News & Features

Food Trucks: Who's Being Threatened Here?

December 15 2010 - 3:25 PM

I have to admit, I wouldn’t mind seeing food trucks in Chicago, but I don’t have a really strong position here.  It would be great to see a fantastic cult food truck in my neighborhood, but it will add more competition to the industry.  To be frank, most food trucks in places like New York sell basic sustenance food, and you have to follow Twitter and be knowledgeable about the “scene” to really know where to go.   Thinking of the food choices in the Loop, which, granted have improved in the past five years, it may be wise to give consumers options in light of some rather dull sandwich shops and national chains.

The angles being taken in the food truck debate smack of sour grapes from some unlikely sources.   The Sun-Times produced an article today involving, of all people, the owner of Keefer’s Restaurant weighing in. Um, yes, that’s right.  According to the article, “‘We spent almost $9 million on two restaurants. It’s unfair to people who invested so much to allow someone who has a minimal investment in a truck . . . to pull up 200 feet from our door,’ said Glenn Keefer, managing partner of Keefer’s Restaurant.”    Maybe the reporter was desperate to find a quick quote, but I couldn’t imagine a food truck competing against a $46 Porterhouse from Keefers.

The bill, sponsored by Alderman Scott Waguespack and authored with the help of Gaztro-Wagon owner Matt Maroni, prohibits food trucks from being within 200 feet of any restaurant and 100 feet from any retail store that sells food.  A very, very long tape measure will come in handy, perhaps.  The city will also be informed as to the whereabouts of the food truck (assuming they get the parking they desire), so that they can conduct hygiene inspections.

As a restaurant owner, I probably would be jealous.   A bricks-and-mortar operation, of course, has a much higher overhead than a food truck and, if I were a restaurant owner, I would feel threatened if a food truck pulled up near my place.  But if I owned a pasta restaurant, should there be a law that prevents a competing pasta shop from opening up next door?   If it happens to be better than mine and takes away my business, perhaps I can go to my alderman and do something about it.  That’s the Chicago Way.

–Brian Ziegler