Will mobile vendors work long term?

Would mobile vendors eventually end up hurting Hoboken?

Mobile vendors and lunch trucks in Hoboken NJBack in the day – you typically had just a small number of mobile vendors – and they were mostly food.

The ice cream truck in the summer, a hot dog stand in some obscure location, and mobile food operations at places like outdoor festivals. That was about it!

I recall the ice cream truck being a “special occasion” for most people, because there weren’t a million ice cream stores within a stones throw. And kids were out actually playing on the streets. Not just schlepping from one place to another with family (and iPad Mini’s) in tow. Well deserved iced refreshments after working up a good summer sweat.

But the times have changed dramatically – especially since the economic “crash” of the late 2000’s. But how do all these mobile operations, while seemingly good for the consumer on the surface, affect a city like Hoboken in general?

Hoboken food truck trend on the rise

Despite restrictive food truck ordinances snuck into the law books (by members of the council who own restaurants and despise competition), the Hoboken lunch truck brigade is healthy – and growing.

With the exception of The Taco Truck, most food truck vendors that frequent the mile square, most likely began their operation due to the much higher start-up costs to own a brick & mortar restaurant (100’s of thousands vs. 10’s of thousands). Mobile food trucks are a quick and dirty way to start a potentially money making entrepreneurship.

The Taco Truck Hoboken NJ

Plus – one reason I think these trucks are succeeding (other than the influx of optimistic business owners), is probably because of the “random excitement” of seeing a truck you haven’t eaten at in a while, and many customers probably seize the opportunity because they don’t know when they’ll see the truck again. A kind of excitement many people need because they’re otherwise bored with their lives (i.e., what do you do that’s productive?)

Additionally, the trucks are capitalizing on many liberal trends that appeal to digitally connected younger people. Organic. Vegan. Grass-fed. Eco-friendly, and so on. They are giving what their customers (think they) want.

Mobile vendors of all kinds popping up now in Hoboken

So the number of food trucks has risen considerably. But now we have clothing boutiques on wheels – such as the Chic Rattle & Roll – and others beginning to pop up. I don’t believe the city ordinance was even written to incorporate other types of businesses that don’t serve food.

Where do you draw the line? What might come next?

Mobile nail salons? Mobile dry cleaning? MOBILE DAY CARE FOR TODDLERS? (That was my idea)

Should mobile vendors set up far away from traditional businesses?

Some may argue that if it’s not a competing business, that the trucks can and should be able to setup wherever they have parking. “Free market capitalism.”

Others argue that the simple fact that more options exist for the same financial spending base, that it could negatively impact the bottom line for everyone. In other words, there is only so much money being spent in Hoboken. However, you can say the same thing is happening with online sales vs. brick and mortar anyway. Blame it on technology and other advancements if you must.

Hoboken Lunch Truck Park concept

And of course you have the debate between traditional and mobile vendors where they complain about overhead, cost of doing business, etc.

However – some cities have designated “lunch truck areas” that are well removed from the beaten path – yet provide enough of a compelling reason to take the trip (variety, selection, something for everyone). Sort of like a farmers market of street festival. Perhaps the food trucks (and any others) that come visit Hoboken should be limited to the Vezzetti Way area? Or a similar area elsewhere in town? Other than people complaining about lost parking – how would that work out?

Sign of the times – or are there alternatives?

How do you feel about all this “competition” for your money just driving into Hoboken. Especially the food?

Would you rather see empty storefronts and even more idling food trucks? What drives people to the food trucks anyway? Complete laziness? Last I checked, the food wasn’t so astounding or affordable that I would hunt them down instead supporting my local eateries.

Sure – we may have a modest number today – but what if 100 different lunch trucks entered Hoboken on a daily basis. 250? At what point is enough? Can you even restrict it by law? Or does the city not even care as long as they can collect the fees from everyone?

Can you blame anyone else for this trend? Greedy landlords? Sick property taxes? Excessive government?

