid a premium price for what he/she considers a good spot.
          Food trucks on the other hand pay nothing or very little in comparison. I am not saying that they should have a 200ft rule or whatever the writer prposed, but if a food truck wants to park in Times Square, he/she should have to pay a premium to be able to do so.

          1. re: meatnveg

            Also restaurants are often held to a different standard of regulation than food trucks.

            1. re: dagrassroots

              Here in Houston, anyone who cooks and sells food to the general public is held to the same standards. Food trucks don't get a pass just because they can drive away. Also, they have a daily inspection routine that they have to go through. Regular restaurants are only inspected when the Health Department cares to visit, or a complaint is made.

              Stationary restaurants do not always pay property taxes -- they are very often tenants rather than owners of the buildings they use. As an offshoot, there are quite a few food trucks here that represent and promote their brick-and-mortar "parents".

              1. re: Cheflambo

                Commercial tenants pay a a share of the property taxes in the rent they pay. thats why any commercial lease rate is always quoted in "Net Net" terms, i.e. Net amount including utilities and taxes.

                I don't doubt they are held to different or lower standard, I just don't agree that they should have the complete freedom to park wherever they want without a payment of dues depending on the area.
                Consider if you're a vendor that paid a lot of money to have a stall at a concert, but your clientele got cut in half because a truck parked outside the venue and got the customers before they had a chance to see you.

                1. re: meatnveg

                  This issue is occuring in Harrisburg, PA. Second Street restaruants changed the city, it has been an amazing transformation.

                  Recently, food trucks have moved in and many restaurants are complaining that their revenues are directly impacted, that they hung in there all those years and now, when the economy sucks, they are under assult.

                  I can't say I blame them for feeling that way. They were the ones that worked to improve the downtown and now anyone can just pull right up, park for free in front of their business, and start selling while they (brick and mortar) must keep their sidewalks clear, provide parking per zoning, pay property taxes (via ownership or rent), etc.

        4. Pok Pok went from a food truck to a brick restaurant and we in Portland are AWFULLY glad it did!

          1 Reply
          1. re: pdxgastro

            No it didn't. It was a shack on private property.

          2. This is a very interesting thread to me - and if I had more "gumption" I might start a thread asking this question - maybe someone else will start it. . . . . . .

            Are a food truck and a restaurant the same thing?

            If you wanted to go out for dinner or a meal and there was a restaurant (with waiters, parking, a bar, tables, reservations, etc) and a food truck (no waiters, wait in line, no air-conditioning, no bar, no table, maybe it is there/maybe not) would you consider them "equal" alternatives for the nights meal?

            I wouldn't. To me, if I'm in the mood for a restaurant - I expect a restaurant experience. The fact that there are food trucks around wouldn't impact that decision at all. Likewise if I just want something easy, no fuss, fast, and typically less expensive then i would go to a food truck and wouldn't consider a restaurant in that circumstance.

            And honestly, in my experience when a neighborhood is becoming "revitalized", the more businesses in the neighborhood the better for everyone. I think this holds true for most neighborhoods. If a new restaurant or bar opened down the street from an existing one - that isn't always a bad thing. So why are food trucks? (Again I don't see them as equal options so I have a bias in that viewpoint).

            Anyone else see this differently?

            1 Reply
            1. re: thimes

              Are a food truck and a restaurant the same thing?

              Not in my opinion.

              I completely agree with your restaurat service/experience thought.

              In my Harrisburg example, there are a number of small, tiny walk-in and grab a bite type of places that are feeling the pinch. (an independent burrito place, a sushi place, sandwich shop, pizza shop) Food trucks are definately not in competition with, for example Stock's on Second.

              These places have a small counter where someone could sit but many patrons are more likely to grab their lunch to go or stop in for a quick bite while bar hopping at night.

              But I do agree in general, a rising tide lifts all boats.

            2. People in Seattle have been talking about how great Portland's street food scene is for years. The city council responded by enacting a giveaway to food truck operators (very cheap street parking vs previously requiring trucks to be on private property) that neither resembles Portland's rules nor lowers any of the actual hurdles facing prospective truck owners.