Matt Chandler: Don’t Legalize the #BUFTruck

2 Nov

When last we Fisked a column by Matt Chandler of Buffalo Business First, he was busy imploring all the mean people to stop being mean to kind old racist Carl Paladino. Today, he publishes an article that is supportive of the food trucks in Buffalo, but then essentially asks the Common Council to stop crafting legislation that would legalize their operation.

As it stands now, the food trucks operate essentially as outlaws. They can sell food in the city so long as no one complains. But if someone does complain, there are no rules in place to protect anybody, and the trucks get chased away by the police. Trucks are permitted to operate on private property with permission, or along Buffalo Place in the central business district with a permit.

So, Chandler is exactly correct when he writes,

The argument is that trucks can park outside and siphon business away from bricks-and-mortar restaurants. The problem with that argument is simple: Ask people how they decide where to eat lunch and they’ll usually list a combination of the following: Who has the best food? Who has the fastest service? And who is most affordable?

It doesn’t matter if you are slinging dogs out of a cart, tacos from a truck or sandwiches out of a building, those factors drive customers.

The food trucks are simply another form of business competition, and competition is good.

If traditional restaurants are threatened, it should drive them to improve their product, deliver it with more efficiency and stay competitive in their pricing. At the end of the day, the customer wins.

But then, noting that the Common Council had tabled (again) proposed regulations, he asks them to leave it there. This completely ignores the fact that it’s the food trucks who are helping drive the debate on setting rules and regulations so that they are permitted to operate in the city without fear of being chased away arbitrarily and capriciously. Regulation is not a bad word when it protects the competing rights of mobile and stationary businesses to be treated fairly.

Currently, the proposals from the trucks and the brick & mortars are largely similar. Some differences exist – for instance, the trucks want a 200′ radius from the front doors of open kitchens, while the restaurants want the radius to emanate from the walls of any such restaurant, not just the front door. The restaurants want the city to set up special vending districts in city lots, and the trucks oppose this. The restaurants want “tax parity”, which is somewhat ridiculous. This is why we have legislatures and courts. Now, the lobbying begins in earnest. We know what each side’s proposal is.

So, after mounting an eloquent defense of the food trucks, Chandler ends with this:

With buildings crumbling, houses abandoned, schools a mess and jobs evaporating daily, don’t our elected officials have more important things to devote their time to?

As for me. I’m going to file this blog, then finish eating the delicious turkey sandwich I bought from the brick-and-mortar deli located 25 feet from a food truck. They prepared it fast, charged a reasonable price and, most important, it is delicious.

I can’t really think of a more pressing issue for city government to take up than freeing up a new business sector to do business in the city.  I can’t think of something more important for the legislature of a poor city to do than to help enable an entire, brand-new sector of small businesses with comparatively low startup costs to legally operate in the city. The Common Council shouldn’t forever table this bill – on the contrary, it should act on it as soon as possible, and do so in such a way that we end the status quo, which is tantamount to illegal protectionism of restaurants.

I wonder what deli is located 25 feet from a food truck?

4 Responses to “Matt Chandler: Don’t Legalize the #BUFTruck”

  1. Brian Wood November 2, 2011 at 10:49 am #

    Why is the guy in the picture asking a large family of Irish to get a single brain?

  2. Roger That November 2, 2011 at 12:16 pm #

    I think I have an answer: Matt Chandler vs. Alan Bedenko in a food truck vs. brick-and-mortar restaurants debate. Lafayette Square at high noon on 11/11/11. Closest three hot dog vendors will serve as moderators/judges.

  3. RaChaCha November 3, 2011 at 12:49 am #

    He prolly got his sandwich from eCafe @ Main & Mohawk — they just moved a few buildings down from inside Lafayette Court where Buffalo Business First lives. Interesting that Shawn of eCafe didn’t see a food truck as any threat to his business — given that he moved it *closer* to a regular food truck vending spot. During the preservation conference, I was there with David Steele, and both eCafe and Lloyd’s taco truck were plenty busy.

    In fact, Lloyd’s has made Main & Mohawk into a lunchtime destination for many, and eCafe has smartly capitalized on that by enticing many who are walking by, drawing in those who can’t handle the line at the truck or who want to change it up by trying something different (and now, want to wait and eat indoors where it’s warmer). If the other B&M restaurants recognized and capitalized on that the same way, we wouldn’t be having this fight — and could return to enjoying the tasty lunch of our choice.

  4. Hank November 3, 2011 at 3:52 pm #

    Wait a minute—–It’s NOVEMBER, for Pete’s sake—And this bullshit is STILL going on?
    What the hell is going on in City Hall? No wonder the city is for crap.

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