Jose Andres: We need food truck regulations that work for everyone

Jose Andres spins in a rare orbit in the District's gastronomic universe: He owns a food truck, Pepe, and his ThinkFoodGroup is a member of the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington, which has lobbied for tighter regulations on mobile vendors. ThinkFoodGroup even occupies an at-large position on the RAMW board.

Jose Andres (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)
Jose Andres (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

So what does Andres think about the battle over the city's proposed vending regulations, which has at times placed a giant wedge between restaurants and the food trucks that the brick-and-mortars consider interlopers? I thought I'd ask. Unfortunately, I posed these e-mail questions earlier this week while Andres was in China, and before the District government made a surprise announcement about downtown vending spaces for food trucks.

Tim Carman: What's your position on food trucks and how the city should regulate them?  

Jose Andres: We love food trucks! We have some good regulations on the table, but we need to look at something that works for everyone. We need to give the people of D.C. more choices and encourage the food truck business to boost.

TC: Do you support the latest proposed regulations before the D.C. Council?

JA: We agree on about 80 percent of the regulations. Regulations are needed, but I think there needs to be some adjustment. We are not looking to avoid any regulations, and when it comes to the health and safety of our guests, we are 110 percent committed to protecting each one of them. But what is being proposed here is a model that really restricts the spaces where food trucks can park. Food truck[s] and restaurants can coexist successfully.

TC: If the regulations were passed as is, would you continue to operate Pepe?

JA: Yes, we love Pepe and bringing sandwiches to the people of D.C.! I really admire the great entrepreneurial spirit of food trucks. They really add to the dynamic food scene of the city. As a chef, I am always in support of that!

TC: Why do you think the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington has been pushing hard to regulate trucks?

JA: We don't think it is a [restaurant association] agenda item. Restaurants and food trucks have many similarities. We think the RAMW and Food Truck Association of Metropolitan Washington could easily come together and work to resolve those grey areas that need more clarity.

The rest of the public will have its say on vending regulations at 11 a.m. Friday during a roundtable at the Wilson Building.

Gbenga Ajilore is an economics professor at the University of Toledo, who research centers on public finance and sports economics.
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