Letter Response: Food Trucks Still Aren't Evil

Wendy Bryan of Santa Ana, thank you for writing ("All In La Familia", Letters, Oct. 12). At least someone cared enough to write in about the article alleging impropriety on Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido's part; that said, I have some problems with your statements about food trucks in general.

Letter Response: Food Trucks Still Aren't Evil

"Street and truck vendors are unfair competition for brick-and-mortar businesses in Santa Ana, which have to pay rent and other overhead costs."

So do food trucks. They don't own the trucks, they lease them from a leasing company; they lease kitchen space, they still have to pay their employees. They still have to be licensed (granted, some are not licensed, but some bricks-and-mortar restaurants aren't either). Bricks-and-mortar places pay for electricity; trucks pay for gas.

Mobile food vendors and bricks-and-mortar restaurateurs are generally not competing for the same segment of the population. No one is going to be on your way to a lovely sit-down restaurant with waiter service and a nice glass of wine if you want it, then suddenly pass a taco truck and abandon your dinner plans.

Food trucks do not pay the same taxes as bricks-and-mortar restaurants, and aren't subject to the same health inspections. The former is a political topic waiting for a politician to wake up and smell the revenue stream, and the latter can be taken care of through licensing the way it is for bricks-and-mortar stores. Neither of these is insurmountable.

"Unfair" is a spin word. Competition is not per se unfair just through its existence, though it seems so to the people with a new source of competition.

"They make messes, disrespect the law (parking all day in one spot, health standards are debatable) and generally are a nuisance."

So it's okay when cars park in a spot all day (say, people spending the day at home), but not when a food truck does it? If the parking all day is a nuisance, a petition to the city for restricted or limited-time parking is the answer. It can be enforced with towing; even trucks who consider parking tickets a cost of doing business will think twice about having a truck they don't own be towed to an impound lot.

The health standards canard is a non-starter. It is impossible to have poor hygienic standards when customers can see every aspect of the operation. Taco tables are particularly prone to this, because the food is prepared directly in front of the customers. If the people who run a taco table have poor hygienic practices, it will be obvious; there won't be any customers.

The chance of food-borne illness is frankly much higher when dining in chain restaurants than when eating street food. When someone gets food poisoning at a chain burger joint, it's treated as a one-off and doesn't generally reflect on the chain as a whole; the business doesn't suffer particularly from one incident of food poisoning. When someone gets food poisoning at a taco truck, they talk, and the truck more often than not goes out of business.

Restaurateurs view food trucks as evil because they prefer not to have the competition. If a food truck is parking outside a restaurant and stealing its business, the answer is to adapt. Food trucks can only steal a client base when the products are similar, so the restaurateurs should evolve their business to ensure that they aren't similar. While whining and crying wolf to the authorities can be effective, the better answer is to compete--and win.

That entrepreneurial spirit is why America is the economic powerhouse it is. You're missing a lot of great food if you won't eat at catering trucks.


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