It’s no secret that in Chicago, it it can be hard to be a food truck. Despite the ocean of ideas from sausages to egg sandwiches to tamales to cupcakes on wheels, Chicago has restricted and regulated its food truck fleet to their chagrin, making a city with extreme temperatures an arguably even more inhospitable one for food truck owners. Earlier this month, the City ruled to keep two measures placed on food trucks that entrepreneurs have been fighting for the past four years, although there are plans to appeal them on the horizon.
One, a law that keeps them from parking within 200 feet from any brick and mortar shop that serves food, and two the mandatory installation of a GPS tracking device that would allow city officials to monitor their location and hours of operation; they can’t stay parked in one spot for more than two hours. These restrictions have made it difficult for food trucks to survive or compete, and many have gone out of business entirely. The Schnitzel King, one of the Food Trucks involved in the law suit went out of business, citing the regulations as the cause. Cupcakes for Courage, a truck dedicated to fighting lymphoma for Kathryn, one of the owners, was the other truck directly involved in December’s court ruling. Food trucks offer more diverse, hot and fresh lunch options to workers, especially those stranded in the loop with mostly chain restaurants to frequent. They also enable would-be restauranteur’s to launch pilot projects before either expanding or establishing a static location of their own.
We wrote a three part guide a couple years ago for aspiring or current food truck owners, and those thinking about expanding to a brick and mortar at some point in their food truck’s life. Since those same ordinances that affected our chefs and owners then are decidedly still affecting them now, we wanted to re-post our guide. It’s chock full of firsthand experience, useful advice, cost information and interviews with food truck veterans, and if nothing else will get you to visit the Fat Shallot truck immediately for an order of their amazing fries.
We encourage anyone who’s interested in running a food truck to find support in the Illinois Food Truck Owners Association, or to reach out to some folks in the field. It’s a small, passionate community that is trying with all its might to garner an even bigger presence here in Chicago.