by Dr. Michael Sanera
Director of Research and Local Government Studies
This Durham Herald-Sun article shows how Raleigh’s loss is Durham’s gain.
City Council members Thomas Crowder and John Odom valiantly tried to guard the city gates, then hurled sour grapes as the pro-truck crowd rolled right over them.
“I don’t think the city of Raleigh is going to fall apart if we don’t have food trucks,” Odom sniffed. “I’m not looking forward to being like Durham.”
Don’t worry, Mr. Odom. Raleigh isn’t in imminent danger of having that much fun.
For one thing, the new rules create a 100-foot buffer around brick-and-mortar restaurants that will be off limits to mobile food vendors, who are apparently regarded as the perverts of the Raleigh dining scene.
While Raleigh over-regulates, Durham provides the opportunity for innovative entrepreneurs to expand the market and serve consumer demand.
In the midst of more hostile towns, the Bull City has nurtured the food truck subculture that has grown strong enough to support a second tier of businesses. As food trucks expand their territory, it means expanding options for the supporting businesses back in Durham — provided the city’s entrepreneurs capitalize on the opportunity.
There’s the obvious: The Only Burger truck’s owners added a brick-and-mortar restaurant on Shannon Road, which means additional property taxes and license fees for the local governments.
There’s B2B cleverness, too: The Cookery, a downtown commercial kitchen space that also acts as an incubator for food entrepreneurs, charges sliding fees to food trucks that need a “commissary” space, required by health department regulations. The commissary is actually key: Food trucks need a space for food prep and storage. Many rent from restaurants, but The Cookery’s idea, while not exactly a co-op, gives trucks more autonomy and frees them from competing for restaurant kitchen space.