When There are No Laws, It’s the Wild West

22 Aug

This past weekend, the battle between food trucks and a small handful of restaurants in Buffalo grew more acute, and more ridiculous.

Two local restaurants – Taki’s on Court Street, and the Waterline at the Waterfront Village have gone out of their way to affirmatively call city government and thwart the food trucks’ ability to set up in locations where they’ve been invited to set up.

The Roaming Buffalo truck sets up at the corner of Court and Pearl at the invitation of the Convention Center on occasional weekdays. A few picnic tables have been set up at that corner. R ‘ n R BBQ Truck and Where’s Lloyd set up occasionally in the parking lot of the Waterfront Village, at the invitation of the employees of Synacor, a tenant in that complex.

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/RnRBBQTruck/status/105405546710052864″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/RnRBBQTruck/status/105464625105092608″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/RoamingBuffalo1/status/104930418792476673″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/RoamingBuffalo1/status/104930666017329152″%5D

So, the Waterline is worried that it loses its monopoly on food service for 2 hours a day, a couple of days a week, and Taki’s for some reason has it in its head that “food” competes with “food”, rather than the notion that sit-down diner fare isn’t the same as food truck burgers, dogs, and beef on weck.

All of this is a follow-up to this story, with a counter-story written by local business advisor Tony Maggiotto, Jr.

The brick and mortar restaurants had complained that a proposed law, which would have required food trucks to set up outside a 100′ radius of existing, operating kitchens would lead to a “wild west” mentality. Now that that law has been tabled until the Common Council returns to work, we have a wild west mentality being practiced by anti-competitive brick & mortar restaurants. Taki’s, the Waterline, ETS, Jim’s Steakout, and Just Pizza have gone out of their way to tightly restrict how the food trucks can operate.

The tenants at the Waterfront Village complex didn’t sign an exclusivity agreement with the Waterline, which would prohibit them from inviting outside food onto the premises. If the Roaming Buffalo’s mounting of the sidewalk to reach its corner at Court Street Plaza is deemed illegal, then every setup at Buffalo Place (for instance, the farmer’s market on Main Street) is illegal, as well.

The wild west mentality comes when established brick and mortar restaurants flex political muscle to ensure that the food trucks can’t do business in the city – whether that be through thwarting proposed legislation, or demanding that the city prohibit them from competing with them because of, for instance, months’ worth of safe sidewalk-mounting.

Ain’t room enough for the two of y’all?

The food trucks have an advantage? Which advantage?

  • The advantage they have at only being able to set up for a couple of hours at a time?
  • The advantage they have regarding no set rules, regulations, or laws, which leave their businesses subject to the whims of anti-competitive councilmembers and restaurants?
  • The advantage they have of not being in the same place each day?
  • The advantage they have in which people have to take affirmative steps to find out where the trucks will be set up?
  • The advantage they have of not having to lock and secure a $80,000 truck every night?
  • The advantage they have of having to rent an inspected food prep kitchen, in addition to a secure truck parking location?
  • The advantage they have of serving food to people unprotected by the elements?
  • The advantage they have of not having a seating area for customers to use while eating?

The food trucks and the complaining restaurants aren’t the same thing. They are similar only in that they serve food to paying customers.

I have gone out of my way to hunt down Lloyd’s at the Waterfront Village because I enjoy my $5.50 taco lunch. The Waterline’s salads and sandwiches are expensive and haven’t merited a special trip. I’ll now go out of my way to avoid Taki’s because, seriously – how many Greek diners does one region need? But I’ll especially avoid them because they have found that their product is not competitive when faced with burgers or tacos served out of a Grumman truck, and instead of stepping it up or dropping their prices, they’re whining to mommy and shutting down the wheeled interlopers.

Support your local food truck.

Where’s Lloyd (tacos)

The Whole Hog (BBQ)

R ‘n R BBQ

Roaming Buffalo (Buffalo favorites)

Coming soon is Fork on the Road (Vietnamese street food)

19 Responses to “When There are No Laws, It’s the Wild West”

  1. Brian Wood at 7:43 am #

    They love capitalism unless its competitive capitalism, which was the founding philosophy of capitalism, but established capitalists are coddled socialists, so the real capitalists….

  2. Jesse at 8:06 am #

    Well, I’ll never visit the Whinyline again that’s for sure.  Nothing like the exact same crappy salad with the exact same crappy plastic bin of crappy cheap salad dressing and a soggy cookie for lunch, Waterline.

