What the Truck? Do the Food Trucks Hurt Local Restaurants?

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Today one of my readers asked the following:
Do you think that the crazy amount of food trucks we have here this summer has maybe affected the local restaurants? Maybe the town should look at how many food truck licenses they are handing out each summer? What do you think?

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Food trucks are part of summer, and no matter how hard you argue they offer a different service.  Of course a food truck can cost a fraction of what a brick and mortar place costs. But, they also have overhead costs. Try and comply with  a Health Unit inspection in 100 square feet. Then there are the generators, permits, appliances, fridges etc and not many cheap and easy ways to handle and prep food. Of course, it’s a lot easier to make a living selling nothing but fries when you don’t have to cover the overhead of a building first.

Most of the food trucks have a steady traffic for lunch, which puts them at odds with the restaurants because they feel it drains away the lunch crowd. Some restaurant owners, on the other hand, are split. A few are defensive and annoyed by the incursion of food trucks into “their markets,” but just as many appeared to be really interested in the trucks as the advent of another food revolution. Some are even actively pursuing the concept themselves – thinking of a food truck as either an option to expand their existing brand and customer base or even a next step after the restaurant for him.

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Maybe this is a moot point, but in Carleton Place this particular issue is real. Have you ever thought how much more handicap accessible food trucks are than restaurants? This is versus fighting doors on so called “accessible” restaurants, with tables that do not work for a chair, aisles that are often too small, and wait staff that do not understand that handicapped people don’t move as fast as they do. How many handicapped accessible places do you have on Bridge Street? Think about it. Because the buildings are older they don’t fall into the same laws as newer buildings. Is that a reason to ignore it?

No matter what business you open there is going to be competition. Unfortunately it’s a crucial aspect of capitalism, and it forces other businesses to either step up their game and compete, or be rendered into obsolescence by consumers.

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This year there are three chip trucks missing in town. One on Lake Ave East, one in front of Giant Tiger, and one on Townline. There presently are 4 in town, and correct me if I am wrong, and three on the highway. I think parking your food truck directly outside a restaurant is rather rude, but we don’t have that issue in Carleton Place. The last food truck that was told to move was Mike Modowan on Bridge Street a zillion years ago. Did he ruin Bridge Street businesses? People need to understand that business is about taking risks and being dynamic and seizing opportunities.

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The facts are that businesses exist. A new business comes along who does things differently and appears to be making money. The existing older business thinks to itself that maybe they should try it too, maybe try to up their game. Instead, and I was a guilty party when I had my business, they just complain about it. This scenario repeats itself in every field you can think of.

Businesses don’t need to protected, they need to be innovative. There needs to be more of an effort by the powers to be to attract people downtown so everyone can share in what we have. Any business who feels threatened by something should probably look at themselves first and think about why they feel that way. If your store stocks great and reasonably priced goods, your customers will not abandon you. If you’re a restaurant and you are scared of a food truck, step up your game and give your clients a reason to walk to your food business instead of the food truck.

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Our issue downtown is three fold. Lack of innovation, vision and participation. We as the local consumer are also guilty and never take a moment to look around and see what a wonderful town we live in. Stop, and smell the roses. Try parking further than the next available spot, walk and look and enjoy for once. Maybe you’ll notice a few more things along the way. That would be a start.

Buy Linda Secaspina’s Books— Flashbacks of Little Miss Flash Cadilac– Tilting the Kilt-Vintage Whispers of Carleton Place and 4 others on Amazon or Amazon Canada or Wisteria at 62 Bridge Street in Carleton Place

About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

6 responses »

  1. Food trucks certainly fill a void. If the food vendor has a good product at a reasonable price then they will ultimately end up with a customer following. If not, they will have to move on like gypsies to another area. The best crab cakes I ever had came off of a food truck in Baltimore, Maryland. They were, at minimum, $6.00 per crab cake cheaper than a restaurant. I didn’t have to wait, put up with poor service, deal with a waitstaff that has an attitude or leave a tip. It was awesome!

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  2. I believe every business has a great shot and success and a following if they provide what the area is looking for. However, being a former owner of restaurants, I do believe a market can be too saturated, especially if the area is not promoted or supported heavily. This town does support the restaurants, in my personal opinion and if happy, return and even follow you on your new ventures.(thanks C.P’ers, Terry and I loved serving you all the years we did) We have watched many of the businesses open and have success, only to close doors a few years on. A super saturated market can affect all businesses, the good and bad. When each establishment takes a percentage of the business and no one does exceptionally well if there are too many and this does not reflect on our supporters either as They are out there, spending their hard earned money and trying to support so many restaurants. The Moose for wings, Hing Wah for take out, Mr. Mozzerella for a pizza, the Thruway for breakfast…….the list goes on and as a longtime member of the community, I see everyone out there supporting, as I am with my family. There should be a cap on how many of a style of business are permitted in a town. This will be echoed by the hairdressing shops and spas among other things. To defend trying to even be unique, as our town feels would build better business and traffic, you can’t stay if you can’t compete, even if you have the right stuff.

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    • Shannon I have heard so many times that if you and Terry had a hard time then no one can do it—and that is a scary thing to hear — But I do agree there should not be a mountain of the same thing- does not make sense at all. HUGGG

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