The evidence is in: food trucks do not hurt the restaurant industry. Data from IBISWorld, published in The Economist this week, showed large growth in the food truck and restaurant industries in cities with favorable mobile vending laws, like Portland, Oregon. Meanwhile, cities like New York and Chicago are cracking down on food trucks and hampering them with burdensome regulations.
According to data from IBISWorld, published in The Economist, Portland and Austin saw the number of food trucks increase between 2005 and 2016, from less than 1 in 100,000 per capita to more than 4 in 100,000 per capita. A common objection to allowing more food trucks is that the restaurant industry would suffer losses. However, IBISWorld found that in Portland and Austin, the number of restaurants actually increased from 2010 to 2016 by more than 15 percent.
While Portland experienced large growth, New York City continued to hamper the mobile food vending industry. From 2005 to 2016, the number of food trucks in New York City grew to only around 1 in 100,000 per capita, closer to where Portland was in 2005. Recently, two vendors filed a lawsuit against the city claiming their food carts were illegally seized and destroyed by law enforcement officers. In 2015, an Icee vendor sued the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene after her cart was illegally seized by sanitation workers.
New York City is not alone. Recently, Sacramento Code Enforcement officers were caught on camera seizing food carts in the city’s Southside Park.
Mobile vendors in Chicago also face burdensome regulations that hamper industry growth. Chicago food trucks are not allowed within 200 feet of a brick-and-mortar restaurant or from staying parked more than two hours in any one location. Vendors are also required to carry GPS devices that record their location every five minutes. A 2016 study by the Institute for Justice (IJ) found that Chicago’s regulation of food truck parking made only three percent of parking spaces in Chicago’s North Loop legal for food truck to park and operate on. IJ is challenging these regulations, and the case is currently on appeal after a judge upheld the regulations in December 2016.
IJ’s study, Upwardly Mobile, found that even in New York City, mobile vending supported nearly 18,000 jobs, contributed over $190 million in wages and paid $71.2 million in local, state and federal taxes in 2012 alone. New York City and Chicago should deregulate the food truck industry so entrepreneurs can flourish and contribute more to their cities.