Food Trucks as Creative Engines

The Houston Chronicle has a good article up on one of their blogs, GOPlifer, about the mobile food truck fight in Houston that I blogged about last week. In the post, author Chris Ladd beautifully breaks down what the real fight is over:

At issue is whether one set of honest, hard-working small business owners with capital invested in their brick and mortar restaurants should get protection by the city against another set of hard-working small business owners armed with an innovative new business plan.  That’s it.  The rest of the arguments are noise.

Before I go to far, he opened the post with an excellent argument, one that I should have made, about handling the new regulatory and safety issues mobile food trucks brings.

The food trucks do present some regulatory challenges for local governments, but none of them are particularly difficult.  A mobile kitchen requires a different approach for sanitation and fire inspection.  Their potential to disrupt traffic has to be considered.  And ownership turnover can create sales tax collection headaches.  Those problems can, and are, addressed fairly easily in other places.

He then brings up what Los Angeles and Chicago have done in response to these issues, and how these regulations have helped the mobile food truck scene thrive. There’s no reason to think Houston can’t handle these same challenges, and I honestly believe our city is ideally suited to handle them; it just requires a City Council willing to look at the real issues, and not hide behind phony terrorism excuses.

A lot of what Chris’ article is about what the economic model of a mobile food truck is, and how it fundamentally alters the existing restaurant industry. He argues that this model gives chefs and entrepreneurs a stronger place in the restaurant industry, and weakens the power of management and owners not involved in the food.

By slashing the capital requirements for starting your own business, chefs no longer have to work through the system for decades in order to open their own enterprise.  Anyone with a good head, a strong work ethic, and an appealing concept can take their work straight to the public on the strength of a modest investment.

In the end, Chris closes with a beautiful line saying why Houston of all places, should support food trucks in this debate, and I close with his line:

Houston, of all places, should recognize the importance of a competitive marketplace.  Houston should give food truck entrepreneurs a chance to deliver a better tasting future.

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