An Open Message to the Aldermen of Chicago
To whom it may concern,
Over the past year a growing debate has made its way to Chicago, and most of the fuss is being created by those within the restaurant industry. There have been many reported instances in the media that a large number of local restaurant owners do not appreciate the work being done to spread mobile cuisine around the city.
As most of you know, the increased number of mobile food trucks and carts across the country is moving quickly. The trend has grown exponentially over the last couple of years, but street food vendors have been part of major metropolises for decades and yet in those municipalities the restaurant industry has had its own continued growth.
Yes, the economy for the last three to four years has been in decline, and many restaurants have shuttered their operations because of it. This is not due to the influx of mobile food industry operators, but in most part due to restaurants keeping high priced menus that their previous customers just cannot afford.
If local restaurants are threatened by food trucks, maybe it is time that they do as they would if a similar restaurant were to open its doors in the adjacent storefront to their eatery, adapt their business plan or look at themselves in the mirror. Are they operating with the same menu or same business model that they started with? Are they using social media (i.e. Twitter, Facebook, etc…) to extend their reach for adding to your customer base? If they have changed and adjusted with technology, then in all likelihood, they are not a restaurant owner with an issue with food trucks.
One thing that may surprise you is that across the country many of the current food trucks owners have brick and mortar establishments as well. The individuals who are operating these trucks have the same qualifications in a kitchen as their chefs do. The trucks that are being created and have been created over the last few years are not the typical “roach coach” you may be familiar with, but they are serving gourmet food that you may find at some of the most prestigious restaurants across the country.
Why are these chefs opening food trucks you may wonder? Please think of the opportunities a mobile operation has to introducing their cuisine to people who have never seen nor heard of their restaurant?
In other cases, these trucks are operated by entrepreneurial chefs who want to share their food, but do not have the funding to open a restaurant. As many of you know financing for these types of operations can be very expensive. Does this give them an advantage over someone who is holding out to open a brick and mortar establishment? Sure it does, is this advantage “unfair”? Absolutely not, it is only another avenue that is available to anyone wishing to open an eatery.
Food truck operators are not trying to steal restaurant business. They are looking to add to the fabric of the food culture in Chicago, while sharing inexpensive, fresh and delicious gourmet food around the city.
We appreciate your concerns, and hope for an atmosphere where both restaurants and mobile food vendors can all live in a world where one group isn’t pitted against the other.
Absolutely, there are issues that need to be addressed by the mobile food industry, but for the most part, food truck/cart owners want to make these adjustments as long as you do not prohibit them from operating.
Eliminating the competition through legislation and lobbying seems so un-American. Instead of working with lawmakers to ban them, or create laws that make it almost impossible to operate, the restaurant owners should work with the local food truck organization to come up with a solution that will make all parties happy. Food truck owners have not and do not wish to put restaurants out of business.
If you would like to like to experience some of the food trucks in the Chicago area before this ordinance is put to a vote, please come to Food Truck Tuesdays in Lincoln Park. We have two more days in the month of June where 4 to 6 food trucks meet up at the corner of Halsted and North Avenue from 4 to 7 PM.
The first two events earlier this month have been huge successes, and we hope to continue them. By coming out, you will have the opportunity to see the trucks first hand, and experience the food they provide now. Should you pass the ordinance, there will be many more cuisines to select from, and the food will be made fresh to your order, instead of the prepared meals they are forced to sell now.
If you, the aldermen of Chicago do not pass the proposed food truck ordinance, will you be willing to look at other legislative items in the same light? Should brick and mortar restaurants be able to deliver their food beyond a particular distance? How many restaurants are passed as a delivery vehicle heads to someone’s house to drop off an order? Is that “fair” competition?
By voting against the food truck ordinance, you will be approaching a very slippery slope, as well as allowing Chicago to fall even further behind the rest of the country in regards to the mobile food industry.