According to the National Restaurant Association, the proliferation of food trucks has been one of the hottest trends in the food service industry the last few years. Such trucks have become technologically advanced and bear little resemblance to the “Good Humor” trucks and the so-called construction site “chuckwagons” that have previously dominated the mobile-food-truck sector.
There are many benefits to the increased presence of mobile food trucks, including the social benefit of enabling potential restaurant owners to start a new business with little capital and low overhead; providing a forum for existing restaurant owners to test gourmet or unique food concepts for customer acceptance before bringing them to a more traditional food-service format and; for property and restaurant owners, meeting the demand for trendy food-service options in areas that may be underserved, such as fringe urban areas, retail centers, universities or suburban office parks – where brown bag lunches, limited choices and large parking lots are the norm. Food trucks contribute to environmental sustainability by reducing vehicle trips. Food trucks also may provide an excellent interim use of land prior to development.
Despite the benefits of mobile food trucks, not all property owners and developers may be in favor of their increased presence. Owners of brick-and-mortar restaurant sites could be adversely affected by food trucks if the latter’s increased sales result in a decrease in rents (especially percentage rent if tenants’ sales suffer). Food trucks also may use parking and loading spaces, which may be at a premium; create potential traffic-safety issues (both vehicular and pedestrian); and cause issues with trash, odor, vermin, pollution and loitering.
With careful planning, however, property owners and developers may be able to meet existing tenants’ and visitors’ needs while also creating additional foot traffic and bringing in new customers, all while mitigating any actual or perceived negative attributes of food trucks. Once owners and developers have determined that they might like food trucks at their properties – to satisfy a demand or need for additional food service, and that the presence of food trucks will not violate the rights of existing tenants – they should evaluate the local laws and regulations currently applicable to food trucks, as well as the broader regulatory environment, in order to ascertain if compliance costs may affect the benefits of allowing food trucks.
To read the full article written by David Houston published in Commercial Lease Law Insider, follow this link.