As food trucks and mobile vendors continue to gain in popularity, cities are responding to the trend in different ways. Some are revising their street vending laws to try to catch more of the delicious action, but some are clamping down with anti-competitive regulations in response to complaints from incumbent restaurants.
My view on this is that more competition between service providers is almost always better, especially when it comes to food service. Markets aren’t perfect, but one thing competitive markets do very well is drive down prices and drive up quality. And looking at it from a city’s perspective, that’s exactly what you want. There’s just no conceivable public interest in reducing competition and variety in the food service market.
Philly’s got some food trucks, but it could have a lot more if city council rolled back some of the dumb rules and regulations blunting competition between mobile vendors and traditional restaurants.
Here are the demands Samantha Melamed says the Philadelphia Mobile Food Association is advocating for. Mark Squilla deserves props for taking the lead on this:
Gerson says vendors are looking for several key changes to current regulations: First, to allow vending on private lots, which he says is now a “gray area.” He says the only way to get a zoning for such a thing now is to get the lot zoned as a takeaway restaurant, but that comes with its own complications — like the fact that then every side of the food truck could be considered signage. “It’s like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.” Second, to allow vending of takeout food after midnight, which is currently illegal. Third, to roll back the list of prohibited streets for food trucks — which now amounts to most of Center City — through a slowly expanding pilot program. “We’re pushing to have four or five pilot locations on city streets, where trucks can operate,” he says. They also want the L&I, Streets and Health departments to streamline their regulations.