What if these establishments were moved into a food court — with art and seating?
I’m aware of all the arguments in favor of food trucks:
1. They allow entrepreneurs to start restaurant businesses with far less cash than a storefront requires.
2. They cost virtually nothing, rent-wise (though other costs including fuel, parking tickets, and the vehicle itself must be taken into account).
3. They can charge the same prices as a brick-and-mortar establishments for similar food.
And the obvious ones against them:
1. Necessarily lower level of hygiene.
2. Increased air pollution and roadway congestion, plus dependence on fossil fuels.
3. Adverse working conditions for owners/employees.
But another thing about food trucks is bothering me. In a recent piece on empty restaurant real estate in Greenwich Village, I mentioned that as restaurants are failing and leaving storefronts vacant, the number of trucks and carts in those areas are increasing. Perhaps there’s a correlation. Are we foregoing an indoor-restaurant culture for an outdoor one? Will we be forever consigned to snacking standing up, in the heat or cold, and without alcohol?
I sometimes wish the city would adopt the attitude Singapore has toward its street carts: subsidizing them by providing malls with amenities to street vendors. New York could thus encourage restaurant businesses in a way it doesn’t do now, offering the mall spaces — which could feature open-air seating and pleasant decor — as a subsidy but also collecting taxes it probably doesn’t now receive.
The public has a hygienic space to sit down and eat, plus the pleasure of finding so many diverse food choices in one spot. It would also be a magnet for tourists and residents alike, but without supplanting the more luxurious meal one can expect in a full-service restaurant, and also providing a potential springboard for successful restaurateurs to move into their own spaces.
Well, what do you think?
A Singapore “Food Centre.” Would it work here?
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 7, 2012