The more things change…

…the more people want it to be the same way it’s always been.

A restaurant – that I had never heard of until this story – is complaining to the City of Edmonton that the Drift food truck is hurting their business.

I posted a comment on the Edmonton Journal story, but the basic idea is that every industry fights to keep things status quo. We saw it with music and MP3s, movies and TV and streaming, news and the Internet, e-books and paper books. It’s always, always the same. Something new comes along and the fact that your business model isn’t working for people anymore, or your product or service isn’t top-notch, is never to blame. It’s always some new jerk’s fault.

If Grandma Lee’s Bakery Cafe finds its lunchtime crowd is smaller when Drift is out on 108 Street the problem isn’t that Drift doesn’t pay property taxes. The problem for Grandma Lee’s is that people prefer Drift’s food. (Which isn’t bargain basement because of their lack of property taxes. A sandwich and the best fries in the city will set you back $11.)

Bah!

p.s. I’m cool with the City breaking out some clearer rules for food trucks, but it better not be an effort to appease restaurant owners. The Next Act Pub and Battista’s Calzones are getting their own trucks for crying out loud!

My comment:

“e-books aren’t the same as real books…downloading MP3s is killing the music industry…

You’d think eventually an industry or business facing competition from the next evolution, or from innovation, would just accept that things change.

I’ve never heard of Grandma Lee’s Bakery Cafe but I’ve eaten at Drift many times. Best fries in Edmonton.

Food trucks do not take business away from restaurants. They ARE restaurants. If Grandma Lee’s business is suffering, it has nothing to do with Drift and everything to do with their menu, service, and operations. As with any business.

The idea that food trucks take money away from restaurants is rooted in people fighting to keep things the way they are and always have been. If I want to sit down for lunch, and spend more than $10, I’ll go to a restaurant. If I’m rushed, want something cheaper, or just want something new, I’ll hit up a food truck.

If Grandma Lee’s can’t pay their tax bill, it’s not a food truck’s fault.”

4 thoughts on “The more things change…”

  1. Grandma Lee may be complaining about kids on their lawn but it shouldn’t dissuade the larger discussion on Food Truck Bylaws and food service competitiveness issues.

    Restaurants are required to meet certain standards on table spacing, parking and restrooms that substantially increase their initial capital and operating costs. While food trucks have their own cost and bylaw issues they also have some distinct advantages in this regard. They are restaurants, as you say, but they are not subject to all of the rules of restaurants.

    Further, the establishment of a common stop for extended periods of time in one location effectively gives food trucks a comparative rent holiday subject to location costs/benefits. I have heard of other cities establishing bylaws on the amount of time on a single stop and days in the same location…maybe that is something needed.

    If a ‘truck’ becomes a semi-permanent fixture in a location they aren’t necessarily a mobile food operator. They just aren’t bound by walls.

    Fix the bylaws and put all on the same playing field. And at the end of the day – I will chose to spend my money on what gives me best value for money.

  2. Yes, the larger question of restaurant, food truck, and business bylaws, licences, and taxes is likely needed.

    I don’t exactly agree with the idea that food trucks are living life rent or tax free. They pay to use kitchens for prep, pay for fuel, pay licensing and inspection fees, and while the idea of being mobile or on the street could be appealing, it also means there’s more chance people don’t know where you are or you suffer in bad weather. That also means, as a customer, I’ve got to figure out my own washroom and seating arrangement if I’m heading to a food truck for lunch.

    But once rules are settled at City Hall, your last sentence nails it. It will, ultimately be about the best food, service, and customer experience.

  3. Jeff,

    I did not mean to suggest that food trucks are rent free or tax free. More that they recieve certain benefits from not being in a ‘four walled environment’.

    While I also agree that foul weather is a large deterent to food trucks it also is to many ‘traditional’ food service providers in the downtown that are not tied to the pedways.

    My feelings are that Foodtruck bylaws should be carefully crafted and at the same time ‘traditional’ food services regulations and bylaws should be re-evaluated. I would love to see a proliferation of sidewalk cafe/decks, trucks, carts and even outdoor biffies in Edmontons future…

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