Randy Picker on the Missteps in the Chicago Food Truck Ordinance

Food Truck Rules: Be Sweet on Competition
Randy Picker
Chicago Tribune
August 1, 2010

Friday was a particularly good day at the University of Chicago Law School. In our haven of ideas, a mobile cupcake truck made an appearance in our parking lot. We should have cupcakes every afternoon. And with a new proposed ordinance that would greatly expand the role of food trucks in Chicago, we might have cupcakes and more. The proposed ordinance is good news, but it suffers from some substantial limitations. We can and should do better.

Many cities are served by a variety of food trucks. Hard-core foodies follow every tweet and Facebook status update to know where their favorite foods are being sold. Each day brings something new — a moving feast, if not quite a moveable one. Mobility plus social networking means that the food comes to you and fans have no trouble finding their favorites. You don't need a fixed location if it is easy for you to tell your customers where you are today.

Chicago has been behind the times on this. The key fighting issue has been whether food can be prepared on the truck itself. Health issues are important of course, but there is no question that fresh beats stale, and that is true whether we are talking cupcakes, tacos or the more exotic fare that might come from the great Chicago restaurant scene. The ordinance proposed Wednesday by Ald. Scott Waguespack, 32nd, promises to change this.

So far so good. But the ordinance also comes with limitations, and that is unfortunately where the rubber meets the road.

Randal C. Picker