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Food Truck Business Faces Mid-Life Crisis

When the New York City food truck business revival first hit the streets about seven years ago, it was the darling of the industry. The trucks were flashy. The glossy magazine articles raved about the fare. The crowds lined up in droves. 

But since then, it seems there has been a coming-of-age. Our Manhattan restaurant lawyers understand the business has lost some of its allure. Some of the die-hards still remain, though many have shifted gears, alternating between catering and perhaps wholesaling. Some may have given up and opened up their own brick-and-motor stores, finding that such endeavors provide more financial stability.

Others have found that supplementing income with other unrelated gigs, such as real estate or teaching, for example, helps them remain afloat.

In some cases, a few gave up altogether.

Said one former owner, “It was too hard on me.” He indicated that the food truck broke down too easily, and when that happened, he didn’t make money, so the employees didn’t make money and the whole thing became very stressful. Though he still serves as an advocate for the industry, he is now a chief operating officer for a far more lucrative architecture and design firm.

Among some of the many challenges facing those in the food truck industry in New York: Strict parking regulations that bar vending on a wide range of city streets, difficulty getting permits from the Department of Health and bad weather.

Among the 5,100 mobile-food vending permits issued by the city’s health department, most are issued to the soft-serve ice cream business. Only about 100 are issued to the artisanal food trucks, and that number has remained stagnant for the last few years, meaning there hasn’t been much growth.

Still, there are those who remain fiercely committed, some leaving as early as 3:30 a.m. or 4:30 a.m. to find parking spaces in midtown, where the dense lunch crowds can be found. The competition has been especially fierce over the course of the last 18 months. Others say the food truck business is not so much a long-term business model as a gateway to a brick-and-motor business. Many say that there was once a time when you could make decent money in street vending. Now, it’s more a matter of building up the brand name so that you have enough of a following to open a “real” restaurant.

No matter what your ultimate goal for running a food truck, it’s important to have an experienced legal advocate at your side because it is a cut-throat industry. Current regulations make it extremely challenging to find parking, meet all the sanitary requirements, and hire qualified  staff quickly enough to keep up with seasonal demand.

For entrepreneurs interested in breaking into the restaurant industry or the consumer-product line, the food truck business can be a great first step. But it’s a measured risk, and it’s one that should be weighed with an experienced legal professional.

If you are going to pour your life savings into a food truck, we want to make sure you’re going to see returns. Let us help.

The Wright Law Firm is a business law firm located in Midtown Manhattan. Call (212) 619-1500 for a confidential consultation.

Additional Resources:

Food Trucks Stuck in the Park, By Lisa Fickenscher, May 11, 2014, Crain’s New York Business

More Blog Entry:

New York Restaurant Grading Changes Proposed, March 27, 2014, Manhattan Food Truck Lawyer Blog


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