Food Trucks

Mobile meals are a bizarre business, rife with contradictions, barriers and opportunities. Most of us had our first experiences with them in our youth, often at athletic events. Remember the hot-dog, soda and popcorn machines that were wheeled around to different parts of the school? Wheeled into storage when not used then wheeled out for all sorts of sports events. Stick a motor in them and it’s essentially a food truck.

We made what seemed like a fortune off them during school. Boys basketball players would work the girls volleyball matches, science club would work football games, etc.  A steady stream of income to support our programs. As I recall no cumbersome regulations, in fact I recall all of us minors operating all of the equipment with the oversight of a sponsor/teacher/coach who generally said, ‘be careful, just do what Johnny does, he’s been working the machine for three-four weeks now.’ That was it. Watch Johnny.

Fairs, carnivals, tailgate parties. Grown-up versions of these machines are bolted, welded and otherwise mounted into trucks or trailers and hardly given a second thought. In fact, I’ve attended home-based tailgate parties where the owners hired a multi-specialty hot-dog truck to park in their drive and sell to attendees. Service!

Final Hours of CapMac

Yet some towns still want to regulate them to a literal death—some towns even citing council’s fear of competition to brick-and-morter restaurants. How local councils can be so bendable is beyond me. On the one hand publicly push entrepreneurship and free-market business.  On the other side pushing regulations more onerous than those placed on brick-and-morter restaurants….citing ‘consumer health’.

Consider this: the vast, vast majority of food trucks will be owner operated—and for some, not all but some, a necessary source of income. The pure drive to attract and retain customers is going to push them beyond most typical shops that hire all manner of part-time staff who are unquestionably less loyal to the business than the owner-operated food truck. From the little I know about the business, I’d nearly always trust the truck over the strip-mall joint when it comes to food prep and handling.

Lined up Around the Block @ Farragut 

I recently had the opportunity to visit a local food truck on its last day in business. This place had a line sweeping around a corner half a city block anxiously, yet patiently waiting for a final dish of their famed macaroni and cheese–of all things. I’d never seen anything like it.   By the time it was my turn they were long out of all varieties except the Classic. Fine by me–the Classic-Mac was fantastic, worth every minute of the wait.

Mmmm…..Classic Mac! 

Shame on local city-councils who inhibit the hard-working and creative folks who have the guts to take the necessary risks to start up their own shops.