It’s Tough Being a Trailer

It’s Tough Being a Trailer

Austin food trailers carry an epic advantage when it comes to customers. When there aren’t any in their vicinity, they let the public know they are moving their truck/trailer on over to a concentration of people. For instance, during 1st Thursday, you don’t see Coolhaus hanging out at Zilker Park. They are exactly where they should be on South Congress, serving architectural ice-cream to eager crowds.

One thing has become apparent though, the advantage of mobility that trailers possess has proven to be their Achilles heel. We have heard uproars with regard to their ability to just “get up and move” to somewhere else. Earlier this year, there was the issue between Parkside Restaurant and The Best Wurst. It was eventually resolved but not without a lot of effort and stress from The Best Wurst. Additionally, it’s not news that Tom Ramsey, owner of Snappy Snacks, kicked off a review of mobile vending regulations after receiving citations for his own trucks. As a result, the City of Austin began looking at food trailers and the regulations they abide by. New regulations were set forth in late September and everyone seems to be back on track to feeding the masses.

I (among others) received an email from what I can only expect to be  a newly created email address. The email contained an explanation and a link to a YouTube video of a Snappy Snacks truck allegedly “violating existing regulations…” Below are excerpts from the email.

Here’s a video of one of the Snappy Snack trucks parked (illegally?) on 3rd Street near Congress Ave. Notice the pool of water below the truck.”

“This is clearly a major violation of EXISTING regulations governing mobile food vendors.”
*referring to draining water on the street.

The intent of the email is quite simple to understand. Food trailers have been under pretty close scrutiny since the recent revisions, and someone has essentially caught the instigator red-handed (allegedly), or as the sender states Whether you agree with the new mobile vendor regulations or not, this video shows a pretty outrageous example of hypocrisy at play.”

As far as I can tell, it brings the difficulty of being a mobile vendor to light. Not only is there a battle between some restaurants and food trailers/carts/trucks, but now there is a much nastier situation taking place in which trailers are bidding for locations and pointing fingers when it comes to violations. From a consumer’s standpoint, there are a few things that I am truly concerned with, the food culture, the food itself, the cleanliness of the food and the ability to choose and find what I want to eat. I understand the need to operate under an equal playing field. Unfortunately, Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand is not as effective as I would hope it would be. Self regulation through the forces of self interest, supply and demand and competition are there at their core, but are alternatively affected by outside regulations.

As far as I’m concerned, who cares what the next guy is doing. If he is breaking regulations it will catch up with him at some point. Until then, concentrate on your own business. Make your product as delicious as possible and much like Ray Kinsella found to be true, “If you build it, he will come.” (he = hungry customers, not Ray Liotta)There are enough reasons in the market to kill independent businesses, the last thing Austin need is the self destruction of entrepreneurship.

As always, comments are open.

On a lighter note, Gypsy Picnic is November 6th! Anyone want to meet up?