How to regulate food trucks
Visitor Question: I am on the City Council in a nice suburban community with some office parks. Recently food trucks have been parking at lunch time outside of one office building where the street is especially wide.
How should we be regulating them, if at all? It's quite delightful to see that people are outdoors at lunch, staying in the area instead of driving their cars and causing minor traffic jams at 12:00 and 1:00, but I'm a little worried that someone will be hit by a car.
The other problem I see developing is that people who don't work in the office park at all are cruising around in their cars to see if their favorite truck is there. I suppose this will go away when teenagers and college students are back in school, but they sure seem to like one pizza truck.Editors' Reply:
Food trucks are generally a phenomenon to be welcomed, as are food street vendors. As you note, they bring outdoor vitality. In an office park, that's something difficult to achieve.
To answer your basic question, food trucks should be regulated to the same extent as any other kind of restaurant, in our collective opinion. If your municipality inspects and regulates cafes and coffee shops, they should also be inspecting the food trucks for sanitation.
If the health inspection is delegated to some wider unit of government, your city council probably would want to stay out of the health-related aspects of regulating food trucks.
Probably you would want to enforce ordinary parking regulations, as the food truck is nothing more than a truck or RV parked on your local street (or perhaps in your case, it's a private street in an office park).
As you mention, if they park in a way that forces customers to stand in the street to order and wait for their food, that would be a definite hazard. This in itself is a reason to pass an ordinance requiring parking so that any window that is used for customer interface is facing away from the driving lanes.
As for cruising around to find a food truck, we predict that social media will take care of that. Usually it is the younger crowd that is attracted to food trucks, and those also are the same demographic as people tuned into social media. The food trucks soon will find, if they haven't already, that social media will be their main provider of customer information.
Unless you have a particular concern with air pollution, we suggest leaving the cruising aspect alone.
Another problem that arises, even with street vending and temporary fairs, is that permanent restaurants are likely to complain when a mobile or temporary food vendor appears.
If that isn't happening in your community, thank your lucky stars. If you want to be proactive, you could add a required setback from another temporary vendor or restaurant, if and when you decide to regulate food truck parking.
In general, welcome and embrace the food trucks. They are a way for people to get into the restaurant business, which has a high failure rate, without such a large outlay of capital and a long-term lease commitment.
It's not unusual that a food truck establishes a permanent restaurant, once successful. Also permanent restaurants launch food truck projects to extend their reach into other geographical areas.
So all in all, just consider tolerance for food trucks to be part of your entrepreneurship support
program, and make sure they are as sanitary as any other restaurant.