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Public overwhelmingly rejects food truck changes

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Public feedback has rejected changes to the mobile food vending program proposed by the Adelaide City Council.

The council this morning released the results of its consultation on changes which food truck operators have warned would kill the industry and which Premier Jay Weatherill described as ‘alarming’, but that fixed businesses have argued would level the competitive playing field.

Several city councillors have argued that fixed city businesses paying council rates should not have to compete with mobile vendors paying licence fees in the low thousands of dollars.

However, proposed fee hikes for mobile food vendors were rejected by 70 per cent of public respondents.

In addition, more than 80 per cent of the approximately 700 members of the public surveyed indicated they did not support the expansion of the 25-metre exclusion zone  – keeping mobile food vendors away from from fixed food vendors – to 50 metres.

The proposal to give fixed businesses their first year trying mobile vending for free was rejected by 72 per cent, with 10 per cent undecided.

Members of the public also overwhelmingly rejected the notion of discounted fees for new entrants into mobile food vending market.

Asked the same questions, fixed businesses and mobile food vendors largely voted in line with their own interests.

Given these results, the council administration report recommended that the 25 metre exclusion zone be increased to 50 metres – but only for “like” businesses selling similar products.

The report also recommended that city squares be excepted from exclusion zones altogether, and that the number of food trucks allowed on city squares – not just in car parks around them – should be doubled. Currently, three food trucks are permitted on Victoria Square at any one time.

Licence fees for mobile food vendors, it reads, should be increased “to be in line with council rates” paid by fixed vendors.

The report says that “whilst MFVs do not generate significant turnover, competing (fixed businesses) continue to be concerned about the program”.

A previous economic analysis revealed that food trucks generate around $600,000 in revenue each year – 0.15 per cent of city turnover.

However, Deputy Lord Mayor Houssam Abiad told InDaily this morning that, despite the small revenue generated by mobile vendors, small fixed vendors felt the impact of food trucks operating in their area.

He argued that increasing licencing fees for mobile vendors to around $2,500 in the second year of their operation was “not even close to rent” paid by fixed vendors.

“If a mobile food vending (business) is unable to sustain on year two or three a $2,500 annual charge, I would start questioning … whether their business model is successful,” he said.

“These recommendations … strike that right balance.”

Abiad said that the report had taken on board concerns that food trucks would be banished from city squares as a result of expanded exclusion zones.

However, “the only thing that council keeps pressing,” were increases to licencing fees for mobile vendors, which he said would level the playing field for city businesses.

He said that allowing fixed businesses their first year of mobile vending for tree would encourage “some of the businesses that wont innovate to get out and give it a go”.

A council committee will debate the report’s recommendations at a meeting next week.

You can read the detailed report here.

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