Schnitzel Truck Responds: “It’s Not Our Fault!”

Apparently the Schnitzel & Things Truck didn’t like what I had to say this morning about the issues they had yesterday on 43rd & 6th Ave:

“Just saw your little piece on ML. To be quite honest I don’t really care who you side with. It doesn’t matter to us one bit. But one thing you should know is that our business DOES in fact rely on heavy foot traffic! And because I am on Twitter, it doesn’t give me the right to park where we feel we will get the most customers?

You side with the “old school” but your solution for us, to go find a quiet street isn’t actually a solution that works at all. Instead of siding maybe you should realize that it’s not our fault! There is a conflict situation at hand and I understand the other point of view just as much as you, but I have a business to run and I need to hit my targets on a daily basis to stay profitable. And if it means that I have to stand my ground and get threats from an ice cream guy, so be it.”

“I’m gonna let you in on a little secret, TWITTER IS NOT ENOUGH. It won’t cut it, so next time please try to be a little objective when you criticize. Like I said to you and many others, we don’t want trouble. But we will not back down when it comes to OUR livelihoods!! I think you kind of forgot about that as well. Mr softee and the halal guys aren’t the only ones out there making a living. Stay in touch.”

I love the new crop of street vendors, just as much as the old school street vendors- and I’ve done nothing but support all the new vendors on this site.  But your email sums up why these conflicts are happening more and more these days.  I don’t deny that you have every right to park wherever you want to “get the most customers”, but in the end that’s not a sustainable solution.  Because what happens when the next vendor comes along and decides he wants to park where you are parking.  And then all of a sudden we have 10 vendors trying to park in the same high traffic spot? That can’t be the solution.

The reason your business depends on foot traffic right now is because you’ve been around for less than 2 months!   But it doesn’t have to be that way.  I understand that Twitter is not enough, and I agree it will never be enough to sustain your business. The point I was trying to make is that you have so many tools at your disposable to make your business successful, if you just pay your dues.  Find a schedule of consistent spots, and build up your audience.  You don’t need to park on 43rd & 6th to run a profitable business in the long term. And if you insist of parking there, your short term profit might increase- but you might end up hurting your business (and the business of all street vendors) in the long term.

And that’s my point.  It’s not that I like old school vendors more than new school vendors, or want to protect their businesses more than new school vendors.  The vending community has policed itself fairly successfully for years, using a certain set of unwritten rules. If new vendors were allowed to park wherever they want, there will end up being serious long term consequences.  And not from quick to fight ice cream trucks.  It will be from cops, and brick and mortar businesses, and eventually the government. The vendors who have worked the streets for years understand this.  And that’s why they go to great lengths to protect the status quo.

If every new truck had your attitude, it wouldn’t be long before the streets were filled with trucks.  And that would not be acceptable to the brick and mortar businesses who pay obscene rents to do business on the packed streets of Midtown.  And they will do what they can to “hit their targets” and protect their bottom line… and that means putting you out of business.

I’m not against the Schnitzel Truck.  I’m for the Schnitzel Truck.  I LOVE the Schnitzel Truck.  That’s why I’m trying to help you.  And I think a lot of people who are thinking of becoming street vendors need to learn about these things before opening trucks of their own.  Too many entrepreneurs think that running a food truck is somehow different than running a brick and mortar.  They think, costs are cheaper and there is no rent, so it must be easier to make a profit from day one.  Well, that just isn’t the case. Like any business, it takes time to become profitable, and there are no quick fixes.

When it comes to brick and mortar businesses, a storefront that sees incredibly heavy foot traffic is going to cost much more in rent than an out of the way business location.  So, if you are the kind of business that relies on foot traffic you pay the exorbitant rent and take your chances.  If you are a business that people will go out of their way for, you pay less rent and rely on your marketing or cache or superior product to draw people in.  It doesn’t happen overnight, but with patience you end up with a successful and profitable business.

Why should street vending be any different?  If you want to park in a high traffic area, there are far more obstacles in your way.  Other vendors, brick and mortar businesses, and cops. You’ll get more tickets, and be forced to move more often.  It’s tougher.  And it if  wasn’t tougher, everybody would park there.  And if everybody starts parking in Midtown, the city is going to start enforcing the rules so that nobody can vend in Midtown.  That spot you were in yesterday?  It’s illegal.  Mister Softee truck or not, you are technically not allowed to park there.  So why fight them for the spot?

Your business is the kind of business that over time can be profitable on a less crazy block.  It might take a few months, but isn’t that preferable to fighting over real estate? Especially when a system of “park wherever you want” could lead to the city shutting down vending for everybody.  Wouldn’t you rather build up your business in a spot that is rightfully yours, and then be protected by the same unwritten rules that protect the current vendors from you?

If you fight for a spot like 43rd & 6th, you might win the battle.  But in the long run we’ll all end up losing the war.

Related:
What Happened At the Schnitzel & Things Truck Yesterday?

63 Comments

  • Look people, you can’t have it both ways. We applauded Shnitzel when they said they wouldn’t be bullied. We stood up for El Rey when they stuck their ground yesterday (and in the past when their second cart first opened. remember that whole affair?)We got pissed when many carts got pushed out of midtown. I’m all for these carts/trucks not getting bullied. Maybe Schnitzel took it a little to personal,but whatever. They are just trying to get a foot up in this ‘biznitch’ And we can’t just get on their case now, when we’ve been so pro-new trucks/carts before and anti-bullying.
    In the end, what matters is that they find a long term spot, and any further arguments with other vendors be on the ‘down low” AKA DON’T BRING THE POLICE OR STOREFRONTS INTO IT AND ANNOY THE FUCK OUT OF THE CITY AND POLICE. That will be bad for everyone including us hungry midtowners.

