NYC Food Trucks Feeling the Heat

From an outside perspective, food trucks seem to be thriving throughout the country, popping up in new cities and in greater numbers than ever before. However internally, the industry is seriously hurting from city restrictions on parking areas and clashes with brick and mortar restaurants, and in New York City the conflict has already caused several trucks to go out of business.

The Urban Oasis Traveling Organic Café was forced to close earlier this year, citing various pressures compounding on their truck. This is just one example of how much the ‘booming’ food truck industry has fallen this year. While food trucks sometimes complain about one another, brick and mortar restaurants often call the police when they feel food trucks have encroached upon their space and threatened their customer base. Since the parking rule that forbids food trucks from parking in metered spaces, the industry has been dealt its most serious blow. Most of the commercial districts throughout New York City have parking meters, forcing the majority of food trucks to relocate and lose their acquired customers.

This parking rule has been in existence for decades, but only this year a judge ruled that vending goods from metered spaces applies to food trucks as well. The rule began to be enforced in May, and since then the New York City Food Truck Association has seen the revenues of its members drop by as much as 70%. The 1—month old association has already shrunk from 31 to 28 operators, with approximately 30 other food trucks operating in the city.

The first trucks began serving New York City around 2007, founded by entrepreneurs hoping to eventually settle in brick and mortar restaurants. The trucks immediately gained huge followings, gaining recognition on Twitter and through Zagat surveys. The trucks were deemed new and cool through their fresh designs and undeniably tasty food, attracting more trucks to the streets in the following years.

While in 2010 there was an explosion of new trucks, including Eddie’s Pizza Truck, now the industry seems to be stagnating. According to Food Truck Association president and owner of Rickshaw Dumpling truck, David Weber, “There are plenty of people who are seriously questioning the viability of this business”.

However the food truck industry is not going down without a fight. The association hired a lobbying firm to ask city agencies to address parking issues and other barriers preventing food trucks from operating. According to the firm, a lot of progress has already been achieved in conversations with city agencies, and they are hoping to have a solution to these regulatory issues by the busy spring food truck season.

The Food Truck Association has already proposed that food trucks could pay two times the muni rate that everyone else pays, and truck could be limited to two per block. They have also proposed a trial network of food truck parking spots throughout the city. Earlier this year Rockrose Development opened a lot specifically designated for food trucks in Long Island City. The association is in talks with other real estate owners to create more lots similar to this one.

Most food trucks continue to do business in metered parking spaces, but they have still relocated to areas where police enforcement is more lax. These new areas are far less robust for food truck owners however, who have developed strong customer bases throughout midtown. Other trucks have found ways to branch out their businesses, pursuing catering opportunities and special events, or purchasing food carts where they can permanently park on the sidewalk and avoid ticketing. Some food trucks are even purchasing storefronts, which are beginning to look like more stable options compared to the mounting pressures on food trucks.

DailyFoodtoEat is the official blog of FoodtoEat, a sustainable online food ordering and concierge catering service featuring your favorite restaurants, food trucks and caterers. Check out the deliciousness here: www.foodtoeat.com

Long Island City Lot Opens for Beleaguered Food Trucks

The long-awaited food truck lot in Long Island City finally opened this Tuesday, August 9th. Food trucks that have been forced to relocate popular spots throughout New York City have already begun to seek out this refuge, hoping that a large congregation of trucks might attract New Yorkers to this new destination.

The lot itself it 11,000 square feet and privately owned by a company called Rockrose Development. The lot is open for lunch from 11AM until 3PM, attracting all kinds of visitors to its daily trucks. The lot can hold sixteen trucks at a time, and is being monitored by the New York City Food Truck Association to ensure equity. The Association is trying to rotate as many trucks in as possible; however trucks pay the corporation a fee to use the lot during the day. On opening day, the Desi Food Truck, the Rickshaw Truck, Cupcake Stop and others came to the lot. Korilla BBQ, Red Hook Lobster and other trucks arrived the second day. The Long Island Food Truck Lot is on Twitter as well, and you can follow here.

DailyFoodtoEat is the official blog of FoodtoEat, a sustainable online food ordering and concierge catering service featuring your favorite restaurants, food trucks and caterers. Check out the deliciousness here: www.foodtoeat.com

The Future of Food Trucks in Our Cities

Food trucks have come under increased scrutiny this year as restaurants, store owners and police have clashed with them for limited real estate in Manhattan and other urban areas throughout the country. With trucks and carts becoming increasingly popular, more chain companies are looking to get involved in the mobile game; with Taco Bell and Jack in the Box unveiling their trucks, and even Trojan set to release a contraceptive truck.
                Legislators face a difficult decision ahead as they debate how to address these trucks in each city. While food trucks are hip, give entrepreneurs an ease of entry into the restaurant business, and serve a growing demand, they are able to tactfully maneuver throughout urban landscapes to follow crowds. This gives them an undeniable advantage over brick and mortar businesses, and their lack of rent fees makes it very difficult for these grounded businesses to remain competitive. In New York, discussions have been made to turn a parking lot in Long Island City into a type of food truck safe haven, where they could park without disturbing local businesses and traffic and attract visitors to their condensed location. The problem with this, food trucks would lose most of their lunch business in Manhattan, with no guarantee that their customers would commute to Long Island City, Queens.
                In cities across the US, legislators are restricting the movements of food trucks to specific areas so as to protect local businesses. Parking regulations are the most popular way to curtail their movement, as cities understand the potential value of food trucks, given that they are placed in a public space without too much business.
                Ultimately, food trucks create a dichotomy in urban areas because they can stimulate the economy and attract an eclectic group of visitors. However, they can also hurt preexisting businesses, clog up streets and release fumes into the air, disturbing residential areas. Though food trucks offer a distinct product and enliven certain areas of many cities, they must adhere to the rules of their trade and act responsibly around their brick and mortar peers, or else public support may collude with government regulation to send these mobile vendors far away.
DailyFoodtoEat is the official blog of FoodtoEat, a sustainable online food ordering and concierge catering service featuring your favorite restaurants, food trucks and caterers. Check out the deliciousness here: www.foodtoeat.com