The food truck industry is continuing deeper into the mainstream throughout the country. As this happens, more cities are beginning to look at starting a dialog to determine if food trucks have a place in their communities. We have researched many of the common food truck debate points brought up by those opposing mobile vendors.
Many of those against the rise of food trucks have ulterior motives that circle back to the restaurant industry. If the industry is to continue its growth, we need to identify those issues. Then we need to sit down and civilly discuss that food trucks are not the danger to restaurants and communities that many are trying to convince cities they are.
Winning The Great Food Truck Debate
Food Truck Debate Issue 1: Food Trucks don’t pay rent.
While they may not have leases or rent payments as high as restaurants, food trucks still have a cost to operate. Vendors need to pay for commissary space. The place they clean and restock their “kitchens,” they pay for licenses, permits, food and staff. In many communities, food trucks also are legally required to pay for rent on storage space and commissaries where they do most of the prep work.
In cities such as San Francisco, mobile vendors are charged upwards of $10,000 a year to maintain their licenses in certain districts. New York City has a limit of permits they issue to street vendors which include trucks and carts. Outside of liquor licenses, cities do not limit the amount of restaurants which can operate within their city limits.
Food Truck Debate Issue 2: Food Trucks unfairly compete with restaurants.
One of the most common complaints by dissenters is that Food Truck operator’s relatively low costs give them “an unfair advantage”. Before the recent uptick in mobile food vendors across the country, this occurrence in the restaurant industry was always referred to as a “competitive advantage.”
So long as the owner of a competitive advantage was passing the benefit of their “advantage” to their customers in terms of value both economically and the quality of their cuisine, this has always been looked at as a positive.
The fact that the mobile food industry has changed its perceived limitation as a “food of only convenience” is what has shifted consumer perception. The current emphasis on value in the market strongly favors the Food Truck model. This is what has attracted many consumers to the new generation of food trucks.
Food Truck Debate Issue 3: Food Trucks only go to trendy areas
Of course food trucks go to trendy areas, food trucks thrive in areas with high foot traffic, but at the same time, isn’t that what restaurant owners try to do when they open up?
They find areas where their business model has the best chance to succeed. Why should food trucks be held down to a foundation or lease if all they have to do is start up their truck and drive to another area where consumers spend their time?
It can also be said that trucks develop something close to cults. Food trucks have followers, the difference lies in their devotion and as shown to date, food truck followers will follow their food wherever it is, so new trendy areas can be created by food trucks that new restaurateurs can follow if they choose.
Food Truck Debate Issue 4: Food Trucks pollute the environment
The longer the food truck industry is popular; technology will help it to become greener.
Many trucks around the country already run their vehicles off the vegetable oil they produce so as to cut down on oil costs for fuel and the emissions their trucks create. If they are so concerned about the environment, are they as critical of restaurants that generate upwards of 41% of their carbon foot print from merely heating and lighting their restaurants?
Dependent on the area of the country and what is their source of power generation, I’d certainly take a food truck that is driving around town on vegetable oil or biodiesel, over a restaurant that requires nuclear or coal based power generation.
Food Truck Debate Issue 5: Food Trucks generate excessive trash
This is an area where we may be in agreement currently, however the food truck industry is evolving. An example of this can be seen in San Francisco where the group Off the Grid has created lots for food truck festivals throughout the week.
When they started, they were holding 3 hour events where approximately 300 hundred consumers attended every hour, now they are holding 4 hour events with upwards of 700 consumers showing up every hour.
Their solution? Ask each vendor to provide a trash can outside of their vehicle. They also charge each truck a little more for their participation. This allows event planners to hire more assistance to help clean up the site.
Food Truck Debate Issue 6: Food Trucks create more traffic
Since food trucks spend the majority of their operating time parked in a lot or a parking spot selling their fare, this point seems moot. Another way to look at this argument is that food trucks use social media to inform customers of their location from day to day.
Much of food truck sales come from people already in the area. This is opposed to brick and mortar establishments which get people taking taxis or driving themselves to a restaurant’s location. Imagine the cuts in deaths due to traffic incidents if people stopped using taxis or personal vehicles to get to their food source?
The Bottom Line
These are far from all of the negative talking points driven by those who do not back the food truck industry. These have been found to be the most common. Use these points to help the food truck cause in your community.
Are you aware of other topics used to attempt to dissuade municipalities from approving laws and regulations which allow food trucks into their community? Share your thoughts on this topic in the comment section, our food truck forum or social media. Twitter | Facebook