What role do urban food trends play in our public space? Is it better to have a parking-lot full of food trucks or a real public square? Why not both? Do food trucks really “activate public space” as David Weber, president of the New York City Food Truck Association argues to the author of Should Cities Drive Food Trucks Off the Streets?
Or are they just “hipper food courts” ? Gainesville has just started to jump on the food truck craze so it is hard for me to say. But I do like the food I have had. Friends have called them “Roach Coaches” or made other claims about the quality/cleanliness. None of which I really buy. I have always been a fan of food carts and I don’t see much of an difference. Nothing that a properly enforced food-safety regime can’t handle.
I actually would agree that food trucks can be a quick/flexible/soft tool for contemporary urban intervention. Activating un/under-used public, private, recreational, open space. Though there is one legitimate issue which is raised in the essay. That too many food trucks may flood a market and because of lower-overhead be more competitive than a traditional restaurant. Therefore, actually serving to lower overall number of businesses, by driving out already existing businesses, in a given area. For example
But many restaurateurs are sick of seeing competition literally drive up outside their windows.
“It’s ignorant of people in the community to think that buying from food trucks instead of from local restaurants doesn’t hurt the community,” said Melissa Murphy , who runs two Sweet Melissa Patisseries in Brooklyn. “There’s just not enough to go around right now.”
There are I think however, at least two responses to such a criticism. First, while food trucks might compete (although not in price) with fast-food, the experience of eating from a food truck is not the same as going out to eat at a sit down, full service restaurant. It would seem to me that they would be targeting a different audience/price-point. So I am not sure how much of a conflict there really is without a whole lot of other infrastructure like seating, restrooms etc. Additionally, proper regulation, in terms of managing the overall number of commercial-food industry entities (food-truck or not) through permits and licenses would also help to maintain the desired balance.