Food Truck Bans: Good or Bad for Business?

Regulators have discussed bans on them for "cannibalizing" local businesses. But is that anti-competitive?

It's happened most recently in Maplewood, where can operate — or even if they can operate in the city at all.

Council members have said the trucks could cannibalize the existing brick-and-mortar businesses in the area. The city hasn't yet made a decision on the issue.

Eureka bans the practice, which also came to tried to operate in the area and generated Facebook buzz when it didn't happen. 

The Show-Me Institute has campaigned in its writings against the bans on food trucks, which it says are anti-competitive. In a recent post on the Maplewood situation, the authors said a move to ban food trucks would "limit competition in the food service business." (That post incorrectly stated that the city had voted on the ban.)

Food trucks seems to be all the rage in other parts of the country, enough to support television shows such as The Great Food Truck Race and Eat Street.

Is it legitimate to be concerned for restaurants that invest in property and set up shop in a community? Or should they have to compete with mobil food trucks? Is this a free-market issue?

Nancy Blakeley June 25, 2012 at 11:17 PM
They are also independent small business people. Leave them alone and let them earn an honest living!!!!
Jaycen Rigger June 26, 2012 at 03:01 AM
Hah, true enough, Tony. "Pal" was just the nicest thing I could come up with at the time. I was trying not to resort to name-calling.
Jaycen Rigger June 26, 2012 at 03:05 AM
Fair point, Tony. Your comment is the best reasoned I've read in favor of some regulation. My problem with Chris's points is that I haven't heard regulations that make sense, only regulations designed to add expense and time to the food truck owners. Signs prohibiting a food truck during certain periods of the day, or within such a distance of a particular business seem legitimate. In the instances I've brought up, I've mostly seen food trucks pull up to manufacturing plants. No issues there, since they're operating on private property. In the case of a downtown district, a certain amount of regulation makes sense. Forcing the truck owners to provide extra amenities, be certified as food handlers, etc, are ridiculous in the extreme - just as it would be to force restaraunt owners to do.
Chris Mallie June 26, 2012 at 10:21 AM
Thanks for pointing all that out. The private property argument is exactly what I was pointing out with the pizza table on the sidewalk example. Yes, a food truck operating on the street can be regulated.
Tony Rivera June 26, 2012 at 10:51 AM
I think these are good points that could be mitigated by having a designated area of the public street whee food trucks could operate. Rather than mire it down in complex formulas as to who can operate where and when (and I dont think you are doing this) a simple area or areas where food trucks can pull over and operate (like a no parking zone except a food truck parking zone). I'm also not against your idea below of creating a handwashing station or benches or landscaping, the only question is who should provide it. I'm not opposed to having each food truck pay a per diem fee for renting the 'space' and then using that for upkeep. A better choice to administer the system besides the government would be the downtown business association or some neutral concern. In one city, I think it's LA, food vendors also must get permission to use a restroom within a certain number of feet. So a restaurant could earn twenty bucks (or something) that day by allowing food truck patrons to use theirs. That's a regulation that has a free market answer :)


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