I went to the Houston Mobile Food Unit Collective (MFU Collective) event last night at The Refinery, which they set up to garner support for proposed changes to Houston regulations of food trucks. I’m going to start out by saying I support the proposed changes, because I believe that allowing for more competition in the restaurant space is a good thing. As everyone can see, mobile food trucks are becoming ever more present, and incredibly more popular in the city. Just go to any major bar on a Friday or Saturday and you will most likely find a food truck parked nearby. Keep reading for details on the changes, and how I feel about all of this in depth.
The proposed changes, according to the MFU Collective are:
- Eliminate the 60-foot distance requirement between Mobile Food Units
- Allow 1 propane (LP) permit to cover multiple locations;
- Lift the ban on LP within the Downtown area (called the District of Limitations in city code)
- Allow trucks to carry up to 3 tables and 6 benches of seating
There are fears that brick-and-mortar restaurants can not compete with a mobile food truck, do the higher overhead the restaurant has. A lot of this fear is based on the idea that the food trucks will rob the brick-and-mortars of customers, but I don’t believe that. Let’s start with the obvious, Houston is hot, very hot. While there are plenty of us willing to eat outside while sweating profusely, a lot of people will still prefer to sit down and eat inside an air conditioned building.
There are also a lot of people who enjoy an alcoholic beverage while eating, something that food trucks can not serve in this city (we’re not New Orleans). The event this past Sunday showed this very well. The Refinery serves their own food, but they were more than happy to have a food truck event at their bar. Why? It helped increases the traffic to their bar, which was the only place to get a drink from. The Refinery, and all the food truck operators seemed to be doing very well this Sunday.
The MFU Collective recently went before City Council arguing in favor of these changes (Story from the Houston Chronicle) and did not receive the favorable reception they had hoped. Numerous Council members expressed fears that if the changes are passed, food trucks will flood downtown, take over all the parking, and the City won’t be able to keep up inspection on all of the food trucks. Of course, you could also pass a small fee on the food trucks to allow for the hiring of additional inspectors (but I doubt anyone has brought that idea up before, but CO Bradford would probably like that).
Now it’s not all bad, as the Mayor’s office has been involved on crafting these proposed changes, and a few City Council members do support the changes. And after talking with Joanna Torok, the co-founder of Oh My! Pocket Pies, and one of the leading voices for the MFU Collective, I think they have a real chance to get these changes passed. It’s just a question of whether or not they can get enough votes (I know that’s obvious, but I had to say it).
I’ll keep following the MFU Collective’s actions with City Council and keep y’all posted as things happen.