Food trucks are wildly popular in markets along the East and West coasts, and now they’re making their way into the country’s heartland, tweaking the cuisine to add regional flavors and new touches and sometimes running into the same roadblocks as their coastal peers.
Chicago mobile eateries are on the move, despite a city ordinance that prohibits chefs from preparing the food inside the trucks. City officials are debating the merits of allowing food trucks to install mobile kitchens, and the end of the ban may be in sight – killing the prohibition was in Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s campaign platform, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. An interesting side note: On the ABC midseason replacement show “Happy Endings,” one of the 20-something Chicagoans downsizes his dream of opening a restaurant in favor of a steak sandwich food truck, but so far viewers have never seen whether the vehicle has a kitchen in the back.
Food truck operators in the nearby suburbs may not face the same legal restrictions but the more spread out the neighborhoods means growth moves at a slower pace as operators try to find the hungriest spots. Many also have to overcome an image problem, according to a recent article in the suburban Chicago Daily Herald, as well as opposition from brick-and-mortar eateries concerned that the trucks, which cost much less to operate than traditional restaurants, have an unfair edge.
Mobile eateries with a twist also are on the move in other noncoastal markets, from Minneapolis, which recently welcomed sustainable Central American cuisine from the operators of Hola Arepa, to Louisville, which dubbed its recent inaugural celebration of the food truck revolution The Food Truck Ruckus, led by the owner of Morel’s Vegan Cuisine.
In Indiana, mobile chefs are getting creative and working to meld more than one hot food trend into their businesses, according to USA Today. New options range from chef Becky Hostetter’s South Indian cuisine aboard the Duos truck to Kate McKibben’s “healthy comfort food” at Mabel on the Move. These new Midwestern operators say they’re foregoing cutthroat rivalries in favor of creating a sense of community around healthy, affordable fare.
Along with growth and success comes opposition, as it has in Chicago and other major markets where food trucks have begun making their mark. In Cleveland, Dim and Den Sum is in expansion mode with plans to launch a second truck and hire 10 more employees. The growth plans were nearly thrust onto the back burner earlier this year, though, after complaints from brick-and-mortar restaurateurs led to new rules that kept the trucks from operating downtown at lunch time. A temporary truce has since been hammered out, with trucks being allowed to operate in certain parts of the city, according to a story on WBEZ’s website.
Now that food trucks are becoming more common in markets around the country, do they pose a serious threat to brick-and-mortar restaurants? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.