A street fight is brewing between gourmet food-truck vendors and restaurants—not over the grub, but how it’s sold.
Under pressure to protect bricks-and-mortar restaurants from increased competition, several big cities are starting to apply the brakes on a rising tide of food-truck vendors with fully loaded kitchens.
Boston, Chicago, St. Louis and Seattle are among the cities enacting laws that restrict where food trucks can serve customers in proximity to their rivals and for how long. Some food-truck operators argue that they shouldn’t be punished for offering an innovative service, especially since many cities already allow restaurants to open up alongside one another.
“The rules are unfair,” says Amy Le, owner of Duck N Roll, a food truck in Chicago serving Asian-style cuisine that includes short ribs and mango lychee.
Three weeks after she launched the business last fall, she received a ticket from local law enforcement for doing business about 150 feet from a wine bar—50 feet within the city’s limit for how close food trucks can park outside of retail food establishments.
Ms. Le says she later had to spend nearly a full day in court to find out what the violation would cost her—about $300—and that she lost an estimated $600 to $700 in sales as a result.
“The 200-foot buffer prohibits me from competing,” says Ms. Le, 32 years old, who also opposes a new rule requiring food trucks to install global-positioning devices so the city can track their whereabouts. “It is a free market. Let the consumers decide when and where they want to eat.”
Tom Alexander, a spokesman for the city of Chicago, says the new ordinance “is a workable compromise” that includes the addition of 60 free parking spaces in high-traffic areas for food trucks. “