Last week I had the pleasure of witnessing the DC Mobile Food Vendors’ Association elect its board. A few members of DCMFVA reached out to me in December asking for regulatory advice. After some correspondence we decided that it would be helpful if I could speak to a few council offices and meet with the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA). Thanks to a generous sponsorship from Mobi Munch, I was able to make the trip.
The Gourmet Food Truck trend is sweeping the nation, unfortunately there are laws that have been in place for decades that aren’t designed for this new industry. For example; “the ice cream truck rule” in DC states that a food truck must be hailed and can only stay in one place as long as there are customers in line. This makes sense for ice cream trucks that service residential neighborhoods looking for kids because there is plenty of parking and they must move from place to place to find their next customer. Conversely, modern day food trucks service densely populated commercial areas that have more people at each stop and less places to park. It seems like a reasonable proposition to let them do their business in one place, even if they get a lull in traffic.
My purpose for attending the meetings was to give some background on Los Angeles area regulations. There are 88 cities in the County of Los Angeles and every municipality has its own version of food truck regulations. The council offices and the DCRA were very receptive to my input and seemed to appreciate the Los Angeles perspective. As usual, I was advocating for fair and equitable regulations that enhance public safety. Food truck regulations in California must have a reasonable connection to public safety in order to be valid. Regulations that are enacted to protect one industry (or business) over another are prohibited by California code and recent case law.
The newly elected board of the DC Mobile Food Vendors Association includes Kristi Whitfield (executive director) of Curbside Cupcakes. Justin Vitarello (assistant director) of Fojols and Mike Lenard (assistant director)of DC Street food. The group is at the beginning of an uphill battle. Local (well-funded) special interest groups are lobbying very hard for new regulations that would make it nearly impossible for these small businesses to survive let alone thrive. Luckily the plight of the DC food trucks has caught the eye of some local talent that have offered up pro bono services to help the cause. I’m confident that this organization will do great things for the mobile food industry in DC.
As the food truck revolution spreads across the nation, it’s important for everyone to get organized. I’m doing my best to reach out to trucks nationwide to answer questions and provide assistance in forming associations. I’ve partnered with Mobi Munch, Inc. (mobimunch.com), the nation’s first turnkey mobile food service platform provider supporting new and existing food truck entrepreneurs. They understand the importance of advocacy in this business and have generously offered to sponsor my trips to cities with trucks that need help.