Food trucks are springing up in cities all over the United States, competing for the most inventive cuisines and popular lunch spots. It has become such a craze that cities like San Francisco have regular festivals devoted to them.
Despite food trucks’ popularity, though, many local restaurant owners complain the mobile vendors are eating into their revenues—even putting some out of business. They say the trucks have unfair advantages.
Meshe Armstrong, co-owner of Restaurant Eve in Alexandria, Virginia, wrote a recent a letter to the editor of the Alexandria Times asking her city to think twice about allowing food trucks. She said food truck owners don’t pay the hefty property taxes or have to follow the same rigorous regulations as stationary restaurants. They can shut down in bad weather or relocate themselves when foot traffic gets slow. It’s clearly unfair, she argues:
Who will regulate the unscrupulous? Who will prevent a coffee truck in front of a coffee house? Will a bakery truck be justified to park in front of my bakery? I sweep the street, plant the flowers, pay litter taxes and then someone who buys a cupcake from a truck can throw their wrapper in my litter box and proceed to use my bathroom. Will the city then abate some tax or provide community toilets? Will the city need to employ more health department inspectors on my tax dime to ensure proper inspections? Will I be able to speak at a hearing so I know their parking intentions as restaurants must? Are you going to forget about the mom and pop who put down roots in Alexandria before food truck fever struck?
Or is that pork taco more important?
Alexandria, Virginia, is only one community where city officials are considering allowing food trucks. Jacksonville Beach, Florida; Burlington, North Carolina, and Baltimore, Maryland, all are investigating allowing food trucks, among many other cities and towns.
Already, food trucks have taken a toll in some cities. The popularity of food trucks over the lunch hour in Minneapolis, for example, recently caused three downtown restaurants to close, according to Minnesota Public Radio.
Some cities have created food truck ordinances aimed to protect local restaurant owners, however. Chicago, for example, doesn’t allow food trucks within 200 feet of a restaurant, effectively banning them within the downtown loop.