By Robin Lawless | City Spoonful
Amid police crackdowns and cut-throat competition even hardboiled food truck vendors struggle to stay in business. So how does a food truck with a mission to serve food that inspires “peace and bliss” survive?
If you are Adam Sobel and you run the Cinnamon Snail, the tri-state area’s first full-service vegan food truck and a finalist for this weekend’s annual Vendy Awards, then you approach anyone giving you a hard time with compassion and try to figure out a harmonious solution.
When it comes to business ethics, Sobel, who spends 20-hour days in his Cinnamon Snail food truck serving up organic vegan fare, like grilled creole tofu subs and coconut milk crème brulee, is inspired more by his yoga teacher Sri Dharma Mittra than Donald Trump. The more carnivores and dairy eaters he feeds the better, as Sobel’s aim is to put a vegan restaurant on wheels and show people how “wonderful and flavorful non-violent food can be.”
Unfortunately, the yogic principles of patience, truthfulness, compassion and kindness will not get you a food truck permit in New York City. The city limits the amount of permits available to mobile vendors to just 3,000 for all five boroughs. That predicament has forced many street vendors to turn to the black market, where the coveted licenses can be bought for about $20,000 a piece.
To avoid the whole mess, Sobel initially chose to operate his food truck on the waterfront in neighboring Hoboken, N.J. But now he’s jumping into the city’s food-truck fray. His New York City permit is already in the works, and the Cinnamon Snail will likely be cruising city streets within the next six months.
Sobel plans to focus on neighborhoods where vegan food is in short supply, though he hasn’t set his sights on any particular areas yet.
“This is a great opportunity to go anywhere in the five boroughs and bring vegan food to as many communities as I can,” he says.
The hassle quotient my increase exponentially when he and his truck hit the city’s streets, but Sobel isn’t worried.
“I know that in New York, or anywhere else we operate, you have to fight for your right to do business,” he says. “You can choose to be down in the dumps about it, or you can make the best of your situation see it as an opportunity to become stronger and grow.”
Patience and positivity may not be common business tactics in a city where cut throat captains of industry rule, but so far it’s working for Sobel. He has built a thriving catering business, and a cookbook is in the works for next year.
And for the second year in a row, he is a finalist for a Vendy Award, the Oscar of the street-food world. Whether or not Cinnamon Snail wins the prize this year, one thing is certain: Eating ethically never tasted so good.