Monday, April 25, 2011

Guest Post: Matt from Li'l Cheezers Explains!

Update: When this was originally posted, I titled it "Mike from Li'l Cheezers..." The man's name is Matt.  Geez Louise, Lou.  It was right there in the email.  My apologies to Matt.  Matt says this happens all the time, for some reason... 

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about Li'l Cheezers, the new grilled cheese truck making the rounds in the city.  I'd watched the business develop via their Facebook & Twitter posts, and I was-- as many people were-- dismayed when I saw that they'd hit a red-tape wall regarding city ordinances.  I emailed the folks at Li'l Cheezers and asked them for the skinny.  But they were, understandably, too busy to be able to respond at the time.  Since then, Li'l Cheezers has pushed through the frustrating blocks and the truck is up and running and routinely selling out!  Fabulous news!  Now that the bureaucratic nightmare is mostly over, Matt Davis was nice enough to drop me a lengthy email with the Li'l Cheezers story.  With his permission, I reproduce the story here:

Basically (if basic is even possible) what happened was that 3 years ago an ordinance was passed to regulate pop up vendors on the side of the road selling swap meet Nikes and fake Persian rugs. They were also selling food and anything else they could to make money. By the addition of the word "food" in that vendor ordinance the regulating agencies took it upon themselves to police up all mobile food vendors that weren't compliant with the local vendor ordinances. Unknowingly infringing upon liberties given these mobile food vendors by the Health Department which is a state entity. Local trumped state for about 3 years and that was clearly not the way its supposed to work. Once that was realized by the Mayor's Policy Analyst he called the IPL and basically got the problem solved. The Inspections, Permits and Licenses division and more specifically the division of Alcohol and Beverage control are still charged with making sure we are permitted properly by the health department and we are doing everything we are supposed to be doing but we are no longer required to meet the requirements of the local ordinance regulating Stationary and Mobile Vendors and Peddlers as long as we are legal with the health department.

There were other concerns as well like the competition that we give to brick and mortar establishments but I will not apologize for having a different concept. Qdoba doesn't apologize to Taco Bell, and no one is crying about the unmanned Redbox movie rental cabinets across the street from the closed-down Blockbusters. I am sure they didn't have to have a meeting at the Mayor's office and they took jobs and industry from the community. And is that money local? It would seem to me that anything taking jobs away from the area ought to be pumping as much money back into the local community as possible.

Primarily I think food trucks got a bad rap because they are hard to regulate, they can move anywhere, and if you aren't paying attention they could potentially sell anything, and I recognize that as a problem. But ANY business can do that and the daily operational practices of a business are only as good as the owner and employees of said business. I am a 15 year EMS veteran both civilian and military, a homeowner, taxpayer, father, and husband. I bring an ethical standard to my business practices that are without question. I am not trying to sit in front of a restaurant and undercut your prices and steal business. I don't want to go where the food IS; I want to go where the food ISN'T like industrial parks, office parks, and construction sites. People might only get 30 minutes for lunch and that leaves 4 options: bring it from home, raid the vending machines, skip lunch or race to the closest fast food joint and slam your food on the way back to work. If an option is in the parking lot of an office or industrial park and it provides a quick and easy food option within walking distance, then it gives employees a chance to sit, converse, digest, and clock back in on time. Happy employees are much more productive employees and that's important especially in direct customer contact based services.

Beyond that, late night bar crowds are our bread and butter on the weekends. I am not hurting any local business by sitting near 3 or 4 bars with no 3am food options close by. If having a food truck there keeps one drunkard from making a run for the border then the contribution these trucks make are even more lucrative than sales tax revenue.

So it would seem that the problem is solved for now and we have been doing excellent. I am so thrilled with all the positive response from the concept, the food and the rally of support for our culinary contribution. Unlike EMS, now I see smiles on faces when we show up, I see people happy about our presence and I see people raving about the food. I couldn't ask for a better response with over 600 Facebook and Twitter followers in the first 2 weeks and the location offers rolling in. And the press.... I don't even know where it is all coming from. All over the internet, newspapers and word of mouth is amazing.

Thank you so much to Matt-- I don't know him personally, but I love his story, and his commitment to all things local and ethical.  Haven't tried Li'l Cheezers, but as soon as we get a spate of better weather, I will track down the truck-- cheese and bread are my two of my favorite food groups (if only he served bourbon... nirvana!).  You can find the Li'l Cheezers food truck by following them on Twitter (@lilcheezers).  Or just keep an eye out for the Spongebob-yellow truck!  Good luck, Mike!

1 comment:

jasonscs said...

Not to mention that cities like Portland give entire city blocks to food trucks, in the busiest of restaurant areas.

We'll grow up little by little.

Best of luck with the truck.