March 18 2013
Out of (Basil) Thyme
In my view, there are few things better in this world than some good Italian food. So not surprisingly, I was sad to read that Washington, DC food truck Basil Thyme will stop rolling in the next couple of months. Was the food sub-par? Nope—it currently holds a four-and-a-half star rating on Yelp. Was business bad? Not that either.
No, the culprit for Basil Thyme’s demise, according to owner Brian Farrell, was the DC government:
"The city of D.C. has been nothing but a series of hurdles and difficulties … They're just painful to deal with…Food trucking as it is, even for one of the highest rated trucks, is an uphill battle. With these regs on top, it's exponential."
I really get mad when I read stories like these. After all, here is a small business owner whose product is successful and loved by its patrons. This should be the American dream, but the DC government is snuffing out even the most successful of these food truck businesses because of overregulation.
Check out this neat AEI infographic on the food truck industry. Food trucks have been growing at a rate of 8.4 percent per year since 2007, and one of the reasons for the fast rate of growth is that the food, beverage, and personnel costs are less than restaurants with brick-and-mortar storefronts. Yet city regulations (not just DC’s, but those across the country) tend to favor the brick-and-mortar restaurants, to the point of stifling food trucks like Basil Thyme. In New Orleans, for example, food trucks are required to change locations after spending just 45 minutes in one place. So much for an equal playing field.
If you’re able to, definitely try to visit Basil Thyme in the next few weeks to show your support. I wish I could say that public backing alone would be enough to save food trucks like Basil Thyme, but fighting nonsensical overregulation has to start somewhere.