Restaurant Critics Slam Food Trucks
'Gourmet' Insults Trucks
Published: Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
Famed New England restaurant review television program, Phantom Gourmet, recently pledged its alliance to brick and mortar restaurants in their ongoing battle with food trucks. Food trucks are found throughout 20 major Boston locations, including Back Bay, Cleveland Circle, and the campus of Boston University. Many argue that food trucks attribute a vital vibrancy to the city’s economy, but the issue driving the current debate is more geographical—should food trucks be allowed to operate alongside stationary eateries and threaten pre-existing businesses?
David Andelman, president of the Restaurant and Business Alliance and CEO of Phantom Gourmet, Inc., proposed that food trucks should maintain a distance of 1,000 feet from all brick and mortar restaurants (500 feet in highly congested areas), and that food trucks should open business at events like the SoWa Open Market and in large, open areas like the Boston Common. His campaign against food trucks gained momentum one month ago when Alan Costello, owner of two popular Boston sub shops, appeared on Andelman’s radio show to voice his disgust with Dewey Square food trucks. In Andelman’s in-depth letter in the Somerville Patch, “Serving Up Sensible Policy on Food Trucks,” he fights for tighter restrictions on these mobile meal makers. According to him, food trucks are afforded with excessive freedoms in an extremely competitive market: “Because they don’t build a store, pay rent other than a nominal fee such as $50 per day, or hire many employees, the trucks sell food for significantly less than the restaurants.” Since food trucks are a fresh addition to the market, restaurants that have already signed long-term leases are suffering heavy income losses and can no longer afford rent. Andelman has taken on a role that is all too apparent in modern day politics—the defender of the middle class businessman. He speaks of our country’s hard workers that invest their life savings in a business that is destined for failure as a result of unfair competition.
On the other side of the debate, food trucks are expressing their contempt for Andelman’s exaggerated criticisms that overlook the struggles they constantly face. They have had to start an entirely new business from the ground up, and are still battling with strict permit limitations and common prejudices. As stated by Staff Meal food truck owners Adam Gendreau and Patrick Gilmartin, restaurants have a much higher chance of establishing a reputation and a strong customer base in the industry: “Brick and mortars have the ability to stock and sell more food than a truck does, and keep that up for a longer period of time … The City also forces us to change our schedules every year, so we never can bank on a constant stream of revenue from year-to-year. We never know what the next year holds for us.” Several owners of popular food trucks like Bon Me are planning to open restaurants of their own, further emphasizing the power brick and mortars possess. After appearing on Phantom Gourmet and dismissing the alleged misinformation put forth by the Andelman brothers, Gendreau and Gilmartin expressed their distaste of the Andelmans on Instagram.
Food trucks are fighting bad stigma by highlighting their quality and work ethic. Straight from New York City, The Taco Truck made its splash on the food truck scene this summer. Public relations and marketing representative Rina Peselman describes the truck as “eco-friendly, authentic Mexican fare that is committed to sustainability.” Trucks are attempting to overturn any bad publicity and maintain steady customer bases. As the Andelmans’ heated crusade against food trucks continues, Mayor Thomas M. Menino and the city of Boston will soon be forced to enforce regulations in favor of one side of the debate. n