Today the City of San Francisco’s board of supervisors is gathering to discuss street food and the risk / reward for making it a part of our every day urban fabric. Supervisor Dufty has taken an interest in the process and asked the le truc team to participate in a focus group consisting of city planners, department of public health inspectors, street food entrepreneurs and advocates. The good news: every group involved wants to see street food in San Francisco.
My partner is a very dedicated businessman and chef. Hugh has been working on this project for over a year and has documented 1000s of hours scrutinizing every last detail of our plan. Through this process we have continued to face barriers; some created by the City, some created by fellow merchants and others by neighbors. With all of our good intent why is getting a conditional use permit so hard? Why are there so many barriers? Simple: ignorance.
Through our community outreach we have heard many unfounded concerns. Neighboring merchants yelling about unfair business practice, neighbors concerned about noise and traffic and the city’s uncertainty about how to permit and monitor a mobile business. We can address each of these concerns.
Unfair business practice? Did other merchants forget the definition of capitalism? It is true that we have lower overhead due to the cost of building a truck vs. a brick-and-mortar restaurant. However, if you compare the two business models by square foot you will see that the rent we pay on our 200 square feet is upwards of $6.25/foot vs. $4.33/foot for a brick-and-mortar establishment. We have done the math and understand both business models – we just choose to operate on a mobile platform. Any restaurant in our market area could choose to do the same – stop complaining and step-up.
Oh and by the way – what about alcohol sales? The ABC will not allow a mobile catering truck to sell alcohol due to the fact that we would not be able to restrain our patrons to a specific area since our restaurant is on the street. Brick-and-mortar restaurants do not have this problem and can use alcohol sales to prop up their revenue numbers, creating a profit even if their menu fails. This alone should be enough to strike down the “unfair” business practice argument.
le truc wants to support the community in which we operate, not detract. We have designed our bus to be an artistic expression of the community, something that embodies the community’s priority on innovation and tolerance. Noise will not be a problem as we have engineered a creative solution to address this issue – indoor seating. Our bus will contain 16 indoor seats that allow customers to enjoy their meals shielded from the outside by insulated walls and windows.
The city has to redefine its definition of a mobile food business. Permitting is a simple matter of implementing realistic regulations specific to the operators. Just like any restaurant we are governed by laws designed to protect public safety. However, these rules and regs are often lower than what is considered standard at le truc. Bring it on DPH, we’re ready for you.
If you love street food come out and support the cause. The board of supervisors is meeting at 10:30 AM at City Hall. Hugh and I will be there representing not only le truc but also the street food industry in general. There is power in numbers and it is up to the people of San Francisco to turn out and be heard on this issue. Come one, come all – together we will make sure that San Francisco continues to be tolerant of a person’s right to choose an alternative to the norm.