It’s kind of a shame that we’ve all read 10,000 stories on the food truck thing so far, because today’s piece in the Sun-Times gets to the heart of it on the eve of possible big change in a way that few pieces have. There’s the brick and mortar business owner who seems to think he’s entitled to be free of competition (“We’re going to see a guy park his truck less than a mile away and sell food for maybe less money after we restaurant owners have spent 12, 15 years establishing an honest day’s community-based place for people to eat. How are we going to compete?”) There’s Glenn Keefer, frankly starting to sound a bit obsessive ("he thinks the ‘elephant in the room’ issue is that food truck operators and food handlers be able to show a written agreement with a building owner or management company that they can go inside and use the bathrooms of nearby buildings.”) And then there are… hey, remember them?… the customers.
A case in point: the former Montgomery Ward catalog building at 600 W. Chicago, home to Groupon and dozens of tech startups.
Outside the building, restaurant choices are a single sandwich shop and posh and pricey Japonais. At lunchtime Tuesday, eight food trucks clustered to meet the demand, but they ran out of menu items as people continued to line up to order.
Would the presence of a single sandwich shop inside the building mean those food trucks would have to stay far away? Maybe. You couldn’t make it much clearer than that, that the food truck regs would not be about making it better for customers and startups, but about protecting existing businesses from the threat of competition. Ironically, one business that isn’t looking for that kind of protection is… you guessed it, the sandwich shop inside the Montgomery Ward building that such a rule would be protecting:
But inside 600 W. Chicago, Snarf’s Sub Shop was hopping so much that a store manager couldn’t stop to talk.