geoffrey gauchet

Tell the City Council You Love Food Trucks!

So, the New Orleans City Council heard from both sides of the food truck issue today. You can read all about what was said on The Gambit’s LIVE Twitter feed and Taceaux Loceaux’s Twitter feed. As you may know, I’m a huge supporter of food trucks.

Local Coffee Truck, Brigade Coffee put out a plea to citizens to e-mail various City Council folks to voice your support for food trucks. 

And so, I did. I encourage you to do so.

Hi! My name is Geoffrey Gauchet and I am a New Orleans resident (Filmore neighborhood) and I work in the CBD, directly across from the Superdome.

I am a big fan of the area food trucks and the “food truck culture”. I follow Taceaux Loceaux on Facebook and Twitter and try to make it down to their locations to grab whatever awesome tacos they’ve got for the night.

I’d like to voice my support of the local Food Trucks, as a citizen in New Orleans, a worker in New Orleans, and a student at the University of New Orleans. I’m also in great support of our culture here. I know I’d meet no opposition if I said that the culture in New Orleans is unlike any other city in the world. One of the most prominent and world-renowned aspects of our culture is our food. After the Super Bowl and other large events in the city, all anyone can talk about is our food. I’ve been on planes out of MSY with passengers leaving the city and unwrapping a shrimp po-boy or checking their “luggage” of pounds of boiled crawfish. Our food’s so good that people stock up on it at the airport before leaving. Heck, I’d argue that our bakeries ship at least as many king cakes out of the state as they sell to us New Orleanians. How many of our chefs have been featured on Food Network, and of those, how many have won some sort of competition there? LOTS.

New Orleans was born (and re-born) out of a spirit of entrepreneurship and the desire to start anew and build something great. The ingenuity of the food truck industry to make mouth-watering food in a cramped space armed with pretty much a propane tank and a generator, is absolutely inspiring. It shows us how with a little bit of drive and a little bit of inspiration (that we’re definitely known for), anything is possible.

And never mind the fact that their food is consistently delicious!

As someone who spends 40-60 hours a week in the CBD, I know the food options around here pretty well, and on my end of Poydras, the options are pretty underwhelming. There are a couple of cafeterias in highrises nearby that’ll cook a decent hot meal, and there are two (yes, TWO) Subways in and around the corner from my building. But that’s about it over here. We need something better and something local.

The only complaint I keep hearing from those that oppose Food Trucks is from restaurant owners that claim the trucks will steal business away from them. To that, I ask, how have these restaurants remained open for long then? What will these restaurants do if another restaurant moves into the building across the street from them? The US is run on capitalism and competition — if your brick-and-mortar restaurant open 7 days-a-week from 10am-11pm can’t compete with a little truck with a propane griddle that’s parked 600 feet away from you for an hour or two, then maybe your restaurant just isn’t that good.

It feels as though the City of NO (pun intended) is trying everything in their power to protect these restaurants. But why? Why must we bend over backwards to protect a business from experiencing a little competition?

On Carrollton in Mid City, there exists a Rouses that has been there for a number of years. There is, as we speak, a competing grocery store — Winn-Dixie (not owned by locals) — being built immediately across the street from the Rouses. Why is the City Council not holding meetings and passing laws regarding the proximity of this regional chain Winn-Dixie opening across the street from local chain Rouses? The new Winn-Dixie will be open all day (possibly 24 hours like other locations), will be permanently located across the street from the Rouses, and will causes far more traffic in that part of Mid City. Yet, no one is making any noise about two grocery stores having to compete for the same customers. So why are we discussing two food service businesses competing?

Is it because groceries are different than restaurants? Okay, using the Warehouse District and restaurants, why is okay for Emeril’s — a nationally-known, household name chef’s restaurant — able to be located practically nextdoor to Tommy’s? Or why do we allow Vic’s to be catty-corner from Lucy’s? Shouldn’t we be worried about the competition? There are MANY bars and restaurants in the Warehouse District already, so why was The District able to open just a couple of years ago? Why weren’t THEY forced to open out in New Orleans East or the 9th Ward?

To me, it reeks of hypocrisy. The LRA — whom a few food trucks are actually members — is so deathly afraid of these little trucks, and yet, have no issue with competing restaurants opening permanently across from each other.

Why are we stifling the growth of an entire sub-industry? Why are we fighting something that the people actually do want? Why are we letting Lucky Dog sell hot dogs in the CBD and Quarter, but not these newer food trucks? Nostalgia? I’m for nostalgia as much as the next guy (still wear my Nick’s Big Train Bar t-shirt on a regular basis), but sometimes New Orleans needs to grow up and move forward.

When I want food from a food truck, I seek out that food truck. When I want food from a restaurant, I seek out that restaurant. Never have I or anyone I know started walking to a traditional restaurant, seen a food truck, and said “Oh, instead of this sit-down, table-service, air-conditioned restaurant I was planning on eating at, I’ll grab a burrito out the window of that truck and eat it while sitting on the curb.” That never happens. If I’m walking from my car to La Boca, I’m going to go eat at La Boca. You don’t make a plan to go out to eat and then change your mind because you see a food truck. Hell, the same goes for spontaneous restaurant visits. I’ve never been hungry in the French Quarter and started thinking whether I should eat Angeli’s or Fiorella’s and just gave up and ate a Lucky Dog. No, I eat a Lucky Dog because dammit I want a Lucky Dog, not because it’s 601 feet away from Angeli’s.

I ask of you to consider letting this sub-industry thrive and create a new tradition in New Orleans. Other cities may have food trucks but none have or will ever have food trucks like ours. Let New Orleans be the example of a truly hospitable city that embraces change and can make new ideas work.

Sincerely,

Geoffrey Gauchet

70122

I tried to make some points, but most importantly, I tried to convey that I really want this, and that it’d be a positive view of the city if we did make food trucks have life a little easier.

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