In response: “Food truck trial just won’t satisfy”

We are advocates for both the proposed October Food Truck Pilot Program and a revision of Greensboro’s restricting food truck ordinance.  We believe that they are a thoughtful and strategic pairing that will help the City Council make the best long term decision for our Center City. 
We hope that the City Council will support the resolution for a one-month pilot program allowing food trucks to operate on Commerce Place during the month of October.  This will allow the communtiy to test the pros and cons of food trucks in downtown for an ordinance revision. 
 
Currently, Downtown Greensboro Inc. is conducting a food truck survey that is  intended to guide the City’s revision of the food truck ordinance. This food truck survey will only collect data of the perceptions of the impact of food trucks. The proposed pilot program will test the reality of their impact.  
 
Marianne Legreco, a professor of Health Communications, Research and Food Policy at UNCG, has offered to provide observational and interview data collection during the pilot program. Marianne is already in the process of doing academic research on the impact of food trucks and her research will provide the data you need to make a longer term decision. 
Additionally, this pilot program aligns with the “Test Zones” or “Downtown Pop Ups” facilitated by the City of Greensboro, Downtown Greensboro Inc. and Action Greensboro – that will be voted on at tonight’s City Council meeting (#30 on Council Agenda). The proposed “Pop Up”s in downtown are also tests of Cooper Carry’s 2022 Downtown Greensboro Visioning recommendations – and food trucks we’re also one of the recommended efforts to to promote downtown Greensboro as a vital economic and entertainment hub for the City. If we are testing busking, street art, romantic lighting and street closures – why not test food trucks along with the other recommendations?
In the proposed controlled setting, we believe the short term research collection benefits of the pilot program outweigh rush to the revision process.

Editorial: Food truck trial just won’t satisfy TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 4, 2012 

Would City Council members order sandwiches before their meeting this evening but only eat a bite?

That would be ridiculous. But not much more ridiculous than allowing a one-month test run for food trucks on one short street downtown.

Such a tepid response to a demand for more meal choices just won’t satisfy the appetite.

Certainly, any positive response is better than none. The council made a mistake last year when it barred “motorized mobile food vendors” from downtown. At least its definition of downtown was narrower than most people’s idea, excluding areas south of the railroad tracks, for example. Still, why the prohibition at all? The only reason was to protect established restaurants from competition.

That’s understandable but misguided. Everyone wants downtown restaurants to succeed. They draw people to the center city and, in many cases, offer a first-rate dining experience. Furthermore, they’re good employers and taxpayers. And they struggle to make a profit, especially in a poor economy when so many eating options already exist. Why add more?

But the point is that the city shouldn’t add to or subtract from available dining options. It should not protect one kind of business by banning another. While zoning ordinances can and should be used to determine the proper locations for some kinds of businesses, there’s no valid reason to conclude that food trucks are inappropriate throughout the downtown area. Many other cities allow them without harming residents or visitors.

So the council should revise its ordinance to open much greater parts of the center city to this form of food enterprise. There’s no need for a test run in a limited area (Commerce Street has been mentioned). Doing that only raises questions with no good answers: What would constitute passing or failing the test? Would it be too little business for the mobile food vendors, or too much? Does a one-month trial period constitute a true test? Is it fair to the vendors to confine them in one small area?

The better test is the test of the free market. The council should open more areas of downtown — excluding locations that simply don’t have room for food trucks to park — and let the public decide which businesses do well and which don’t.

As we’ve said before, established restaurants and mobile food vendors don’t always vie for the same customers, at least not at the same time. When diners want to enjoy a sit-down meal in an air-conditioned or heated environment, they don’t go to a food truck. But they might buy lunch from a food truck instead of leaving downtown to visit a fast-food drive-through.

The City Council will simply postpone a real decision if it approves a short-term trial run for food trucks downtown. Taking one bite from a sandwich doesn’t satisfy the appetite. On the contrary, it means the council will have to go back for more. 

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