What would be an ideal scenario in Hoboken? More, less or the same?

17 Responses

  1. 212transplant says:

    How it works in a city. Helps step up competition a bit too. With the population rising and many visitors spending time in Hoboken there is plenty to go around. For now.

  2. realstuff says:

    Get real! Hurts businesses that pay high rents or taxes – it’s unfair advantage.

  3. realstuff says:

    Get real! Hurts businesses that pay high rents or taxes – it’s unfair advantage.

  4. Wink42 says:

    Restricting food trucks is the silliest thing I have ever heard. Bring them on, many of them are fantastic.

    It is not a legitimate reason to worry about brick and mortar locations. Its called competition. If people choose to eat at food trucks and not at brick mortar places, then so be it! That means the food truck likely has superior food. While Hoboken has some great restaurants, its also filled with mediocre food and tired menus–much of it due to lacks of new places to eat. Lots of these food trucks offer cuisines not found in Hoboken.

    Its also not right to worry about a limited amount of money being spent in Hoboken and that it should go to established places. Thats insane “old school” thinking and anti-competitive. Plus think of all the people that live in Hoboken that trek to Manhattan every weekend in search of better food? Maybe if we get more and decent food trucks some of those people will choose to stay and eat in Hoboken.

  5. Wink42 says:

    In addition I believe one of the main things causing Hoboken restaurants to suffer is that we have too many of the same type of places. Hoboken doesn’t need any more mediocre bars serving average bar food. It doesnt need any more “simple home style Italian” places, falafel, frozen yoghurt places, or pizza places.

    What it DOES need are more upscale and diverse options. Hoboken needs “gastropubs” serving interesting high quality eats and craft beer. It needs more wine bars for sure. It needs higher quality Asian restaurants. It needs a great authentic French cafe, and a few high end Italian joints not serving linguine with clams, but options like wild boar parpadella with shitake mushrooms, etc.

    Hoboken’s populace is growing more and more sophisticated (more then people give us credit for) and more and more pople from NYC and other spots are moving in who demand better food. The Hoboken restaurant scene needs to expand and diversify so those people dont always flee to Manhattan to eat. And allowing more food trucks is one way to start.

    • hobofromme says:

      I agree, Hoboken does need more diversity. And the argument of unfair advantages of food trucks is silly. Brick and mortar establishments offer seating, A/C on hot days, liquor, restrooms, that food trucks don’t offer.[quote comment=”220678″]In addition I believe one of the main things causing Hoboken restaurants to suffer is that we have too many of the same type of places. Hoboken doesn’t need any more mediocre bars serving average bar food. It doesnt need any more “simple home style Italian” places, falafel, frozen yoghurt places, or pizza places.What it DOES need are more upscale and diverse options. Hoboken needs “gastropubs” serving interesting high quality eats and craft beer. It needs more wine bars for sure. It needs higher quality Asian restaurants. It needs a great authentic French cafe, and a few high end Italian joints not serving linguine with clams, but options like wild boar parpadella with shitake mushrooms, etc.Hoboken’s populace is growing more and more sophisticated (more then people give us credit for) and more and more pople from NYC and other spots are moving in who demand better food. The Hoboken restaurant scene needs to expand and diversify so those people dont always flee to Manhattan to eat. And allowing more food trucks is one way to start.[/quote]

  6. realstuff says:

    Yes, competition is good; but, not unfair competion. By the way Wink, there is a distinction between Old Guard and Old School. Have a nice day!

    • Wink42 says:

      But how is it “unfair competition”? Because brick and mortarts have a lease and food trucks dont? (though they must pay some sort of fee to the city)

      And how do you define “fair” vs. “unfair” competition? Certainly restaurant leases are extremely varied..some places pay a lot, others much less., and maybe some even own their own spot. So how do you distinguish that?

