The American food truck has been around since the days of the Texas chuck wagon back in the late 1800s. For a while the general perception was that a person would have to be crazy to eat from a “roach coach” as they have been so unaffectionately called however a recent surge in popularity has made the food truck the latest trend in gastronomy. In most major cities around the country food trucks, owned and operated by trained chefs and foodies alike, provide diners on the street with everything from plain fare like pizza and burgers to gourmet delights from around the world including falafels in New York, Baklava in DC, Crepes in Los Angeles and Brisket in Orlando.
While some restauranteurs have gotten wise to this growing trend and see food trucks as a way to expand their establishments, many others cry foul and have gone out of their way to block food trucks from moving into their neighborhoods citing unfair competition. Some have even used their clout with Chambers of Commerce to influence local laws which either ban food trucks completely or make it virtually impossible for these budding entrepreneurs to do business.
In my opinion, the one thing these restaurants who have been complaining have in common is bad customer service and an uninspired menu but it’s easier to blame the new guy who offers an exciting variety of cuisine to the bored consumer’s palate than to accept fault for their own failings and try to do something constructive to rectify it.
As you may already be able to tell, I am an avid fan of the food truck industry and hope to start one myself, on the way to eventually establishing a cafe or gastropub, and have done tons of research on the subject over the years. The following are popular misconceptions about food trucks:
You can’t trust food that comes from a food truck!
Food from a truck is no more risky than food from a restaurant. Food trucks are held to the same rigorous health standards and regulations as eating establishments that stand still and are subject to the same amount of inspections, if not more so. These days many owner/operators are trained chefs who just don’t have the collateral to open a brick and mortar place. In frequenting a food truck you’re putting money into the pocket of a budding entrepreneur and helping your local economy!
Food trucks have a better advantage than restaurants!
Sorry but not so much, if that was the case more restaurants would be jumping ship to join the mobile ranks. Operating a food truck means dealing with laws, some unfair, that limits operating times, parking areas, how long a truck can stay put at any given spot and how they can attract business. Food truck business also depends on the weather and in many cities food trucks cannot park within 200-1000 feet of an established restaurant!
Food trucks don’t pay rent or taxes!
Actually, thanks to the ordinances in place that regulate food truck movement, many have to resort to setting up in private lots or areas where they do, in fact, have to pay to use. They also have to pay for permits and a license like any other business which of course means paying state and federal taxes.
Food trucks don’t give back to the community!
Nonsense! Not only is contributing to the community good for business (people like knowing the business they frequent is philanthropic:) but it’s just common sense. You’ll find most food trucks get their goods and supplies from local vendors, which again helps boost the local economy, take part in charitable events and even donate food to local food banks at the end of the day. Also bear in mind that through social media, food trucks tend to generate traffic from people traveling from other cities, counties and sometimes even states. When permitted food trucks can establish themselves on the streets or in parking lots of strip malls with empty spaces, generating extra traffic and revenue for the businesses still operating in those malls.
Due to the hostility food trucks have faced, many have organized into groups around the country working together to form truck parks, food festivals and to unify in their fight against unfair ordinances, laws and practices being established through efforts by frightened and uninformed business owners and politicians. So the next time you see or hear about a food truck in your area, check it out and if you would like to see food truck culture in your neighborhood, tell your local politicians or chamber of commerce to lighten up and embrace the revolution!
Chow for now.