The main point of contention that Chicagoans are fighting to change in the proposed food truck ordinance is the elimination of the 200 foot buffer between trucks and anywhere that serves food. With the 200ft ban, food trucks are essentially exiled from downtown save a few small pockets (see map). Mayor Emanuel and aldermen have said that this in place to “dispel the competitive concerns of established businesses.” So, we asked several very established restaurant owners what they have to say about the 200 feet buffer zone.
We asked: Would you fear for the health/success of your restaurant if Chicago let food trucks park wherever they want? Here’s what they had to say.
Chef: Art Smith
How you know him: Oprah’s former private chef, owner of Table 52 (a spot the Obama’s are known to frequent for a romantic meal)
What he said: “I believe they serve a complete different purpose and customer. People need an afforable meal whether its on wheels or not.”
Our thoughts: Well put, chef. Spot on.
Chef: Paul Kahan
How you know him: Chef/Partner of Avec, Big Star, Blackbird and The Publican
What he said: “nope.”
Our thoughts: We appreciate the straight-forward response. Further evidence: Big Star has a food truck that would be “street legal” should the city let them cook on board.
Chef: Chuy Valencia
How you know him: Top Chef Season 9 contestant, chef/partner of restaurant Chilam Balam
What he said: “not really for a sit-down type of place with composed dishes, but if your selling sandwiches next to a deli, it’s shitty.”
Our thoughts: From our discussions with food truck entrepreneurs, they aren’t scheming to set up shop in front of a direct competitor for the same reason as Chuy mentioned: it’s shitty and disrespectful. It makes them look bad, and would likely dilute their own profits as well.
Chef: Stephanie Izard
How you know her: Winner of Top Chef Season 4, owner of Girl & the Goat and working on launching a “”fast-casual, chicken-focused” eatery
What he said: “hard question but don’t think much diff than a neighboring restaurant, right?”
Our thoughts: Right.
We asked this same question to 2 franchise owners of (separate) major fast food chains, as well as the owner of an independent fast food spot that serves breakfast and lunch. We didn’t get official statements from them, but they echoed the sentiments of the aforementioned chefs.