Today a Facebook post clued me in to a worrisome possibility: some restaurants in downtown Salem might attempt to keep food carts from establishing a long-term "pod" in the area. Or maybe even ban temporarily positioned carts.
Here's the post from Rob Drinkenstein, a.k.a. Rob the Bartender, a.k.a. Rob Melton. Rob is part of the Table Five08 team, which recently opened this cool restaurant on State and High in downtown Salem.
So let me get this straight. A group of "downtown core" restaurants are getting together to "discuss" food trucks in downtown Salem.
It appears some are worried about the impact on their business.
I have news. If you really think a food truck is going to put you out of business, you need to change your business plan.
The more business we have downtown the better I say.
Additionally why should their dream be less valid because they opt not to pay one of our many downtown slum lords huge rent for brick and mortar.
Welcome to downtown Salem kids I say! I for one support you!
As for the "panel" Thanks but no thanks, I try not to judge. Remove me from your email list.
This seems really dumb to me, a few restaurants trying to stifle dining competition from food carts in Salem's urban core.
I was at a city council meeting where representatives of Venti's, Gamberetti's, and Napoleon's (will be re-opening its crepe cafe soon) testified that they feared losing business to downtown food carts.
Well, my attitude about this was expressed about six weeks ago in my Salem Weekly Strange Up Salem column, "Embrace downtown food carts."
Who’s afraid of food carts? Not me. I’m thrilled that the City Council recently approved revisions to a food cart ordinance, thanks largely to the Salem Food Cart Association and Councilor Diane Dickey.
...Food carts are a big success in Portland, drawing national acclaim from Bon Appétit magazine and CNN. So what’s not to like about having a vibrant food cart scene everywhere in Salem, including downtown?
Nothing. But to some people here change is scary even when it is for the better. Diversity, creativity, more eating options… Eek!
At the July 14 city council meeting I was surprised to hear several councilors and restaurant owners talk about their Big Fear that people would flock to a downtown food cart pod and — oh no, the horror — enjoy eating there!
Theoretically, possibly, just maybe, the worry was that some of these people might choose a quick and easy food cart meal over a sit-down restaurant offering.
Well, this is called competition and free enterprise.
Even in the People’s Republic of Portland, where downtown food cart pods harmoniously coexist with restaurants. On SW 9th and Alder there are more than 60 food carts; on SW 4th and Hall, 25 food carts.
Hopefully the downtown restaurant folks who contacted Rob and tried to get him to join the anti-food cart crusade will back off. Nothing good will come of this.
Food carts are popular. People aren't going to be happy with any restaurant that tries to squash these dining alternatives.
Those "brick and mortar" restaurants who are afraid of them need to heed Rob's advice: If you really think a food truck is going to put you out of business, you need to change your business plan.
Salemians appear to agree. Here's some of the comments on Rob's Facebook post so far.
Food Truck Haiku ...
beckons me closer to you.
I love you, food truck.
Competition breeds innovation. I as someone who eats in this city welcome it.. The downtown food scene could use a little shake up. Or better yet, food anarchy.
Sounds like some folks are afraid to "let the market decide..."
I heartily agree with you. More is better for downtown, more of everything. Including competition. [my comment]
Classic Salem "we really want small business to succeed" (but don't tell anyone that we really don't!)
*Stands up clapping* Rob Drinkenstein for Mayor!!!
If I wanted the restaurant experience I would not choose a food truck and vice versa. Restaurants would do better by focusing on self-improvement rather than worrying about competition.