Ever wondered why, with the New York food scene what it is, there's still so many more dirty water hot dog stands and Good Humor carts and pretzel vendors than there are food trucks? Ever asked if there should be "four Wafels & Dinges trucks for every hot-dog cart?" The New York Times Magazine is on it, looking at the "numerous (and sometimes conflicting) regulations" from several different city departments, all of which are enforced "with varying consistency" often at the expense of immigrants or others who have trouble navigating the dizzying array of permits and licenses.
And then there's this thing called an "authorized commissary," which sounds like it totally shouldn't be legal but apparently is:
By city law, every food cart and truck must visit a licensed commissary each day, where a set of mandated cleaning services can be performed. These commissaries also sell and rent carts and sell vendors food, soda, ice cream and propane. Rigie told me that many commissary owners make a bit extra by acting as informal brokers, facilitating the not-quite-legal trade of permits, which, by some estimates, is a $15 million-a-year business. Given their city-mandated stream of business, these commissaries have essentially formed an oligopoly. As a result, they have little incentive to compete aggressively by offering different kinds of food. No wonder we have an oversupply of hot dogs and knishes and nowhere near enough waffles and falafels.
Writer Adam Davidson likens this to trying to start a business in some of the poorest and most corrupt countries in the world, but little can be done while a commissary owners and brick-and-mortar restaurant owners are incentivized to lobby against any changes. All of which raises the question, if this is the case, why would anyone open a food truck at all?
· The Food Truck Business Stinks [NYT Mag]
· All Coverage of Food Trucks [~ENY~]