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Immigrants and Entrepreneurs: The Food Truck Business

June 8, 2014
Plain English Version

food truckMobile food trucks are springing up all over the country. Immigrants are using them to sell traditional foods such as tacos and pupusas. Former Wall Street executives are driving trucks selling lobster rolls and Vietnamese iced teas. Others are still selling ice cream and hot dogs.

The industry is now taking off. It is much easier to outfit a truck than it is to open a restaurant. It costs less. It can be easier to go to customers than to wait for them to come to you.

Challenges and opportunities come with growth.food truck 1

Challenges come from the need to update local laws on health and sanitation.  The first job is to help cities update their codes on mobile food trucks. Restrictions on parking, bathrooms and sanitary systems have to be modified. Vendors have to follow rules on how to treat waste water.

A California lawyer is organizing the vendors into associations. Codes and practices are changing, with big cities such as Los Angeles, showing the way.

food truck2Another challenge is to prevent restaurants from restricting the growing number of vendors. Competition is the American way.

There are cultural differences among the players. Big money is coming into the new high cuisine trucks. For example, a California investment banker had a “change of heart” and started his own food truck business. His food truck will sell “croquet monsieur” (a grilled ham and cheese sandwich).

Immigrant vendors selling mostly Latino food want to make sure they are included in discussions about the future of mobile food trucks. Ice cream and hot dog vendors are usually left out.

In big cities the political strength of the vendors is growing. The goal is to modify local laws so that they help and not hinder the growth of the mobile food truck industry.

Source: The New York Times May 27, 2014

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