Mobile food pods are becoming an important consideration in the growth of street food popularity across America because of their low cost ability revitalize neighborhoods.
A mobile food truck court at Nathan Phillips Square in downtown Toronto.
1. Economic vitality. The experience of other cities shows that food vendors attract foot traffic to commercial districts – which means increased sales and a more vibrant retail business overall. By offering low-cost, culturally diverse foods for people on the go, they typically complement – rather than compete – with sit-down restaurants and give people more reasons to frequent local shopping districts.
2. Festive, pedestrian-friendly streets. Food vendors bring positive activity to the street and add a festive, people-oriented feel that improves public safety. In many cities, food vendors provide a window into many diverse cultures, introducing people to new foods and to the pleasures of spending time in the public space of the city.
3. An entry point to owning your own business. Food vending can be an ideal first business. For a modest investment, it helps an entrepreneur develop a track record and build loyal clientele. For many immigrant and refugee communities, food vending offers a point of entry to the economy and a way to learn the food service industry.
In a recent survey, 58% of business owners in downtown Portland, Oregon-which is known for its vibrant street food scene-found food vendors increased foot traffic, and 66% of business owners citywide had a positive perception of food vendors.
Should brick and mortar businesses be that concerned with mobile food trucks?
Some argue that these vendors have lower overhead and thereby can ?steal? business away by undercutting them. This may be a competitive advantage, but a bricks and mortar restaurant may have a competitive advantage by having bathrooms, indoor dining, table service, air conditioning, or other services. But there do appear to be cases where a consumer may indeed pick a mobile food vendor solely based on price, but that alone may or may not justify restricting mobile food vendors.
With a downtown core that’s dominated with underutilized surface parking lots, empty streets and sidewalks, introducing new concepts like gourmet food lots in select locations could be an affordable and quick solution to promote revitalization.
What do you see as the pros and cons of modifying public policy to allow for this industry to grow? Would you like to see food trucks in downtown? Do you think they would detract from sit down restaurant business? Tell us your thoughts!
For more information:
Food Cartology – Rethinking Urban Spaces as People Places