This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Utahns overwhelmingly love food trucks, yet very few are aware of how hard it is to operate a successful food truck business in our state. One of our biggest obstacles is heavy-handed regulation by cities and counties.
Mobile businesses like ours travel constantly in search of customers. Unfortunately, the current regulatory environment requires us to navigate a complex maze of regulations, licenses and fees, which vary from one municipality to the nextand these costs add up very quickly, reducing an already razor-thin profit margin on food sales.
In Utah, each county requires food trucks to obtain a health permit annually, racking up large sums of money very quickly. Operating in many different counties requires obtaining redundant inspections, thus multiplying unnecessary costs. If our truck passes an inspection in one location, why does it need another one a few miles away?
Many cities also heavily restrict where we can operate, imposing protectionist boundaries around restaurants. For example, one city prohibits us from setting up shop within 1,000 feet of a restaurant; many cities have similar prohibitions ranging in the several hundreds of feet. These discriminatory practices have been legally challenged and overturned elsewhere in the country. Utah's Constitution requires a free market, yet policies such as these violate it by shielding certain businesses from competition.
Even worse, some cities in our "conservative" state completely ban food trucks from operating at all.
Some cities require us to obtain a permit for each location, each day. These temporary permits can cost up to $150, creating a substantial cost for us to test different areas of town and follow crowds. If we don't generate enough profit to (at a minimum) cover the cost of the permit, why would we bother showing up at all?
Utahns love our industry, yet most are unaware as to how difficult most of their cities and counties make it for us to serve them. All we ask for is a freer market so we can do what we love providing great food in a safe environment to consenting customers.
When Waffle Love first opened its doors, there were only a handful of food trucks in the entire state. City and county officials didn't quite know how to deal with our mobile enterprise. The confusion continues to this day, leading to varying regulations that discourage innovation, stifle competition and lead many would-be food truck owners to throw in the towel.
Waffle Love has been fortunate to overcome these regulatory burdens and grow our business, but it has come at a cost. We spend over $5,000 annually just on these government permission slips to operate to say nothing of the money we have to pay staff to track and comply with the differing regulations in each location.
Hope is on the horizon. Libertas Institute and the Food Truck League have teamed up with Sen. Deidre Henderson to propose Senate Bill 250, which would streamline regulations, eliminate redundancy and reduce unfair restrictions on food truck businesses.
Waffle Love has been successful, but so many food truck owners are struggling to grow, trying to absorb the fees and compliance costs wasting time and money that should be spent on their upstart enterprise.
Let's give food trucks a hand. Encourage your legislators to support Senate Bill 250.
Adam Terry is founder and owner of Waffle Love.