Thursday, June 6, 2013

Open Letter to Orlando City Hall Re: Harmful Food Truck Regs

Those who know me well, know that it takes a lot to get me upset. However, I am livid after hearing about the new short-sighted reguations from the City of Orlando. Any time you make life more challenging for small businesses - in this case, my food truck friends - you threaten to harm the economic livelihood of the city.

The "pilot program" regulations would not allow food trucks to park on the sides of any streets and they would have to stay out of most of the downtown area, unless they get a concession license with the city. Food trucks that want to do business in Orlando - relegated to parking lots and food truck events - must obtain a mobile food vending permit and a license from the Flroida Department of Business and Professonal Regulation. These are all requirements that were not in place before, requiring the trucks to pay extra fees and, for many trucks, taking away the spots that their customers are used to finding them at.

Photo Courtesy Orlando's Food Trucks
Usually, "The City Beautiful" does a great job promoting itself to tourists, but not this time. Did you know that, not only are food trucks popular with so many people locally, but visitors seek them out as well? I can't tell you how many out-of-town people contact me to find out which food trucks they should try when they are in town. The trucks offer something unique to the Orlando food scene - something that many visitors cannot experience in their towns. 

Plus, food trucks bring millions of dollars into the City annually. I am not just figuring what locals and visitors spend at food trucks. I am considering all the people that food trucks hire. I am thinking about how those employees then go out and spend money in our community. I am also thinking about the other local businesses that food trucks benefit. Bars in the downtown Milk District, for example, benefit from the popular Tasty Tuesdays in the Milk District event. Event-goers buy their food and bring it inside to eat at the bar. Tasty Tuesdays has introduced many new people to this hip, urban neighborhood downtown.

Some say these regulations are being put into effect because restaurants and bars complained that food trucks are taking their business. Then do a better job with your food and your service! America was built on competition, and that system will remain in place as long as we live. Restaurants not only face competiiton from food trucks, but also from other restaurants, grocery stores that are selling better food-to-go, and even from convenience stores and drug store chains.

Bottom line: I don't believe food trucks - which add so much to the culture and livelihood of Orlando - should be the target of the City of Orlando, or of other food providers. What do you think? Sound off below.


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  2. Food trucks were definitely part of our enjoyment of Orlando while visiting this spring. I wrote about it on our blog:

    We were glad to have had the option to explore different cuisine in a casual space.

    1. Thank you, Karina, for your support for Orlando's food trucks! And for sharing the information with all of your readers.

  3. All I can say is wow...
    I want to commend the local government members who voted to help the brick & mortar establishments and continue to develop downtown businesses

    So the reason several restaurants have failed, or are failing on Church St., is because even though there isn't a food truck stationed for blocks - blame the food trucks - right?
    So the reason an air conditioned business has a slow lunch because 2 Portuguese guys in a food truck, in a parking lot, on a hot day in April have a longer line than you do.
    So the reason upscale bistros are losing out on romantic dinner dates, is because people would rather have that special occasion dinner ON THE SIDEWALK!!!!

    People - be it locals or tourists - will gravitate to places with good food.
    Thornton Park was a hot spot for a while, but it failed to keep the menus fresh and re invent its self.
    We all have driven miles to go to that special restaurant on a theme park property, be it Emeril's, Jiko, California Grill or even House of Blues brunch.
    Why? Because of the atmosphere and when you go, the staff makes the occasion feel special - from the ever changing menus to the staff's sterile, yet effective service.
    Winter Park icons Ravenous Pig, Cask & Larder and Prato - seem to get it - do food well and in a friendly atmosphere and business will boom!
    You don't get that downtown. Those trendy restaurants from a few years ago - along with new ones - open with a sense of entitlement:
    "we pay downtown rent so you must enjoy - no matter how uninventive the food or how crappy the service is."

    You don't get that with food trucks. These are quality cooks and chefs who want to give you their everything.
    Why? Because they've put everything they have into this business they drive around.

    Its all about the hustle.
    The reputation a truck has can make or break them as much as location.
    Market your self. Advertise through word of mouth. And no... you can't blame the fact that you have no budget - neither do the trucks.
    The trucks use social media in a strong way to reach out to customers - to create a report, to garner regulars, to tweet out specials.
    For example, C&S Brisket Bus has about 2600 followers and 6700 tweets.
    They will market themselves and tweet out specials like a bi-monthly appearance of menu items like rosemary turkey or house made pastrami.
    Trendy HUE restaurant in downtown at Thornton Park - 14 followers - 0 Tweets (
    Like I said its all about the hustle.

  4. Trucks like Big Wheel, 5 Gastronomy, Fork In The Road, Bem Bom have quality top level chefs that create inventive menus each week.
    Lobster Mac & Cheese, Crispy Buffalo Pork Belly with Winter Park Bleu Cheese and Local Peach jam,
    Mako Shark Tacos, Bison Burger with Bacon Jam, Fig & Balsamic Vinegar Cheesecake, Caldo Verde soup, Avocado Stuffed with Lump Crab,
    Roasted Brussel Sprouts in Soy Honey Lime Vinaigrette, Mango Painted Fish Tacos, Watermelon with Balsamic Vinegar & Sea Salt, to 48hrs braised pork tacos.
    I seriously doubt that the patronage to Terrace 390 is down because of a Krispy Kreme Luther Burger off of a food truck.
    I've been to Terrace 390, I like it, but its the same flatbreads and blue cheese french fries from a year ago!

    Food trucks offer a different experience than a sit down restaurant.
    There is a vibe that goes with it. A socializing reminiscent of a local neighborhood street party.
    Where its OK to ask, "What did you get?". "What's THAT?" "Where can I find that?"
    They've hustled and created a scene by working hard to perfect their craft.
    I dare you to find a better cupcake than the inventive ones found on Yum Yum Cupcake truck, where Joey (a UCF grad)
    has built an empire from hard work and a strong product and theme.
    The food trucks have helped shine a light on Orlando that doesn't have anything to do with Mickey Mouse, Dwight Howard or controversial murder trials.
    Trucks like Yum Yum Cupcake, The Crooked Spoon among others have been feature nationally on
    The Food Network and in their cookbooks. I can't remember the last TV network doing a special on downtown Orlando restaurants.

    Step up your game brick and mortar stores, You're getting beat by roach coaches because they work harder than you.
    People like being "foodies" now. They take pics of their food, they share it on social networks. They get excited about each meal, each pic.

    I'm calling you out on this Buddy Dyer, and Theresa Jacobs,
    You want a more diverse Central Florida, with more arts and culture, but you take away a vibrant scene that hustled and worked harder than their counterparts.

    Truly unfair.... and wrong.

    1. All I can say, is kudos! Thank you for spelling out the issue. Which truck do you operate? I hope Orlandoans continue to support food trucks in full force!

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