Portland, Maine recently hosted two food trucks as part of the Food network’s “Great Food Truck Race”, though both trucks had to be granted special temporary city ordinances in order to operate. Presently, Portland forbids food trucks and any other mobile vendors to operate within the city.
However, recent negotiations between the City Council may change this ordinance to allow food trucks to operate within Portland, though not without some serious restrictions. Under the proposed ordinance food trucks will only be able to operate within very limited spaces, and will be required to stay 200 feet away from any brick-and-mortar restaurant. Ultimately it will be very difficult for food trucks to find parking in commercial areas and be able to serve crowds.
Some food trucks may be able to sustain their businesses this way, but the vast majority will not be able to compete for parking spaces and thrive off of the meager customers they might attract. This new regulation is designed with the interests of restaurants in mind, and aims to protect them from increased food truck competition.
Councilor David Marshall essentially agreed that it would be difficult for food trucks to operate with this new ordinance. “I don’t expect to see a huge number of food trucks. It’s going to be a challenging business to operate.”
Portland City Council members are under the impression that restaurants have an inherent disadvantage to food trucks because of their lack of mobility, and thus the government is necessary to rectify these advantages. However restaurants have many advantages over food trucks as well. Restaurants have much bigger kitchens than food trucks, with bigger menus as well; they have more storage for inventory, proper seating areas for customers to dine-in, and the protection of a brick-and-mortar location to shield them from seasonal changes.
However the Portland government still seeks to protect restaurants from food trucks, rather than looking at successful food truck cities like Los Angeles, Austin and Washington D.C. In other cities food truck have not caused restaurants to go out of business, but rather improved the overall dining scene by urging restaurants to improve on their selections. There is also a large crossover between restaurant and food truck owners, as many successful food trucks establish brick-and-mortar locations, and many successful restaurants develop food trucks for marketing purposes.
Food trucks are doing what little they can to fight back against some of these ordinances, with federal courts becoming involved on occasion. Food trucks argue against protectionist laws that limit their ability to achieve success apart from arbitrary government influence. Although Portland has come a long way in simply allowing food trucks to operate within the city, they will fail to replicate the successful food truck models in other cities in which restaurants and food trucks coexist.
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