    Douchebaggery at its finest.

  3. Jesse at 8:24 am #

    Tony Maggioto’s post points out a lot of what’s ridiculous about American society: His paraphrasing of the rules for the trucks SHOULD be all you need.  Why the hell does it need to be any more complex than “Pay for parking, no less than 100 ft from a restaurant or 500 ft from a festival.  The end”.

    One thing the Obama admin’s actually done right is the Plain Language Act of 2010: http://www.plainlanguage.gov/

    Suck it, lawyers.

  4. Val at 9:03 am #

    As an employee at the Waterfront Village, I am heartbroken that Lloyds won’t be visiting us, for 2 hours every two (or so) weeks. My job only allows 1/2 hour for lunch, and the Waterline CANNOT deliver service quicly enough, so we (myself and co-workers) never eat there. No food for us.

  5. Braxo at 9:05 am #

    “So, the Waterline is worried that it loses its monopoly on food service for 2 hours a day, a couple of days a week, …”

    One food truck came once every other week. Another was coming once a week.

  6. MJC at 10:08 am #

    The solution is simple – tell ETS, Taki’s, Just Pizza, etc that you will no longer patronize their establishments and tell them why. I won’t spend a nickel of my hard-earned in any of them anymore.

    This is a fight they will surely lose. The food truck movement is quickly growing everywhere and it is extremely popular with its customers. And when the food trucks are here to stay, the brick and mortars will be forced to compete.

    No skin off my back. Not too difficult to find better food than what is offered at any of these places that are complaining.

  7. Sean at 10:17 am #

    If these places produced a better product they wouldn’t be bitching. They’re just doing this for ink.

  8. Good Grief at 2:50 pm #

    Where is it that they set up at the request of the Convention Center? There is no corner of Franklin and Pearl.

    • Alan Bedenko at 3:02 pm #

      Sorry. Court & Pearl.

  9. STEEL at 5:41 pm #

    The thing is, if there are more restaurants or places to eat in close proximity to one another all of them will do better. Opposition to the food trucks is short sighted.

  10. STEEL at 6:19 pm #

    Critical mass is important. stand alone operations are inherently less attractive than options with more choice surrounded by more activity

  11. Buffalo Rude at 10:20 pm #

    Does this mean delivery service should be suspended in and around Taki’s and the Waterline?

  12. itsobvious at 11:41 am #

    The food at waterline is not good at all – never know what your going to get – i ordered a tuna melt and they forgot to include the TUNA! Only thing worse was the total attitude we got from the owner – trust me hes an ass

  13. Pat Gray at 4:46 pm #

    The advantages to owning a brick and mortar:

    Sky high property taxes- Trucks None

    Highest Utilities in the US- Trucks Hardly

    Garbage Fees- Trucks none

    Water Bills- Trucks None

    Patio Licenses for use of the sidewalk- Trucks None

    Music License or Cable Fee to have piped in music- Trucks None

    Liability Insurance, Unemployment Insurance, Compensation- Trucks?

    Have you ever seen a Mr. Softee parked next to a Dairy Queen for 2 hours?

    Truck vs Brick and Mortar Have some respect!

  14. rastamick at 10:23 am #

    Yes respect. Isn’t that always what competitive capitalism strives to provide ? Why Starbucks sets up directly across the street from Spot Coffee, why that lame ass tire store that’s long gone did the same thing to Dunn’s in Orchard Park ? As a teacher I am constantly hammered by all of these heroic swashbuckling  businessmen telling me I don’t get how the real world works. Funny how they are crying like little bitches when capitalism is extended to the point where their own quality and their own ability to compete is under the glass. Cry me a fucking river capitalists, get out there and do your big brave thing in the “real world” that I am forever being told I can’t survive in. Hilarious. 

  15. Pat Gray at 10:28 am #

    Competitive capitalism exactly- said it yourself-Spot Coffee across from Starbucks -both brick and mortar. That’s level playing competition. Elmwood, Hertel, Allen, Lovejoy, Chippawa, Main St, Snyder, all competitve businesses up and down these areas- nobody bitchin-nobody cryin. Just swashbuckling our lives through the “real world”. You are a teacher being “hammered” by bussiness people telling you -you can’t survive? Doing what? Look who’s cryin now!


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