On Competition and Food Trucks

Monday, history was made Downtown. That may be a stretch, but it was monumental for some – like the dozens of cube dwellers that lined up for fresh artisan tacos. Monday, Corner Taco, a local food truck set up shop on a city lot in the middle of a busy week day. While strict regulations exist with regards to mobile food vendors, food trucks are thriving Downtown.. As part owner of a restaurant Downtown, I welcome and encourage the success of food trucks.  This is why:

1. They are trendy. Hundreds, maybe even thousands, come to truck rallies and events in the summer heat and rain. Food trucks attract more people to our urban core. When they are here, they see all the other cool things happening Downtown.

2.  Thousands of people work (me) and live (also me) Downtown, and want more options.

3. Downtown encompasses a large area and there are lots of opportunities to serve residents, employees and visitors in many different locations.

4. The City, including the administration and parking officials are really working to help navigate regulations and create opportunities. That is why Monday, in my opinion, was so significant. It was the direct result of the City Parking Department finding a way to make that opportunity happen.

5. Advocacy matters. Mike Field and Caron Streibich are the pied pipers of trucks. They actively promote food trucks. When those trucks are Downtown, they are actively promoting Downtown.  

6. The natural advantage of being able to pick your location. Food trucks aren’t a sure thing, and they can be as expensive as a restaurant to set up (especially with Downtown rents as low as they have ever been! zing), but one has to admire anyone who gets to pick their 3 biggest things in real estate every day (location, location, location).

So what does this have to do with competition? Well for one, I am part owner of a retailer who sells tacos one and half blocks from this taco truck. I support legal small businesses to operate Downtown. I support more options Downtown. I support more things to do Downtown. My partners set up a massive food truck rally in our parking lot for example. We did very well that day. And that is the point.

When a local restaurant group approached that same partnership to rent our upstairs for the best thai restaurant in town, we thought about it and knew in the long run that, what is good for Downtown is good for us. Now when there are waits upstairs we get overflow customers, and we haven’t missed a beat.

When competition and challenges come in the first thing you may think of is a strategy to keep them out. It’s not like that Downtown. We’re different. We welcome new business and don’t (in my opinion) try to hurt someone’s chances to operate. It’s not always easy, mostly the challenges don’t stop coming. But you have to up your gameto meet those challenges and you’ve got to always remember, a rising tide floats all boats.

As a funny anecdote to this rising tide, here is a little extra story. Our little burrito shop is one of the only local operators at EverBank Field. We read in the paper, like everyone else, that fans can now take food into the Jaguars games. Well great, was my first impression. But then I thought, if more families can go to games because the overall experience is less expensive and more enjoyable, then we’ll see more fans and generations of fans. If we see more fans, more people will see our brand and possibly try our food. In the long run – which is what all businesses should be -, you’ve got to look past short-term issues and challenges. When we work toward a bigger, better, more inclusive environment, we will become more profitable.

That is my take anyway.

Tony 

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