Food Truck Bans: Good or Bad for Business?

Sarah's Cake Stop mobile cupcake truck in downtown St. Louis on Valentine's Day. Credit Christopher Reilly

By Kurt Greenbaum | PATCH

Sarah’s Cake Stop mobile cupcake truck in downtown St. Louis on Valentine’s Day. Credit Christopher Reilly

Regulators have discussed bans on them for “cannibalizing” local businesses. But is that anti-competitive?

It’s happened most recently in Maplewood, where city leaders have discussed possible restrictions on where food trucks can operate — or even if they can operate in the city at all.

Council members have said the trucks could cannibalize the existing brick-and-mortar businesses in the area. The city hasn’t yet made a decision on the issue.

Eureka bans the practice, which also came to light again several months ago when a Chesterfield cupcake maker tried to operate in the area and generated Facebook buzz when it didn’t happen.

The Show-Me Institute has campaigned in its writings against the bans on food trucks, which it says are anti-competitive. In a recent post on the Maplewood situation, the authors said a move to ban food trucks would “limit competition in the food service business.” (That post incorrectly stated that the city had voted on the ban.)

Food trucks seems to be all the rage in other parts of the country, enough to support television shows such as The Great Food Truck Race and Eat Street.

Is it legitimate to be concerned for restaurants that invest in property and set up shop in a community? Or should they have to compete with mobil food trucks? Is this a free-market issue?