News: Quick Takes

Raleigh gets middling ratings in study of U.S. food-truck ‘friendliness’

(CJ file photo)
(CJ file photo)

A new report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation ranks Raleigh 11th out of 20 cities for ease in operating food trucks within city limits. It’s the only North Carolina city ranked in the report.

With help from the Institute of Justice and the National Food Truck Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation started the Food Truck Nation project. It’s a comprehensive study of local food truck regulations in 20 cities across the U.S scoring cities in three categories: obtaining permits and licenses; complying with restrictions; and operating a food truck.

Raleigh’s Food Truck Nation score is based on the rules and regulations within either Raleigh city limits or Wake County and doesn’t include other Triangle jurisdictions.

While the study says Raleigh ranks above average in terms of food truck regulations by imposing fewer of them, it also notes the diversity of regulations across the Raleigh metro area increases the cost and complexity of running a food truck.

“Ranking 11th out of the 20 cities surveyed by the Chamber puts us firmly in the middle of the pack when it comes to food truck freedom,” Brent Woodcox, special counsel to Republicans at the General Assembly, said. “That means we have a long way to go to match cities with the strongest food truck scenes, like Portland and Denver.”

For the permit and license category, the study examined the number of procedures required to operate, the number of trips to regulators, and the cost associated with those steps. Raleigh ranked 10th for this category with 24 procedures, 16 trips, and $846 in fees required.

Raleigh’s lowest ranking on the index — a 14 out of 20 — is for complying with restrictions. As the study explains, Raleigh’s low ranking is more due to the number of proximity limits rather than the distance.

“Our lowest scores are due to the City Council placing limitations on food trucks using public right-of-ways as well as relatively high burdens when it comes to zoning, licensing, and taxes,” Woodcox said.

Raleigh has nine proximity restrictions amounting to 325 feet of restrictions. Food trucks must be 150 feet from a residential property, 100 feet from the front door of a restaurant, and 50 feet from a food vendor cart.

Hours of operation are also restricted depending on where the food truck is operating. If a food truck is within 150 feet of a residential property, then the hours of operation can’t go earlier than 7 a.m. or later than 10 p.m., otherwise a food truck can run from 6 a.m. to 3 a.m. The city also restricts the number of food trucks that can operate in any given space to prevent a food truck rodeo.

The study also looked at the number of required procedures, such as health and safety inspections, and the cost of compliance. Raleigh scored an 11 for 22 trips and $22,827 in compliance cost.

Other North Carolina cities, such as Durham and Charlotte, which recently relaxed its regulations, are friendlier to food trucks.

Woodcox said Raleigh should embrace food trucks because they give new entrepreneurs an easier path to starting their own food service-oriented business.

“If we want Raleigh to be a city of opportunity for all, we need to find ways to encourage these small business owners to thrive and not have government regulations standing in their way,” Woodcox said.