Hot Dog Vendors Gang Up on the Street Sweets Truck


Urgh.  What did I say on Wednesday? This just in from Lunch’er Lee:

“Just went by the Street Sweets Truck and 4 hot dog carts set up in their spot on 53rd btwn 5th and 6th at 9am. Not to beat a dead horse, but how could selling croissants and coffee possibly cut into hot dog cart business? They sell crappy hot dogs and prepackaged beef patties? Total horsesh*t, now I don’t have a cup of coffee and I am tired.”

I think it’s easy to turn against the hot dog vendors in front of MOMA but look at things from their perspective.

I don’t think it’s right for any cart to intimidate or threaten another cart, but you have to appreciate the full scope of the situation here.  For years, Midtown carts have policed themselves using this method.  Before the latest wave of “hipster” vendors showed up, vendors couldn’t just park their carts wherever they wanted…they had to ask permission, or broker a deal with the other carts in the area.  It’s the reason why there aren’t 20 carts parked in front of MOMA.  Or trucks filling up every single square inch of Midtown for that matter.

It’s easy to say “hey, the more carts the better for us!”  But the truth is, that’s not the case.  If an infinite number of carts were allowed to park in Midtown, the brick and mortar businesses- who have learned to live side by side with a certain number of mobile vendors- will quickly become hostile if the number of vendors multiply exponentially. And they will start coming down on the cops to enforce rules that they might be ignoring right now.  (Like not being able to vend from a metered spot.)

The fact is, the “system” (for lack of a better word) that the vendors have created for themselves does have some advantages.  Mainly, keeping the number of carts at a level that has been acceptable to most Midtown businesses for decades.  If new trucks start disrupting that order, there could be problems that end up hurting us (the cart loving consumers.)

And that doesn’t even take into account the hard working vendors working at nondescript hot dog carts, who have toiled away in these spots for years and years to make wages that would be unthinkable to us- especially considering how many hours they work, and the distances they travel to work at a cart in tourist heavy Midtown.  There is no excuse for intimidation or threats, but the fact is these hard working vendors (who make practically nothing) depend entirely on tourist and walk up business. They need a spot like the one in front of MOMA to survive.  The Street Sweets truck doesn’t need that spot to survive.

The new breed of trucks have so many more resources at their disposable.  Twitter… Facebook… PR from blogs.  And a customer base that will go a little out of their way to find them.  That’s why I suggested that Street Sweets find a less desireable spot, and build their audience from there.  The Treats Truck did it with their spot on 38th and 5th Ave.  The Street Sweets Truck can do it too.  If not, this is just going to keep on happening.

And this should be a lesson to all new vendors, or those thinking about jumping into the business.  Yes, opening a truck is cheaper than opening a brick and mortar store.  Yes, you will get more press because you are mobile.  But finding a spot is not as easy as it seems.  And too many new vendors are looking for lightning in a bottle.  They park in a spot for one day, and if the business isn’ t there they move on to another spot… usually in a high foot traffic area with other entrenched vendors (who end up hassling them.)

New vendors need to be more patient, and know that you might go a few months in a single spot without being profitable- or just squeaking by.  But you have to pay your dues, and stick with a single spot in order to build up a consistent customer base.  Treats Truck did it.  Wafels and Dinges did it.  And so did the Biryani Cart, and the Kwik Meal Cart, and a lot of these hot dog vendors too.  And those last three didn’t have Twitter!


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