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Food Trucks Hurt Local Businesses

Fast-Food Trucks in the Proposed Downtown Market Place* – A Bad Idea

If a goal of the Downtown Specific Plan is to revitalize the Downtown, bringing in food-vending trucks for curb-side service is not the way to accomplish this.

San Mateo and San Francisco have both allowed fast-food trucks in their downtown areas. The results are in:

The trucks hurt local businesses.

One San Mateo restaurant owner expressed it this way in a Daily Post article: “Bringing food trucks to downtown San Mateo is the worst disservice you can do for downtown restaurant business owners.”  (Andthis is a weekly event, not a daily event, which is what we understand is being proposed in Menlo Park’s .) 

Similarly, in San Francisco where food trucks are very popular, the headline of a front-page story in the San Francisco Chronicle on November 27, 2011 – “Eating into profits – Restaurateurs losing business want to put brakes on food trucks.” 

Again, when food trucks began coming to Downtown San Francisco more than once a week, business plummeted at nearby restaurants and restaurants began complaining that the truck phenomenon was eating into their businesses and they wanted a fairer playing field. An editorial in the Chronicle (Dec. 2, 2011) on the growing threat to the restaurant industry explained it this way – “The owners of traditional restaurants that pay rent or property taxes, provide benefits for employees and tend to have a stake in their neighborhoods... say that food trucks, swarming into their territory and saddled with almost no overhead, are unfair competition.”

In addition to the direct economic hit experienced by the restaurants, the nearby retail and service businesses also suffer multiple impacts. Not only do they lose a critical asset – easy access and convenient parking for their customers in the plazas occupied by the food trucks, but also the spin-off business that thriving restaurants contribute to a business community. 

Studies have shown how restaurants have a “corner-stone” effect in sustaining the economic vibrancy of a downtown business district. The proposed food trucks would have a double whammy, not just on the impacted restaurants, but also on surrounding retail businesses. Trucks should not infringe on the trade of established tax-paying businesses by taking up needed in public plazas.

The sponsor of our Sunday Farmers Market – the Menlo Park Live Oak Lions Club – has expressed many of these same concerns to our Council and Staff.

We also question how the City of Menlo Park would take care of the resulting food litter and where the City would locate the porta-potties that would be co-located with the contemplated daily Market Place.

There is also an environmental cost. Food trucks contribute issues of air quality. They generally run continuously on diesel, spewing exhaust into surrounding areas for hours at a time.

While food trucks have a place in business parks, at construction sites, colleges, and areas not served by restaurants, there appear to be enough serious downsides to locating them in Downtown Menlo Park that our Council and Staff should seriously reconsider this idea. 

* The Market Place proposed location is behind Wells Fargo Bank and Trader Joe's. Chestnut Street would be closed on south side of Santa Cruz Avenue to create a Paseo connecting to the Market Place.

 

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Sandy B February 06, 2012 at 07:51 PM
Taco trucks can take the parking spaces in front of the empty shops on Santa Cruz. There are plenty of those.
pesea February 06, 2012 at 08:24 PM
Brick and mortar business needs to adapt to the new realities of the economy. Complaining and blocking new ideas stops change for the short term. Food trucks might be a disruptive change to the restaurant industry, the restaurants should try to adapt, otherwise they will wonder why they are out of business, regardless of a food truck in downtown or not..
sister madly February 06, 2012 at 11:09 PM
...aren't the food trucks local business, too???
Sandy B February 07, 2012 at 04:16 AM
It depends on your definition of local. Most of the taco trucks I've seen come from San Fran or San Jose. Do you know of some that are from here in menlo?
Nas B. February 08, 2012 at 12:41 AM
You do realize having MORE CHOICES is better for the PEOPLE, right? You are presenting only the point of a minuscule but vocal minority - the ones that own restaurant. Clients on the other hand get to vote with their valets - if they like non-mobile establishments, they go there. By not allowing mobile trucks you are infringing on the preferences of those who want something simpler, limiting their freedom by in practice saying "either eat at our restaurants or dont eat at all" There are things restaurateurs can do but try to eliminate competition! They can offer limited "to-go" menu or open food counter for example.
Jill Fleisher February 08, 2012 at 12:12 PM
Why can't MP just follow what Edgewood Eats in Palo Alto does. It works & there's plenty of empty parking lots available in downtown Menlo Park.
Vanessa Castañeda (Editor) February 09, 2012 at 12:54 AM
Good question, Jill. Willows Market is hosting a food truck fiesta manana. It's unclear whether it's going to be a recurring event.

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