Dallas' Food Trucks Are Banding Together to Take on the City's Overregulation

Categories: Food News

Easy Slider Truck Cutout.jpg
How awesome would your life be if this truck could put sliders in your face from anywhere?
If you think you had it hard during these past few cold months, you should talk to a local food truck owner. Winter is tough on sales for any outdoor food service operator, and this past season was particularly nasty. Spring will bring relief but even that will be short-lived as the following summer months drive customers back into air-conditioned bricks and mortar restaurants.

"You get into this wash, rinse and repeat," says Jeremy Scott, who owns and operates Tutta, a food truck serving freshly baked pizzas loaded with smoked meats. Scott recently looked at his sales through two of these laundry cycles and he's not too excited. "I was expecting a lot more growth," Scott says, and while he knows he can't do anything about the weather, he's hoping some changes to the rules that govern how food trucks operate in Dallas can provide some relief.

See also: How Dallas Killed Farmers Markets

There are easier ways to grow a mobile vending business than shaping your local city code. Some operators opt to buy a second truck, allowing them to cover more ground. Others are just using the truck to raise money for a bricks and mortar location. But those measures don't address the root problem: that Dallas' policies are having a negative effect on food businesses with wheels. Scott is one of a growing number of members of the new DFW Food Truck Association, a grassroots organization working to ease these regulations.

"Dallas is very restrictive," says Melinda Haring, an activism manager at the Institute for Justice. Her organization has helped food truck operators in other cities, including Washington D.C., build public support for changes in legislation to help foster robust outdoor vending scenes. She's visited Dallas and provides knowledge and support to local food truck operators here.

"Food trucks in Dallas are banned from public property, except in the Central Business District," Haring says, noting the zone requires special permits in addition to the standard ones. Trucks can park on private property, but only with the owner's permission and only if that owner has restrooms available to the public. Even when operating on private land, food truck operators are required to keep their permits up to date and file itineraries with the city. The paper work can be time consuming and if it's mucked up, you won't be allowed to operate that day.

The regulations in L.A. focus more strictly on health and safety requirements, which is part of the reason you see so many food trucks parked there. Same with Baton Rouge, a much smaller city that has a sizable food truck scene. "They are very laissez faire," Haring says. Trucks are required to pass a state health inspection and pay $200 for an annual permit and that's it. They can park their trucks about anywhere.

That's why the DFW Food Truck Association recently sent a letter to members of city council, formally introducing the organization. The letter makes no demands, but does spell out the challenges faced by food operators in Dallas, and refutes the common conception that food trucks negatively impact the business of traditional bricks and mortar restaurants.

When asked what he has planned next, Jeremy Scott says they're simply working to raise awareness. They've started a petition to measure support for changes in food truck regulations and they're meet regularly to discuss issues.

Scott says he wants to work with Dallas to help food truck entrepreneurs work profitably, and keep Dallasites are well fed. He also made it clear he doesn't intend on giving up until Dallas' food trucks have more freedom.

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13 comments
w.james82
w.james82

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cajunscouse9
cajunscouse9

Union? Association? Which is it, Observer? Sounds more like an association.

kduble
kduble

I see little hope in fixing bad laws by passing other laws. The only way out I see would be to start repealing the bad laws one at a time.

kergo1spaceship
kergo1spaceship

ok, we did foodtruck, so by my estimation the next thing on the topic rotator is either Matt McCalister or a story about craft beer? 

CitizenKane
CitizenKane

Thank god they are banned from public property without proper permits !


WTF, this group wants to be able to park a nasty food truck anywhere, anytime !


Permits control where, when, who and how......PTL Dallas Council wants to regulate food trucks in this manner.



NewsDog
NewsDog

Working with the Council could get expensive. If you want to opperate the truck in more than one member's district that's one more person you have to pay off. And what of districts that will be under represented by trucks, that would certainly be racist.

manbreadj
manbreadj

Are these local laws consistent throughout the metroplex? Are there any local cities that are more favorable to food trucks than others?

veruszetec
veruszetec

If this is what it takes for more delicious food trucks, I'm all for it.

laurelpw
laurelpw

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FoodTrucker
FoodTrucker

@CitizenKane Your ignorance and (frankly) pointless response aside, the irony in your comment is that you frequent brick-and-mortar establishments on a regular basis that come nowhere near the level of quality and cleanliness of most of the food trucks running in the Metroplex on any given day. 


Regarding the permitting process, I can tell you after having been through quite a number of inspections that our food trucks are thoroughly scrutinized - more so than most any restaurant.


And with a food truck, you're given the opportunity to actually see where your food is being prepared - right before your eyes in a transparent setting. When's the last time you watched your food being prepared at a sit-down restaurant? Never?  ; )

FoodTrucker
FoodTrucker

@manbreadj A big part of the problem is that there is very little consistency across jurisdictions. It is literally impossible for any truck to be 100% compliant across the Metroplex. This has to do with permitting and inspection requirements, limitations on permitting (temporary vs. 6 month vs annual) AND the associated fees - which get VERY expensive.

It seems as though some of the municipalities in the North Metroplex are starting to come around, namely Plano, Frisco and McKinney. 

I think you may see some of the outlying towns relaxing their regulations and start reaping the HUGE benefits of allowing the trucks to operate more freely, and Dallas to see that it's missing the boat. At least I hope...

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