Larry Olmsted, a contributor to Forbes.com is the Travel Editor for Cigar Aficionado and blogs on Travel Forbes.com, Food USAToday.com took a very bold step today in announcing his list of the 8 food trends that he feels are the worst in America, at the top of his list are food trucks.
Find his write up on the mobile food industry below:
Food Trucks: There is nothing wrong with the individual food truck per se, but the overall trend is both ridiculous and in some cases, morally reprehensible. The food media continues to treat these as a new form of cuisine and some sort of breakthrough invention when they are nothing more than a way to deliver food to consumers, akin to the “invention” of home delivery, takeout containers or the drive through. When grouped together in lots, as is the case in Austin and Portland, food trucks become an outdoor version of a longstanding American culinary tradition – the shopping mall food court, and nothing more. Food-wise, there is nothing new about trucks, which serve foods you can already get in countless restaurants, albeit it with much more limited menus. People act as if tacos, dumplings, or brick oven pizza have somehow been “discovered” by food truck cooks. One major magazine recently suggested that food trucks had brought affordable ethnic cuisine to the people of Los Angeles – seriously? LA has always had hundreds of brick and mortar eateries serving exactly this kind of affordable ethnic cuisine. I think the sole reason for their hipster popularity is that food trucks bring such cuisine to people who are afraid to go to actual ethnic restaurants in diverse neighborhoods to eat it. Ironically, in many markets the food trucks do more harm than good to the existing restaurants on which they are patterned, competing unfairly with rent-paying establishments while cannibalizing hard to get public parking spots and squatting on public property.
Admittedly in some markets, like LA, food trucks can serve a real purpose, bringing quality dining selections to extremely pedestrian-unfriendly areas, especially near office buildings where nothing else is available within walking distance. But these practical food trucks are nothing new – such trucks and carts and sidewalk vendors always existed. The real trend is the redundant food truck – like one serving pizza parked across the sidewalk from a rent paying pizzeria. When I visit New York, I see trucks parked curbside in neighborhoods overflowing with good and diverse restaurants and having no need at all of food trucks. This strikes me as ridiculous. In many cases these are merely a lower barrier to entry for wanna-be “chefs” who can’t actually start a restaurant. More a fad than a trend, I’ve yet to see any tangible benefits of the food truck craze to the average consumer.
So while he starts off by saying there is nothing wrong with them, he then comes out and states that they are reprehensible. How dare those “wanna-be-chefs” take away business from those rent paying restaurant owners. Apparently in Mr. Olmsted’s opinion, the only reason food trucks get any customers is that they cater to individuals who are afraid to try out ethnic food from restaurants. The rant continues on to start sounding like the typical rant delivered by many state restaurant associations by making false claims of unfair competition, cannibalizing of parking and squatting in on public property. For shame Mr. Olmsted…your attack on the mobile food industry is unwarranted and not based on actual facts.
Feel free to share your thoughts with Mr. Olmsted on Twitter at @TravelFoodGuy