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    Mamacita,

    There is a difference between being assertive and being disrespectful.

    For a new truck to come in and expect not to have to “play the game” is laughable.

    If the Schnitzel truck wants to stand it’s ground in the way it has laid out, it should take it to the legislature, not the Mister Softee slinger.

    Reform comes about by calculated campaigning and lobbying efforts. You can’t back-door your way into change by simply acting as if the layout of the world is the way that you fantasize it to be.

    Instead, change comes from operating respectfully within pre-existing boundaries and using legitimate means to expand those boundaries. Policy changes ought to precede changes in the behavior of those affected by the policies.

    Schnitz presumably wants to reform the world of street vending via simply behaving however it wants. If anything, this hurts the cause, as reformers are seen more as pests than as legitimate citizens with legitimate concerns.

    I’m no politician, but it seems fairly reasonable to charge people with respecting the current lay of the land while they simultaneously pursue reform efforts. If and when the reform efforts lead to policy change – the issue would be laid to rest. All I’m saying is play by the rules that govern until new rules replace them and feel free to be the catalyst for that change.

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    I think both sides should step back, and take a deep breath, because ultimately, we all want the same thing, good food carts/trucks in midtown.

    Alot gets lost in “emails”, so lets recognize that we all DO want the same thing.

    I pretty much agree with Zach though. There ARE unwritten rules, and while some may say “well, that’s not good enough” the way you change that is by legislation, not by force or “taking” someone else’s spot. (btw, if you are going to take a spot, make sure it’s a LEGAL spot before you get into an argument kekee? :-P :-P )

    Until LEGISLATION is passed though, it behooves any new players to try to work within the current framework. You don’t have to agree with it, but it’s better to try to work things out than to get into arguments.

    It’s not a matter of allowing “bullies” to bully the new players. The new players need to learn how to pick their fights better. Being pushed of a LEGAL spot because someone else doesn’t want them there? Stand your ground!! Fighting over an illegal spot? Silly at the best…

    I’ll end this with another reminder, remember, we all want the same thing..so no sense letting passions/emotions flare…

  • Nothwithstanding the new ML foray into food politics and other boring/idiotic topics, I actually went out and ate at the Schnitzel Truck today.

    Third in line, order in at 11:45, pork schnitzel in hand at 11:50 with cukes & beets and a side of the mushroom soup special. Crispy yet greaseless textbook schnitzel, great sides, and the mushroom soup was the big surprise – it was about 50% made of diced FRESH mushrooms and a steal at $3. Out-fucking-standing. The guys were very nice, yet it is very clear that no one will intimidate them.

    Crowd at 12:15 was about 25 people strong. The Jamaican cart on the same block had 5 people in line and the Cense burger truck was empty.

    Regardless of politics/opinions its clear (to me anyway) they make a great product at a fair price and the crowd is voting as such with their $.

    I look forward to their winter campaign against the belgian carts before the fall of the Le Gamin truck in the spring

  • Why all the paragraphs…it’s a food blog….not a fucking Affidavit ……

    And yesterdays freak….a Ladyboy.

  • Wanted to chime in that Wafels and Dinges totally gets it.

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  • I am with schnitzel on this. I think it is a load of crap to say the vendor parked there before and now it is his corner. If he wants to “own a corner”, he should get a brick and mortar establishment. Such is the life he has chosen. besides. a shnitzel truck and ice cream truck right next to each other is heaven. Of course I don’t eat at Mister Softee because they are overpriced douchebags.

  • The idea of NOLA Steve saying they have to take it to the legislature to enact change is laughable…

    Unwritten rules are not rules.

    To say they have to do the what others do because you say, is pretty ridiculous.

  • The problem lies in the fact that people are trying to operate a private business on public land. Who has the right to park here or there if the public owns it? Everyone and a single person can’t have a right to the same space in the same respect. That’s a contradiction.

    Either it’s public and it’s first come/first serve….orrrrr the land is privately owned and owners have a right the the space they either lease/rent/own.

    People, you can’t have your cake and eat it too and this is an example of that.

  • Im Financing Mama to open a Black pudding taco cart…..with SAS security….we will serve various pig bits…all crispy…with salad.

    we reserve the right not to serve Texans unless they can sing the Mexican national anthem, hand over heart.

  • What about fat old dudes with big delusions of high education and bigger delusions of financial standing from rural Arkansas, Rudy?

  • Bill Clinton?…….:)

  • http://newyork.grubstreet.com/2009/08/schnitzel_things_truck_just_ca.html

    Looks like Zach is gonna get NYpost/Nymag sex diary level responses, ha ha. Zach, you may need to start hiding your identity like a Times reviewer. We don’t want you getting run over by an errant cart.

  • Zach for mayor! (’nuff said)

  • the only reason I have even heard of the cart is because of Zach.
    Their response to Zach rings loud as a screaming child on a morning rush hour commute: annoying.
    Zach, with all the shouts outs you have given them and the info you supplied us with finding them – they dont even deserve a third of the explanation you provided. you are a bigger person than i am. And they are too sensitive.
    I dare schnitzel to say something else- another nail in the coffin?

  • HAHAHA! Rudy, that was hilarious.

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    If ever there were evidence for the need of a word limitation on comments (to say nothing of editorials…..) Do you idiots really read all this crap?

    @Rudy – careful, lad. My comment about the cross dresser badly in need of a stylist somehow went the way of the food blog about FOOD not political bullshit and standing on a soapbox to get more press.

  • Bossman,shush…or i shall release another terrorist.

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    Please don’t we’re inundated with Halal cart guys, newspaper vendors and 7-11 clerks as t’is….

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