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.

What Happened At the Schnitzel & Things Truck Yesterday?


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