Traverse City Record-Eagle

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May 24, 2014

Another View: Food truck economy an opportunity to grow

Food trucks are not an uncommon sight in northern Michigan. Every fruit-, stone- or sunset-inspired festival or fair burgeons with food vendors who show up to peer outside their windows and peddle burgers and hot dogs, popcorn and sweet treats — all from the confines of a food truck.

Now it seems more and more folks want to operate such food trucks outside typical celebration times and it’s spurred some community discussions about whether that idea is appropriate. Should these trucks be allowed to operate outside of festivals? How about where can they set up shop — or, truck? And if allowed, what kind of restrictions are reasonable and fair?

There seems little legitimate reason to hamper these business start-ups — particularly in this northern Michigan economy still struggling with impacts of the Great Recession — when the area could use all the economic development that organically comes along. In fact, there are several reasons why these food truck vendors should be welcomed into our communities.

Food trucks and traditional restaurants maintain different customers, for starters. Those looking for nice ambiance, with a sit down menu to peruse and a warm, accommodating service experience, should seek out nice restaurants for a meal. That’s the traditional fine-dining model.

However, those who are instead pressed for time, on the move, dressed inappropriately or simply craving something more along the lines of hand-held festival fare, are far less apt to wait around for an open table. Also, price ranges also tend to be lower for food trucks and contrarily, more elevated for restaurants. The food generally is less expensive than at restaurants, the wait times are shorter and if a mobile food truck weren’t available, these customers are the type to just go on home to make dinner, rather than asking a hostess to add their party to the waiting list.

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