I suppose that the original purpose of this blog was to review food. But as someone who eats probably more often than necessary, I feel that it's important to mention local food issues as well.
Just in case you don't live in Columbia, or if you haven't had the chance to pick up a copy yet, I think you should really check out the cover story from this week's Free Times. Yes folks, a debate about tacos is gracing the front page of our weekly paper. And it's really quite remarkable. I suggest that you read the article before reading my thoughts.
I would like to go on the record to say that I am in full support of allowing Der Tacos to open. Having previously worked in an area where food trucks were everywhere (no really, the entire street behind my previous office was lined with trucks), I am 100% in favor of having more trucks in Columbia. They're great options for a quick lunch. And, I don't know about the rest of you, but I take any excuse I can to get out of the office. Especially in a city like Columbia, where the weather is nice enough to eat outside for 8 months out of the year.
Here's the other thing. Those food trucks I mentioned before? At least two of them served Chinese food, a couple specialized in breakfast foods, and some were just general lunch fare. And of course, because I was in Philadelphia, the six trucks that weren't serving Chinese or Greek food had cheese steaks.
How in the world does this relate to the Der Taco vs. Fever debate? My location was very similar to the area of Main St. that is being discussed. We were close to several college campuses, offices, the train station, etc. It was a busy place. But not only were the food trucks always busy (and there were many more than just the eight that parked outside my building), but the sit down restaurants in the area were always packed during lunch. And guess what? Some of them even served the same kind of food!
Ms. Season's reasons why allowing Der Taco to open would hurt her business are a bit on the ridiculous side. As pointed out in the Free Times article, the location of the proposed cart is in the middle of an incredibly busy part of town. It is across the street from the SC State House, about three blocks from USC's campus, and only a couple blocks from myriad businesses in the downtown area. Wouldn't you think that would mean plenty of business for both establishments? Besides....how many business people are really going to take their clients to a taco truck for lunch? Wouldn't they opt for a sit-down restaurant instead?
It seems to me that Ms. Season believes that her restaurant should have the sole rights to tacos in downtown Columbia. I just wonder what she plans to do about the already established taco restaurants in the area. I also wonder if she's ever driven on a highway and seen fast food restaurants clumped together. Certainly McDonald's, Burger King, and Wendy's are much more direct competitors than a restaurant and a food truck. And yet, all of those fast food joints seem to thrive on the competition. Has Ms. Season ever visited a mall? A place, that by definition, houses multiple stores that sell almost identical merchandise? Amazing how those stores seem to relish the competition as well.
I also think that maybe Ms. Season should do a little bit of research about food trucks. As a general rule, they cater to a different clientele than sit down eateries, don't have extensive menus, aren't terribly expensive, and are open for a limited number of hours each day. Hardly a threat to compete and steal business from a typical restaurant.
And so, Columbia City Council, I urge you to allow Der Tacos to open. We live in a city that can certainly use as much business as possible. Especially when that business is small, locally owned, and planning to support the area's economy by using local ingredients. Promoting the local business scene is what the revitalization of Main Street is all about. And in the spirit of American free market capitalism, how can you really deny businesses the chance to compete? Do you really want to send a message to other potential Columbia business owners that our city caters to those with the larger spending budget? Your decision in this matter is going to set a precedent for future businesses. Hopefully you come to the right conclusion so that other small business owners start to consider Columbia for their opening plans. Because both this city and this state really need it.