      Also, is it “unfair” to offer better and cheaper food then the other guy because your costs are less and you have more innovation? I dont think so IMO.[quote comment=”220679″]Yes, competition is good; but, not unfair competion. By the way Wink, there is a distinction between Old Guard and Old School. Have a nice day![/quote]

  7. Grayson says:

    Hoboken needs a Mobile Complaint Department… A truck that people can step into when they want to grunt and groan about Mister Softee, kids having fun in a park, dogs in general, or anything else that was going on here before they got here, yet somehow they think since THEY are unhappy it should cease and desist for everyone else. The person who runs the Mobile Complaint Department can hand out two brochures. One called “You’re Not The Only One Here, So Learn To Deal With It”, and another called “Maybe You Should Consider Moving To Mudlick, Kentucky Where You Won’t Be Bothered And Then You Can Complain There About How Boring Everything Is”.

    • homeworld says:

      There is one. There’s the Hoboken 311 app. https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/hoboken311/id499327512?mt=8quote comment=”220680″]Hoboken needs a Mobile Complaint Department… A truck that people can step into when they want to grunt and groan about Mister Softee, kids having fun in a park, dogs in general, or anything else that was going on here before they got here, yet somehow they think since THEY are unhappy it should cease and desist for everyone else. The person who runs the Mobile Complaint Department can hand out two brochures. One called “You’re Not The Only One Here, So Learn To Deal With It”, and another called “Maybe You Should Consider Moving To Mudlick, Kentucky Where You Won’t Be Bothered And Then You Can Complain There About How Boring Everything Is”.[/quote]

  8. realstuff says:

    The REAL issue not ice cream trucks or hot dog carts – Food trucks have to be regulated and their numbers controlled because of the unfair advantage they have in this competitive area. That’s MO and I don’t have to refer to Old School thinking [Wink] and the trip back to Mudlick, Ky. [Grayson] to attempt to get my point across.
    Stop treating one’s opinion as a DISEASE, please!

    • Wink42 says:

      Real Stuff,

      Sorry, I do respect your opinion, I hope I did not come across as the opposite. I was just trying to understand the reasoning behind the “unfair competition” bit.[quote comment=”220682″]The REAL issue not ice cream trucks or hot dog carts – Food trucks have to be regulated and their numbers controlled because of the unfair advantage they have in this competitive area. That’s MO and I don’t have to refer to Old School thinking [Wink] and the trip back to Mudlick, Ky. [Grayson] to attempt to get my point across. Stop treating one’s opinion as a DISEASE, please![/quote]

    • Grayson says:

      “That’s MO and I don’t have to refer to Old School thinking [Wink] and the trip back to Mudlick, Ky. [Grayson] to attempt to get my point across.”

      My comment was a very general statement, making reference to various things people here complain about, and was not directed at you personally.[quote comment=”220682″]The REAL issue not ice cream trucks or hot dog carts – Food trucks have to be regulated and their numbers controlled because of the unfair advantage they have in this competitive area. That’s MO and I don’t have to refer to Old School thinking [Wink] and the trip back to Mudlick, Ky. [Grayson] to attempt to get my point across. Stop treating one’s opinion as a DISEASE, please![/quote]

  9. iforgotmymantra says:

    Love the idea of that food truck triangle!

  10. Wink42 says:

    Dear Hoboken 411: Just curious per your comment in the article–who in the council owns what restaurants exactly?

  11. realstuff says:

    You’r OK Wink…remember Lau – the food trucks were parked close to their location and this site has not attracted any new occupants. Maxwell place has had several high end restauratuers’ look but no apparent success yet. I just think there should be a balance. By the way, I am not in this business and have been fortunate to see the many changes that have taken place in our great city. Now to Grayson – high end places carry a big overhead and time will tell how many can operate successfully iHoboken. Stay well and safe ‘guys’.

  12. realstuff says:

    You’r also OK Grayson – you were general and I try to give short specific points to support MO on a specific issue. I have been using ice cream trucks since the days of ‘Good Humor’ and have eaten at the best hot dog carts in this city – past and present…..this topic of full-blown Gourmet food trucks is a ‘GAME-CHANGER!

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