Want to Create More Jobs? Free the Food Trucks!

The Wall Street Journal profiles how food trucks are helping other businesses grow in San Francisco. Kwasi Boyd has seen his vehicle wrap company accelerate, thanks to tremendous growth in the number of food trucks. Food trucks now make up 40% of his business, so Kwasi has hired five more people to keep up with the demand.

As the Wall Street Journal reports, business is also booming for “parking-lot operators, hardware stores, graphic designers and mobile-kitchen makers”:

K-119 Tools Inc., a construction-supplies store in San Bruno, sayssales of the Honda generator favored by food trucks are up 20% in the past two years. Commissaries and other commercial lots where food trucks are required to park overnight are filling up fast, according to operators.

Unfortunately, San Francisco has some very protectionist restrictions against food trucks. Most blatantly, the City by the Bay suffers from abysmal “notice of intent” laws:

 “If a street food vendor wants to sell in a new location, she must notify all businesses within a 300-foot radius of her requested spot. If anyone believes “their interests or property or that of the general public will be adversely affected” by a food truck or pushcart vending in that requested spot, they can write to the Department of Public Works (DPW) to protest.”

This essentially gives established businesses veto powers over new competition from food trucks, needlessly hindering growth. Scrapping notice of intent laws would be a great start to encourage entrepreneurs.

Meanwhile, according to the Portland Business Journal, vacancies often drop for office buildings that are near food carts in Portland. The real estate consulting firm Jones Lang LaSalle found that the vacancy rate for Class A office buildings near mobile vendors is 5% in Stumptown. By comparison, the market average is 8.3%–a considerable difference.

Jones Lang LaSalle explains that employees who buy street food together “further a sense of community,” which in turn helps foster a “culture of collaboration” within their company. Thus, “proximity to food carts is showing up as a significant factor when creative companies are analyzing their location alternatives.”

As the Institute for Justice has shown in its new report, Seven Myths and Realities About Food Trucks, food trucks create new economic opportunities. Sounds like another great reason to support street food freedom.

— Nick Sibilla
Nick Sibilla is a writer at the Institute for Justice

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