Cupcakes as Crack Deals

At Reason’s Hit & Run blog, Katherine Mangu-Ward cites a WSJ article that tells a story of a Ms. Kurtz, who was fined $275 for selling cupcakes out of her food truck. As you may know, I am a strong supporter of mobile purveyors of food (as I wrote back in September). I think it’s a fantastic innovation. Bringing the gourmet, the tasty, the fresh, right to your doorstep. Brilliant!

Fast, Fresh and Convenient. Who Doesn't Like That?

But this isn’t how the thugs of Chicago see it:

After receiving a $275 ticket, Ms. Kurtz, a 41-year-old entrepreneur who quit her corporate marketing job recently to launch Flirty Cupcakes, told her fans to meet her in the alley. “It was like a drug deal,” she says. “I said, ‘Just take them and run.”‘

Unlike other cities, where chefs are free to actually cook inside their trucks, Chicago chefs can’t unwrap or alter the food in any way once it’s on a truck. And food trucks aren’t allowed to park within 200 feet of a restaurant. Such roadblocks have kept all but a few chefs from taking to the streets—even as the food trucks fight to change the rules.

Here we have restaurants working with law enforcement to put these wonderful, mobile innovators out of business. I find this to be perfectly yellow-bellied. Should this decision not be up to the consumer? If the cupcakes are tastier, more appealing, and more affordable at Ms. Kurtz’s mobile business, shouldn’t that be enough?

The issue I have is that these business are consciously limiting and, in some cases, preventing competition. And they are doing so by force, with the assistance of men with guns. The issue I have is, in doing so, they hurt the consumer, stripping them of their choice.

Are these mobile restaurants not just a derivation, an iteration, an innovation of the brick and mortar restaurant? If the value they produce is desired, and desired to a degree with which to stay in business and continue to produce for the happy consumer, they should remain, unassailed and unabashed.

Restaurants don’t seem to like mobile food anywhere, in any capacity. See video about the Los Angeles ‘Taco Truck Takedown’:

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