Tupelo should not be in the business of overregulating food trucks

The Tupelo city council is considering regulating food trucks in the city but not for reasons you may suspect.

It is not because the food trucks are unclean. It is not because they are unsafe. There hasn’t been any report of a massive wave of citizens becoming ill after enjoying a meal from a local food truck.

And the food trucks aren’t operating illegally. They still go through the same health and safety regulations of a traditional restaurant.

According to a recent article in The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, city leaders are looking to regulate food trucks as part of an effort to protect brick-and-mortar restaurants within the city limits.

Picking winners and losers

The food trucks are simply competition, and apparently the city of Tupelo is interested in favoring one type of industry over another.

We all agree that there are general standards than any business that is serving food must meet. That is already being done in Tupelo. No cities, however, should be in the business of saying you must be located a certain distance from an established restaurant. Or you can only have food trucks for certain special events or weekends.

City leaders should encourage food trucks. They should be proud that food trucks want to be in their city. A look around any growing or dynamic city across the country will show an emerging food truck sector. That should be celebrated, not overregulated.

This is about more than food trucks

We should be encouraging people to become entrepreneurs. To follow their passion. This extends beyond just food trucks and touches every area of our economy.

Too often government leaders just think about what already exists or what is already providing a tax revenue. And then we feel threatened if competition rises up. As anyone who has ever been part of the private sector will tell you, competition is a good thing. Businesses grow (or fail). And consumers win.

The reason taxis have fought Uber or Lyft is not because you or I can’t drive people to where they want to go. Picking someone up at the airport and driving them to a hotel is not some proprietary work that an untrained professional cannot do. Rather, it is monopoly one sector of an industry had. They lost that monopoly because, like all monopolies, innovation, risk taking, and customer service was absent from the taxi industry.

Rather than get better or more competitive, monopolies reach out to the government to protect them. We saw this when the ridesharing economy was born and expanded. We have seen it with the homesharing economy. We see it with food trucks. And I am certain we will see it in other areas of our economy in the future.

Unfortunately, as we have witnessed in almost every case, the government mindset has been to overregulate and protect what it is already there. To choose winners and losers.

That should not be the job of government. That should be the job of the individual citizens. Because if they don’t like what food trucks in Tupelo are providing, the market will decide who the winners and losers are. We don’t go to government websites to choose which restaurant or hotel we will visit. We go to peer review sites or apps.

Encouraging entrepreneurship and letting the market decide is the answer that Tupelo’s city council should be choosing. It works in cities all across America. And it will work in Tupelo if government leaders will just let the citizens decide for themselves.


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