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Detroit's Food Truck Industry is Expanding, but City Regulators are Still Playing Catch-Up

The Detroit City Council is moving to develop an official ordinance for food trucks.

Norma G's Caribbean food truck debuted earlier this year.
Norma G's Caribbean food truck debuted earlier this year.
Michelle and Chris Gerard
Brenna Houck is a Cities Manager for the Eater network. She previously edited Eater Detroit and reported for Eater. You can follow her on the internet at @brennahouck.

Relief could be on the way for Detroit food truck operators. The City Council led by District 6 representative Raquel Castañeda-López is preparing to create an official ordinance pertaining to food trucks, reports The Detroit News. "Many food truck owners find it difficult to operate in Detroit even with a state permit because the city lacks a process and the infrastructure to support this industry," Castañeda-López tells the News.

The ordinance would clarify food truck permitting processes and develop discrete categories of mobile food businesses such as fruit and vegetable carts. Additionally, the new rules will help define where trucks can park and create "food pods" — property rental spaces where multiple food trucks could park.

It's been four years since the first "modern" (aka regulated) food trucks first received approval from the city, The Detroit Free Press reportsToday there are more than 30 vendors operating in Detroit. It's become a popular route to gauge public interest in a potential brick-and-mortar restaurant business without the investment cost and is now used as a marketing tool by bigger chains like Andiamo.

Still, Michigan state director of the organization Generation Opportunity Kevin Gardner argues in a Detroit News op-ed that the industry's growth is hindered by complicated and outdated city regulations. Gardner urges the City Council to take the ordinance revisions as a "chance to draft a ‘Bill of Rights' for food truckers." Gardner's opening premise that "artisanal pita sandwiches and gourmet mac n' cheese" could "save Detroit" is cringe-worthy; however, he states that streamlining rules and removing barriers such as where truck can park will further the growth in Detroit's fledgling food truck community. According to The Detroit News, the new ordinance is expected to be passed by the end of the year.

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