This editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Herald Editorial Board
What would a trip to New York City be without a visit to a food truck or a hot dog vendor?
They’re everywhere there, and they serve all manner of food representing all manner of cultural niches.
For us in suburbia, until recently, you’d find food trucks only at construction sites or factories at lunchtime. Derisively called “roach coaches,” these mobile fast food take-aways were a cheap way to get a sandwich and a drink at a job site where refrigeration was hard to come by.
But food trucks have grown up and become much more sophisticated, with much tastier and varied offerings. What was once the last place you’d probably want to eat a meal has become a real draw.
The village of Cary last week voted to make food trucks a regular downtown feature after a successful trial run on a pair of Fridays in July of the Brothers’ BBQ food truck.
Community Development Director Brian Simmons said he received plenty of positive feedback from members of the community.
Jim Metallo of Cary operates the family-owned business.
Having a variety of food trucks in one spot is important, he said, as is the stamp of approval from the county health department. It attracts people who have a “love for the culinary experience,” he said.
Small towns without enough restaurants to attract out-of-town visitors could benefit from food trucks because, as Metallo noted, a cluster of them tends to draw from a wider audience.
Lincolnshire is one of many suburbs that has taken to Food Truck Fridays. It started with one truck as part of a village festival nine years ago.
In Island Lake, food truck vendors have to purchase $50 permits to operate at special events.
Some suburban municipalities allow food trucks, some have created spaces they can rent, some require them to buy licenses, some strictly regulate when they can set up shop, and at least one town requires vendors to have an established brick-and-mortar presence in town.
Municipal leaders are rightfully concerned for the success of existing restaurants and want to ensure their business is not taken over by food truck operators.
But experimenting with them, at the very least, has a bounty of benefits.
First, they promote entrepreneurship. If you are really good at making one thing, a food truck can be a good way to try it out on the public. You can always retrofit a food truck if what you’re making isn’t selling.
Because many food trucks are highly specialized, they offer items a brick-and-mortar restaurant that looks for broader appeal might not be able to.
In Cary, the ordinance allows as many as three food trucks to operate in designated areas.
We hope those offering new food items find success in Cary, that people outside of town come to try them out and that visitors come to enjoy the existing array of nice restaurants the village already has.
After all, variety is the spice of life.