New Orleans Food Trucks Rally to Grow their Industry

Last month, I discussed the Food Truck Symposium going down over on O.C. Haley. The event, thrown by the New Orleans Food Truck Coalition, Inc., was thrown to bring attention to the Food Trucks and their attempts to work with City Hall to make the city’s laws more amenable to their industry. In case you missed the event, here’s a few things that the food truck industry would like to see changed.

100 Permit Cap – The City of New Orleans only issues 100 permits for mobile food vendors. That includes Lucky Dog carts, ice cream trucks, push cart drink vendors, the fresh food vendors on Carrollton, and food trucks. Simply put, there are not enough permits to go around. If an entrepreneur wants to build a food truck, they need the truck before they can get the permit. But because of the cap on permits, there is no guarantee that once they build the truck that they’ll actually get a permit. This little catch-22 prevents would-be entrepreneurs from investing in trucks.

Access to the CBD – The Central Business District and the French Quarter are currently off-limits to food trucks, except those that were grandfathered in, like Lucky Dogs. Given the number of businesses and workers located in the CBD, that area of town provides the greatest opportunity for food trucks. The food trucks won’t compete with restaurants for workers who want to sit inside and eat, but will create more options for those workers who want a quick, cheap meal that they can take back up to their office.

Proximity to Restaurants – The city code prohibits a food truck from parking within 600 feet of a restaurant. City Hall tells the food trucks that they can’t be within 200 feet of a restaurant. Obviously, this creates some confusion.

Mardi Gras – We’ve all seen them: food trucks serving cotton candy, fried chick sticks, popcorn, and hot dogs at Mardi Gras. Currently, the city holds a lottery for these spots, but it seems that the same groups are winning year after year. Local food trucks would love to buy these spots.

Seafood – Food trucks cannot serve seafood. In a city built on the seafood industry, and with modern refrigeration, food trucks should be allowed to showcase some fresh, local product.

Timing – Mobile vendors can be in one location for only 45 minutes. Food truck operators need at least 30 minutes to setup their kitchens after parking, which leaves only 15 minutes for a food truck to serve before they have to move.

The city council has shown some interest in changing the laws, and at this point it seems that they’re willing to work with the Coalition to come up with friendly, more amenable laws. Much like the digital media tax credit, or the film industry tax credit, this industry would benefit greatly from friendly government action. The food trucks create jobs, bring in sales tax revenue, and can help add to the allure of New Orleans as a great food city. What’s not to like?