Food truck owners to restaurateurs: Blame yourself, not our trucks, for business problems

Categories: Food Fight

Barrio Food Truck.jpg
Barrio Restaurant Group think it's easy for restaurateurs to blame food trucks for their problems.
Local food truck vendors are striking back at the suggestion that their trucks are eating local restaurants' profits.

"I think in a downward economy we blame everybody but ourselves as restaurants," says Saffron chef Sameh Wadi, who also runs the World Street Kitchen food truck. "The people that are going to eat at my food truck on a daily basis are not going to eat at my restaurant every day."

Barrio Restaurant Group executive chef and vice president Bill Fairbanks echoes Wadi.

"When times get tough, I do know it's easy to blame somebody else for the way things are going," he says. But Barrio, he points out, owns restaurants in several neighborhoods with a large number of food trucks and they haven't seen any damage to their bottom line.

"We have a bunch of food trucks that park by our restaurant in Lowertown and Nicollet Mall every day, and we've personally not seen food trucks affect business," he tells City Pages.

The point of food trucks, Fairbanks explains, is to offer a different experience to consumers than traditional restaurants.

"I think a lot of the guests that you see at the food truck on a daily basis aren't necessarily people who are looking for a full dining experience or have the time to have lunch in a brick-and-mortar restaurant," he says. Fairbanks points out Barrio has food trucks of its own, which serve burritos even though their restaurant does not.

"Burritos are quintessential street food," he explains.

Chef Sameh.jpg
Sameh Wadi thinks food trucks are a boon for everyone.
Wadi scoffs at the notion that food trucks compete with restaurants.

"You're offering so much more as a restaurant than the so-called competitor that's a food truck," Wadi says. No one sees a food truck and decides to drop a reservation, he adds.

Both Wadi and Fairbanks think trucks compete with one another for customers who want something cheap off the street or who would otherwise bring a bag lunch. Wadi thinks that the presence of food trucks is ultimately positive for everyone.

"If I'm saying, 'I want to go eat outside today. The food truck usually parks here,' and they're not here today, I'm going to eat at the other place."

The controversy was sparked by the Pioneer Press, which ran an article Monday morning quoting several restaurateurs criticizing food trucks for taking away their business.

For his part, Fairbanks thinks there's enough room for everybody in town.

"If you put out a product people respect," he says, "you're going to get business."

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St. Paul restaurant owners say food trucks are eating profits
Street food vending ordinance before Minneapolis City Council

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Lone Mountain Truck Leasing
Lone Mountain Truck Leasing

Being industrious means being able to get as plenty of orders as you can from the offices that are situated at places where your food van will pass on.

Guest
Guest

Thank you so much for this! I havent been this moved by a blog for a long period of time! You have got it, whatever that means in blogging. Anyway, You are certainly someone that has something to say that people need to hear. Keep up the outstanding job. Keep on inspiring the people!

Jason Dorweiler
Jason Dorweiler

I think the food truck craze is just a trend, another thing that touches the coast and makes it inward. I personally don't believe it will last. There are just to many of them and not enough market to keep them going.

Will
Will

It might feel like a craze or trend here, but the movement has been going strong across the country in other cities for over ten years. Food trucks very popular back about 30-40 years ago, but lack of regulation and people getting sick from those old trucks killed the business. That's why they used to be referred to as roach coaches. Even I got food posioning from one back in the day in San Diego.

The new trucks are as clean as most commercial kitchens (way cleaner than most people's home kitchens too) and with the focus on a lot of them being on fresh & local sourced ingredients, I'd like to say that the roach coach is officially a thing of the past - and it can stay there.

The new food trucks rock & they are here to stay.

WhoisCeelo
WhoisCeelo

Yes and no. The heavy hitter food trucks I know have said they really on zero in on the lunch crowd for primary income and most of them have other jobs catering/restaurant outside the summer season.  You'll be surprised how much demand there is for quick fast cheap lunch in Downtown Minneapolis, the popular skyway places are always filled to the max within a one hour period.  

Dtmplsguy
Dtmplsguy

As much as I enjoy the food trucks, they are sidestepping the point in this article.  They aren't competition for a sit-down restaurant like Restaurant Max, but they are competition for skyway take-out restaurants like Good To Go.

Guest
Guest

This seems closer to correct.  But the original article with complaints about food trucks quoted mostly sit-down places instead of a jimmy john's or quick to go places, which probably accounts for that focus in this article.

Guest
Guest

The article also misses the point about how the trucks might be abusing the rules, about how long they park, and run generators.

Will
Will

You make a valid point - the truck should abide by the rules, follow the parking limitations. As to the generators, not sure what the laws says about that, but the customers might not like it and then choose not to come back. I love eating at the trucks myself.

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