Street Eats, Safe Eats: Conclusion
Thanks to low start-up costs, street vending is an ideal opportunity for entrepreneurs with big ideas but little capital. Not surprisingly, following the recession, the number of food trucks on the streets exploded, with vendors selling everything from ice cream and hot dogs to crème brûlée and sushi. Consumers appreciate the diverse menus, low prices and convenience of mobile vendors.
In the seven cities studied here, street food is every bit as safe as food from a restaurant. In each of these cities, food trucks, carts and restaurants are held to the same sanitation standards, and trucks and carts did just as well if not slightly better during sanitation inspections than restaurants—and violations by all types of food businesses were rare. The notion that food trucks and carts are unsafe is simply a myth.
Sensationalist news reports like the WAVE3 story misinform both the public and policymakers. The WAVE3 report caused an uproar, with customers who bought tickets to an upcoming food-truck festival asking for refunds and some vendors saying new customers are now more reticent to try their products.18 Such misinformation has also been offered to justify laws that unfairly restrict mobile vendors’ ability to compete. But this report shows that it makes no more sense to shut down or burden food trucks or carts with anti-competitive regulations under the guise of food safety than it would to shut down or burden restaurants, hotels or grocery stores.
t shouldn’t be surprising that food trucks and carts are just as clean and sanitary as restaurants. Both business models rely on repeat customers, and few people are going to eat twice at a place that made them ill. With the rise of social media like Yelp, word of mouth about a business—whether good or bad—spreads further and more quickly than ever before. And one advantage of food trucks and carts is that it is easier to watch as your food is being prepared—something you simply cannot do at most restaurants. So consumers can rest assured that food trucks and carts are as clean as restaurants, and in fact are often more so.
For those policymakers concerned about health and safety, they should ensure—through inspections—that mobile food vendors are held to the same sanitation standards as restaurants.19 In this way, the public can enjoy food from vendors that is both delicious and safe while allowing entrepreneurship and economic growth to thrive.
19 For more information on good food-truck laws see: Frommer, R. & Gall, B. (November 2012) “Food-truck freedom: How to build better food-truck laws in your city.” Institute for Justice: Arlington, VA; http://ij.org/vending.
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