It’s not often that The Unpaid Gourmet has a breaking news story, but I am happy to report one today. The Philadelphia Mobile Food Association (PMFA) officially launched on Tuesday, hosting their first general meeting at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. With over 100 people in attendance, the meeting was quite a success and offered a glimpse into the opportunities and challenges facing Philly food truck owners. Prior to the meeting, food trucks Lil Dan’s, Smoke Truck, Sweet Box, HubBub Coffee, and Zsa’s Gourmet Ice Cream congregated outside the school and sold gourmet fare to curious students and passersby (pictured above).
Though food trucks and carts have been ubiquitous in Philadelphia for decades, they have surged in popularity over the past couple years nationwide. But today’s food trucks aren’t your typical roach coaches or street meat. Today’s food trucks are sleek and new, retrofitted with modern kitchen equipment and painted with flashy designs. They offer high-end, gourmet fare ranging from Korean tacos to wood fire oven pizzas to cupcakes. And they broadcast their locations via Twitter and Facebook, so diners can easily find out where the trucks will be.
Operating a food truck, however, is not always easy. Food trucks have faced opposition in some cities from brick and mortar restauranteurs, who claim they are unfairly taking away customers. Zoning restrictions and scarce parking also limit where food trucks can go. But often the most difficult part is navigating outdated municipal regulations for everything from permits to health inspections to how far away you can park from the curb. PMFA was created to address these issues by bringing together the collective resources, expertise, and voices of local Philly food truck owners.
At Tuesday’s inaugural meeting, PMFA founders Andrew Gerson and Daniel Pennachietti explained the organization’s goals and benefits of membership. Its goals include creating new market opportunities for food trucks in Philadelphia, advocating against unfair legislation and zoning restrictions, and providing business advice and mentorship to developing food trucks. They also discussed developing alternative eating spaces throughout the city, where several food trucks can congregate, and hosting events like a Philadelphia food truck week. Membership benefits include access to PMFA events, business advice, and participation in advocacy efforts. (Click here to view a recording of the meeting.)
Having only recently incorporated as a nonprofit, PMFA is still in the nascent planning and recruitment stages. But it seems like the organization is on the right track, especially given their representation by Penn Law’s Entrepreneurship Clinic (full disclosure: I am a student at Penn Law) and support from The Food Trust. Similar food truck organizations have formed in other cities as well (like LA, NYC, and DC), so it’s about time Philly started its own. The inaugural meeting was well-organized and well-attended, as was the food truck gathering prior to the meeting. Let’s hope these mobile events are just the beginning of good things to come from the PMFA.