Food Truck Controversy Spreads Nationwide


  • Mark Andresen

Last month, I looked at the conflict between food trucks and bricks-and-mortar restaurants in St. Louis. Specifically, I focused on downtown, where trucks can ply their goods within the previously established downtown vending zone, but are also restricted from operating within 200 feet of a restaurant.

Yesterday, Slate business and economics writer Matthew Yglesias looked at the very similar food-truck controversies -- right down to the distance that trucks have to keep from bricks-and-mortar establishments -- in other cities.

San Francisco's [300-foot] rule affects only the same kind of food, so if you're selling pizza I can try to offer tacos. Across the bay in Oakland, a "vehicular food vendor" is enjoined from locating within 200 feet of any restaurant or deli. Chicago's rule is like Oakland's, while in Atlanta there's a 1,500-foot exclusion zone in which a vendor cannot offer a similar product. These are just the most blatant forms of protectionism. San Jose's law requiring a mobile vendor to stay at one location (or within 500 feet of that location) for no more than 15 minutes within any two hour period seems clearly designed to make truck-based businesses impractical.

Yglesias comes down on the side of the trucks, aruging that, "If new competition can bring prices down, we'll all be better off in the long run."

At any rate, you should read his argument in its entirety. And, locally, lest you think the problem is restricted to trucks and conventional restaurants, check out this recent St. Louis Magazine article on the problems that food trucks are encountering at Nestle-Purina headquarters, one of their go-to spots.

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