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Mobile mobilizing: Local group plans big push to change regulations on food trucks

Mobile mobilizing: Local group plans big push to change regulations on food trucks

Houston’s food truck scene has exploded into a mobile supernova over the last two years. Sure, taco trucks in their most basic form have been around for years, but the newer ones offer a glimpse at creative culinary genius.

On any given day now, you can find mobile pizza, pho, and hot-hot hotdogs. In the mood for a sammich? Find a truck for a poboy, grilled cheese, or PB&J. We’ve got Filipino trucks, French trucks, Mexican trucks, Chinese trucks, and fusion food trucks galore. Cheesesteaks, burgers, ceviche, waffles, juice, crepes, gourmet bites, desserts, and more. The list goes on and on.

 Included in the group’s proposal are changes to allow trucks to offer limited seating, eliminate the 60-foot distance between mobile food units, allow one propane permit to cover multiple locations, and lift the propane ban downtown. 

But don’t let that depth and diversity fool you. As "any" mobile unit in Houston will tell you, the journey from sideline to starter is not easy. The process is heavily regulated — which isn’t a bad thing for consumers — and some of the city ordinances seem antiquated or downright unnecessary. 

Street vendors, for example, must be at least 100 feet from any seating area, the teensiest of carts must have a massive vent hood, and vendors are never allowed to perch on a sidewalk. Long-standing fire codes prevent any propane-powered business from selling downtown or in the Medical Center, which makes Houston’s two largest pedestrian areas off limits.

While many of the standards are a welcome way to ensure food safety, the continual scrutiny and opposition stifles these burgeoning entrepreneurs — and now there’s a group that’s aiming to fix that.

The Houston Mobile Food Unit (MFU) Collective has announced that it will propose ordinance changes to Mayor Annise Parker and the Houston City Council on Sept. 26. Included in the group’s proposal are changes to allow trucks to offer limited seating, eliminate the 60-foot distance between mobile food units, allow one propane permit to cover multiple locations and lift the propane ban downtown.

The Collective believes these changes will further warm the local climate for food trucks and other small businesses. Additionally, they say, the changes would add to Houston’s reputation for entrepreneurship and increase our standing as destination city. A welcome idea, considering the positive national attention our food scene has garnered lately.

"Houston has earned a reputation for supporting local establishments and fostering the growth of businesses, both large and small," says Joe Phillips, co-owner of Oh my! Pocket Pies. "Approving changes to support mobile food units will directly contribute to the success of local, small businesses, and will allow them to grow, strengthening our city's economy."

How can you help? The MFU Collective suggests attending the City Council meeting on Sept. 26, sending in a letter of support to the mayor and council members and signing the public petition at participating mobile food vendor locations.

Mobile Food Unit Houston, food trucks
The Houston Mobile Food Unit (MFU) Collective has announced that it will propose ordinance changes to Mayor Annise Parker and the Houston City Council on Sept. 26. Save Our Food Trucks/Facebook