Why Food Trucks Are Good for Jacksonville:
I’m responding to an article in the November 25th issue of The Beaches Leader entitled: “Jax Beach boots outdoor food vendor from privately-owned shopping center.”
My name is Chris Dickerson and I am currently renovating a 1965 Airstream into a food truck, which will operate under the name “Corner Taco.” I believe that food trucks give Jacksonvillians more choice and will help to lower the price that we pay at local restaurants.
What makes the American economy the most powerful economy in the world? In essence, our economy is a Meritocracy. Ordinary Americans like you and me are rewarded for coming up with a product or service that’s better than the competition. We are constantly competing to improve our offerings—through lowering the cost, improving the experience, or helping customers to save time. A lack of competition stifles innovation and keeps prices inflated.
The best businesses maintain their ability to charge higher prices because their products/services are better, not because of laws stifling others from entering the marketplace to compete.
Restaurants should compete in Jacksonville in the same way. Any legislation limiting food trucks in Jacksonville subsidizes mediocrity.
Some say that food trucks have an unfair cost advantage? It is true that a food truck costs less to start than a brick-and-mortar restaurant. According to an industry survey conducted by Restaurantowner.com, the median build-out of a restaurant (excluding land) costs $275,000. The cost of a Food truck ranges from $10,000 to over $100,000. A food truck definitely costs less.
Should only those with $275,000 be allowed to start a restaurant? Banks are much more reluctant to lend money for restaurant start-ups now than they were before 2008, so it takes more money up front than it used to.
What is more American than to scrape together all that you have and fund your dream with little more than a mixture of passion, drive, courage and experience?
Similar arguments were made regarding internet commerce. How many of us see the value in having movies delivered directly to our door? No more late fees, long lines or hassles. We now download music instantly, with the choice to buy 1 song or the album. Did you know that e-commerce was banned until 1991? According to Nielsen, 94% of Americans with internet access today have shopped online.
Are food trucks much different?
Food trucks are restaurants opened on a lower budget. We should and do pay taxes. We have the same safety inspections that restaurants have. My food truck has the same expensive exhaust hood and fire safety system as a restaurant. I have the same 3 compartment sink. All of my equipment was purchased from the same local restaurant supply store that many local restaurants use. In fact, the local store lowered my price because of a competitor on the internet.
Food trucks, however, are not able to provide the same experience as a traditional restaurant. We have no seating, therefore, cannot create the same ambiance and are much more weather dependent. We are not allowed to serve alcohol. I personally have never gone to a restaurant, coffee shop or store only because it had the lowest price. Would convenience stores be so omni-present if we only valued price? Price is what you pay, value is what you get.
It’s true that food trucks pay little or no rent, but isn’t the same true about internet-based companies? An integral part of what gives us--the customer-- greater value is competition.
To restaurant owners who say food trucks are taking their customers: If your customers leave only because a food truck offers lower prices, then they were never your customers in the first place. If food trucks are so inexpensive, why don’t you join us? We would welcome you. Perhaps you would find the operating of a food truck a great way to take your brand to others who might not come to you.
I intend to compete by offering the best possible value that I can. I will try to distinguish myself by making fresh tortillas on the truck. I’ll handcraft my tacos and sauces with ingredients that you can pronounce. I am developing relationships with local farmers and purveyors to try to source the best ingredients. I spent months searching the country for a vintage Airstream in pristine condition because it is distinct. I spent several more months working with a local Craftsman to build it into a one-of-a-kind. If this doesn’t work, I’ll keep competing until it does.
A guest’s patronage is a privilege not an entitlement. Food trucks are America.