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Food [Trucks] for Thought

Kristina Ferrari Baldridge

Food TruckLike many self-proclaimed foodies, I have developed a bit of a food truck addiction in the last few years. To be fair, it was hard not to as torrents of artistically graffiti-ed, hipster-driven trucks spread throughout the city hawking everything from tasty little waffles to perfectly fried cutlets of meat.

My inner fat kid loves the (generally) cheap, always fast and mostly creative morsels of food this new generation of on-the-go chefs are selling. But the business-minded part of me may be even more excited by the rush.

When you think about it, food trucks are really the perfect small business incubator. Restaurants are notoriously expensive to run and rarely break even in the end, and test-driving a concept could mean never seeing a customer again if the food doesn’t work that night. Food trucks, on the other hand, have lower barriers to entry, require less financial commitment up front and diners seem to carry an inherent willingness to act as guinea pigs when it comes to new tastes.

I don’t just love food trucks because of the food – I love what they stand for from a business innovation perspective, too.

So last year when I up and moved 500 miles south, I had some concerns that my food truck love affair may have to come to an end.

I was wrong. At least for now.

The heavily entrepreneurial/artsy scene has nurtured quite the little food truck business here in Durham. Some favorites include my Wednesday night post-run treat, Pie Pushers, makers of delicious pizzas; KoKyu, the creators of duck fat tater tots and short rib quesadillas and The Parlour, homemade ice cream gurus that may single-handedly force me to buy larger pants.

The long lines and increasing number of trucks show I’m not the only person singing food truck praises here, but apparently there are a few detractors.

Recently Durham’s City Council started revisiting regulations that would require food trucks to maintain minimum distances of 100 feet from traditional restaurants and move spots every 15 minutes, among other ridiculous rules. That belies a double standard – after all, will we ask brick and mortar restaurants to up and move locations every few months, too? And really, it’s not like a restaurant owner is able to say “no” to another restaurant that’s looking to move in next door, so deciding one on wheels can’t be within a certain number of feet is just silly.

While I’m sure there are many factors at play here, I hope that Durham’s City Council remembers that over-regulating small businesses (after all, food trucks are small businesses) is not such a great thing for the economy. We should be finding more ways to nurture start-ups, whether they be of the culinary variety or otherwise. Of course, as these issues get sorted out down here, I’ll keep stuffing my face in solidarity. End of Story

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