jerseycajun (jerseycajun) wrote in talk_politics,

Chicago: A major city which won't be featured on "The Great Food Truck Race"

I actually watched Food Network's Great food truck road race with some interest when it debuted this year. Previously I hadn't been aware that food trucks had been experimenting with gourmet style food and a lot of it I would have loved being present at the time to sample some of it, had I been near any of them.

It turns out that this trend is partly fueled as development of the recent economic downturn as chefs and restaurateurs find that it's much cheaper to reach customers by food truck than spending upwards of a million dollars to buy/rent/renovate inner city floorspace. Makes sense. If I lived in a city, based on some of what I saw on the show, I'd be insane not to try it myself.

Now it seems Chicago has made it virtually impossible to operate a food truck in the city. You can't open up food product for preparation in the vehicle, so you have to prep everything before you leave meaning any product which relies on a fresh prep to be palatable is off the menu, and you can't park within 200m of a brick-and-mortar restaurant/food establishment.

Naturally, the brick-and-mortar establishments in Chicago like the status-quo very much.

From the article: 'The food truck concept is "a quaint idea," says Dan Rosenthal, owner of Sopraffina Marketcaffe, a chain of Italian restaurants in Chicago. "But when you get right down to it, it creates an unlevel playing field."'

This to me, is BS. What it does is indicate a changing marketplace in the food preparation industry, and that for those settled into it already, change is uncomfortable. I can understand that it certainly must be frustrating having to deal with a changing market climate, but this is precisely the kind of change which keeps an industry sustainable. Having to deal with less resources means having to become more resourceful. For the time being, it seems the city is firmly on the side of the brick-and-mortar team.

The article quotes a representative from the city council as defending the rules with the following:

"A spokeswoman for the city says Chicago's rules are for health and sanitary reasons."

...which seems a lot more like a blanket statement of meaningless reassurance unless there's some rather specific justification the article left out of the quote. And it would have to be quite a justification, as numerous other major urban centers don't seem to find it necessary to be this restrictive to achieve those ends.

So I pass it to the general audience here to add some of your own insight into this. Is this an example of an established and perhaps connected segment of an industry using the bureaucracy as a shield against changing market forces (not to lean on stereotype too much, but this is Chicago)? Who wins in this scenario? If the food trucks can make restaurant quality food for less, and the city is essentially restricting that option away, won't the average person simply choose eating out less overall than frequenting the brick-and-mortar restaurants more?
Tags: industry
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