I read Glenn Keefer’s op-ed regarding food trucks (“Chicago deserves better rules on food trucks”) and felt the need to provide a rebuttal. While we agree that the current legislation needs to be revised, our ideas on how to improve it are completely at odds.
Mr. Keefer, in your column you imply that the current culinary entrepreneurs are providing “substandard” products, breaking laws and clogging the streets with traffic and litter. You might be able to find a rare example of each of these points, but to proclaim that all these business owners are running the equivalent of construction site “roach coaches” is absurd.
You then compare brick-and-mortar restaurants to food trucks, claiming that a food truck should pay similar fees to operate. I hope you realize that restaurants hold the advantage over their mobile counterparts, not the other way around. Restaurants provide seating, have control over interior air conditions and can obtain liquor licenses. They also are able to serve many more people on a daily basis. The average food truck employs between two to three people and brings in $50,000 to $100,000 in annual revenue. How does this compare to the annual revenue of Keefer’s?
The mobile-food industry has been flourishing across the country for nearly four years and with all of the daily research I conduct, I have yet to find a single restaurant that had to shutter its storefront due to food trucks. Chicago’s current legislation has left it as the only city among the 50 most populated cities in the country that doesn’t allow food-truck operators to prepare their fare on board their roaming bistros. The laws are so archaic that Chicago food trucks cannot carry a knife to cut food or add condiments to their products.
The plan you suggest would provide for a 50-truck pilot program that would basically locate the trucks in permanent locations scattered across the city. This would run against the whole reason that these businesses were designed to be mobile. The other problem is allowing a limited number of vehicles into the program. By doing this you would shut down at least 10 trucks that are currently operating. Yes, that means that there are already 60 trucks navigating the streets of the city, even with the discriminatory food-truck legislation in place.
You also claim that law enforcement is overly tasked by having to monitor food-truck locations. If there were no restrictions on where trucks could park relative to a restaurant, there would be no need for these calls to be made in the first place, relieving the burden to our law enforcement.
Any legislation that is created to oversee food trucks needs to be concerned about public health and safety, not protecting one business model from another. The city doesn’t limit the number of restaurants that are opened; it does not prevent a restaurant from opening up next to another and it does not dictate that restaurants can only operate from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Added competition will create an even stronger food-service industry in Chicago, and it will provide restaurant owners with another avenue to market their products. I would love to see a Keefer’s food truck that serves steak sandwiches. Not only would you be able to introduce your menu to individuals who have never stepped foot into one of your restaurants, but you would be able to join the fastest-growing trend the restaurant industry has seen in decades.
Find my original article at Crain’s Chicago Business <here>