Wednesday, May 23, 2012

controversy erupts over Rosslyn food trucks

Yesterday Arlnow broke the story that the Rosslyn BID is preparing to recommend to the Arlington County Board to regulate more restrictively food trucks in Rosslyn. These recommendations appear to be intended to protect the economic interests of existing brick-and-mortar restaurants. Good regulation, which can help to make Rosslyn a great place, should promote the interests of Rosslyn more generally.

People should want to be in Rosslyn not just for work, but also all night long.  Dinner in a brick-and-mortar restaurant often is the start of a fun night.  Some restaurants, like most food trucks, are around only for lunch.  Because brick-and-mortar restaurants have a major comparative advantage in serving dinner, competition with food trucks is likely to push brick-and-mortar restaurants towards including dinner service.  Good eating regulation should consider not just the viability of brick-and-mortar restaurants in competition with food trucks, but also the lunch-dinner balance among brick-and-mortar restaurants.

Anyone who has walked around in exciting foreign locations such as Crystal City, Dupont Circle, Alexandria, and Georgetown can easily see that restaurants benefit from clustering.  Because a bigger cluster of eating options attracts a larger pool of patrons, competitive eating options nearby can mean more business for each establishment, not less.  Given Rosslyn's great accessibility, beautiful scenery, and friendly people, Rosslyn's food businesses have much potential for growth.  Rosslyn's current collection of food trucks have attracted lunch patrons' interest in Rosslyn.  Building on that attraction, rather than destroying it, would be far-sighted public policy.

The Ode Street Tribune sympathizes with local brick-and-mortar restaurants.  Their difficulties are just like the difficulties in local news enterprises.  Every day foreign news pours into Rosslyn, distracting residents with stories of a man masturbating in Clarendon, a scandal in the DC city council, a suicide bombing in Yemen, or a train wreck in India.  This isn't news you can use and news that improves your life.  Nonetheless, fine, under-appreciated local news sources have to compete with outsiders driving such news into Rosslyn.  A vibrant community depends on support for locally rooted enterprises.  The Ode Street Tribune strongly favors locally rooted brick-and-mortar restaurants and news sources that cook their stories right here in Rosslyn.

While conflict is part of human reality, possibilities for cooperation between Rosslyn food trucks and Rosslyn brick-and-mortar restaurants should be fully explored.  Have Rosslyn food truck operators been invited to join the Rosslyn BID?  How about encouraging Rosslyn food truck operators to partner with Rosslyn brick-and-mortar restaurants to co-market food?  The Rosslyn food industry is in a difficult transition period.  The entrepreneurial spirit and business flexibility of food trucks could help Rosslyn's brick-and-mortar restaurants increase their business profiles, expand their distribution, and shift their sit-down businesses up-market.  Rosslyn should be looking forward, not striving to preserve the status quo.

4 comments:

Ode Street Tribune said...
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Anonymous said...

Just as long as a mobile gasoline tanker isn't brought in to compete with the brick-and-mortar Arlington Temple United Methodist Chevron Station

Anonymous said...

I don't think I would go to any restaurant that serves bricks and mortar

Robert Cannon said...

100 years ago Rosslyn was a bastion of brothels and boarding houses. It was where the bad element went to have fun.

Now, its just the bad element. In tremendously hip Arlington, Rosslyn scores a "lame." Spice from food trucks would do nothing but improve Rosslyn. It would bring in some exciting food, it would create some competition, it might result in better fare than fast pood, and chopped bowls of lettuce.

Really. Rosslyn is a transportation hub with 1000s of people going thru, and local restaurants give those 1000s almost no reason to stop for a bite. And their response to a little competition is regulatory destruction instead of competitive innovation.