The Pushback Against Food Trucks Goes National

Categories: Talking Points
CurryUp_Truck_Line_sm.jpg
Jeremy Brooks/Flickr
The Curry Up Now line: alarming or promising?
On Sunday, the New York Times' Kim Severson wrote an op-ed knitting together all the cities where the food-truck backlash is flaring. New York is pushing food trucks out of Midtown, and Seattle and Raleigh, N.C., are considering new restrictions on where they can park. Here in San Francisco, we're seeing wars between food trucks and nearby restaurants, and a new permitting process that makes it cheaper for food trucks to hit the SF streets and also more vulnerable to a NIMBY-driven denial of attractive parking spots. As Severson sums up:
Yes, the trucks offer entrepreneurs a way to get started in the restaurant business. Yes, they add jobs and money to a city. The food is often innovative, relatively inexpensive and convenient. For those willing to stand in line and eat from a paper plate, there is usually a warm personal exchange when the meal is passed from chef to diner. But many restaurateurs are sick of seeing competition literally drive up outside their windows.
Do food trucks really take away business from existing restaurants? Probably -- and those losses are felt by an industry that quickly kills any restaurant that doesn't measure napkins used or tomato scraps thrown away. But given the limited hours they're allowed to operate, a food truck isn't a ticket to print money, as some restaurateurs like to claim. Neighborhoods like China Basin and the northern reaches of the Financial District, where restaurants are scarce, greet each new truck with elation, and SFoodie still thinks the line outside the Curry Up Now truck on Bush is far too long to brave again.

The crazy success of the Off the Grid events in SF points to one solution. Food truck pods in Austin and Portland, Ore., are part of the reason the street food movement took off there first (more relaxed regulation is another, ahem). But there have to be other ways to tweak SF's new food truck regulations to allow trucks to make money outside the confines of Off the Grid -- limits on how many trucks can park in one neighborhood, perhaps, combined with NIMBY abatement measures -- or else the food-truck movement will atrophy the moment this first rush of excitement fades.

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6 comments
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Chefjon510
Chefjon510

the restauranteurs should fight back by setting up next to the food trucks and give free food....

The_warthog
The_warthog

Do food trucks compete against restaurants? No, competition implies a level playing field. Food trucks dont have to provide restrooms and pay all the taxes restaurants do. Not to mention spending thousands to be ADA compliant and still having to worry about suits from shady lawyers.

piratesnack
piratesnack

Actually, I don't think "competition" implies a level playing field at all. 

Nicholas Cho
Nicholas Cho

Think of it from the restaurateur's perspective... sort of like: You spend months courting your significant other, take the plunge and get married, spend years of hard work building a life together… and then starting one day, every so often, there's a sexy naked person who shows up in your bedroom vying for your partner's attention.

Sure, I'm all for competition and variety as well, but the food truck "issue" is much more complicated than that, and I hope that people can see beyond the ends of their own paper plates and are able to see how.

piratesnack
piratesnack

Yeah, the restanteur's perspective is that competition sucks, especially from new, unforeseen competitors.  I'm not sure what is complicated about that.  All businesses hate competition.

ben__w
ben__w

Ah, the "pushback" being from people who don't like being competed with. Not an actual pushback then.

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