Photo (cc) stu_spivack
I’ve been watching the slow emergence of Food Truck culture in Providence and have mostly been happy about it. The Food Trucks popping up thus far have good food, they bring a certain cachet to the city, they are hip, young, fun, all the things Providence wants to be. However, in the back of my mind, I’ve been thinking about some of the things I don’t like about the Food Truck movement.
Payton at west north articulated my reservations pretty well:
I’m know it’s so very trendy, but I really don’t understand the fascination with littering Chicago with food trucks. I’ve found them quite annoying in NY and LA:
- they don’t pay rent for the valuable public space they take up
- they unfairly compete with fixed-premise restaurants, particularly since Chicago suffers from many miles of empty storefronts
- they only go to trendy areas which already have lots of shops and foot traffic, thereby merely overcrowding existing transient hotspots and potentially preventing new areas from emerging
- they leave clouds of diesel fumes and noise in their wake, since they run generators even when idling
- they generate mountains of trash in said areas’ already-overflowing trashcans, since there’s no capacity for onboard dishwashing and few sidewalk recycling bins
- they’d be yet more unwieldy vehicles careening through the streets, killing people in crashes.
I certainly don’t dispute the overall goals to have broadly available, inexpensive food and easing the way for entrepreneurs to open foodservice businesses. However, these goals frankly have nothing to do with adding more smelly trucks to already choked streets
Payton has a follow-up post expanding on his points above which I encourage you to read.
Like I said, there is something that really pleases me about the Food Truck movement, but the points Payton brings up bother me. Really, the biggest part is that we have so many vacant storefronts. A truck pulls up, creates some excitement and leaves. An occupied storefront contributes to the street activity always, think Farmstead on Westminster.
There are of course real barriers to opening a food based business in a brick and mortar location in Providence, which probably contributes to the quick adoption of food trucks here. One is regulation. Everyone I’ve talked to who has opened a business in Providence, or those whose business it is to get businesses to come to Providence, agree that the regulation is confusing and onersous, and discourages business creation. I’ve heard people who have located businesses here from away say they would never do it again and would tell others not to, not good.
The other barrier is the spaces themselves. Especially Downcity, but throughout town, there really aren’t many small hole in the wall retail spaces available. The kind of space where someone who runs a Food Truck might opt to settle down permanently. A counter and a few stools, those spaces don’t exist. So would-be restauranteurs are forced to pay rent on greatly outsized spaces that they don’t need.
I’m not saying Food Trucks should be banned, far from it. What I would like to see is, the city thinking about ways to encourage other forms of street food, be they micro-storefronts, push carts, Food Trucks, or something else.