Street Food Vending: The New Frontier for Entrepreneurs to Revitalize Downtowns


Santa Cruz, CA – Every morning, a diverse array of pushcarts, food trucks and vendors assemble on the streets, sidewalks and parking lots of almost every metropolitan area in North America. Passersby flock to the fresh aroma of hot dogs, BBQ, cupcakes, tacos and exotic culinary options from vendors’ countries of origin. The prospect of a unique, inexpensive meal or snack is changing the face of public space in urban downtowns.

The Responsible Hospitality Institute (RHI)’s Sociable City Live Webinar discussion on May 10th, 2011 will feature the expertise of four street vendor advocates on best practices and legislative systems to support vendors’ sustainability. Hailing from cities across the U.S. and Canada, guest speakers will shed light on the social and economic value of the street vendor industry, including business incubation.

“Entrepreneurs from all cultural backgrounds view mobile vending as a viable way to move up the chain of command. They can test new products and get feedback at a lower price point and with less risk than starting up a new business,” states Kelley Roy, co-author of Cartopia: Portland’s Food Cart Revolution.

The growth of street vendors has created a cult following that benefits the public spaces that feature them. “Vendors drive foot traffic, revitalize downtowns and have even stopped acts of terrorism in Times Square. The positive impact that vendors have in the community is undeniable,” comments Sean Basinski, Director, Street Vendor Project – Urban Justice Center.

Despite their popularity, misconceptions prevail in public policy towards vendors. Often considered a nuisance, health hazard, or competition to brick and mortar businesses, vendors face steep fines, fees and penalties. Regulations are confusing and enforcement can be arbitrary. In recognition of their role in revitalizing public space and enhancing street life, policymakers are overhauling legislation to support vendors. Organizations have formed to help vendors navigate permitting and remain in compliance with regulations for trash disposal, health standards, and clear pedestrian pathways.

With the right tools and support systems, vendors can be an asset to sociable cities and hospitality zones.

Speakers represent the following cities and perspectives:
-New York, NY: Sean Basinski, Director, Street Vendor Project– Urban Justice Center
-Portland, OR: Kelly Rodgers and Kelley Roy, Authors, Cartopia: Portland’s Food Cart Revolution
-Toronto, ON: Marianne Moroney, Executive Director, Street Food Vendors Association

This webinar discussion will be hosted and moderated by the Responsible Hospitality Institute (RHI). RHI is a non-profit organization that assists communities to create safe and vibrant places to socialize.

Access more information on this street vendor best practices webinar. Members of the Sociable City Network attend for free. Non-members register at $35.

Presented through support provided by Diageo, Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America, Distilled Spirits Council of the United States and National Beer Wholesalers Association.

The Responsible Hospitality Institute (RHI) is a California based non-profit organization providing technical assistance that builds local capacity, incubates and shares cutting-edge information and proven strategies, and links a broad-based network of professionals who plan, manage and police dining and entertainment districts. More information is available at or 831.469.3396.