Mobile food vendors are on the move -- politically speaking.
A new group calling itself the Central Pennsylvania Mobile Food Association has organized to promote the region's growing restaurant-on-wheels community.
Their first order of business, according to Jordan Pfautz, is to encourage support of a proposal that would allow more hand-operated food carts in an expanded area of York City. The city council could vote as early as Tuesday on the ordinance, which would increase the number of cart licenses from one to six and expand the food-cart district to several blocks surrounding Continental Square.
As it is currently written, the ordinance would not apply to food trucks.
The mobile-food association wants "to make sure that everybody understands the facts," said Pfautz, a co-owner of a Lancaster-based food truck that sells pulled pork.
"There is established studies and data on what happens when you introduce that element to an economy," he said. "The mobile vendors tend to increase foot traffic."
There's little evidence of negative impacts on brick-and-mortar restaurants, Pfautz said.
Whether that argument will allay the fears of folks who own some downtown York eateries remains to be seen.
Earlier this month, several restaurant owners attended a council meeting to protest the proposal. They expressed concerns about the potential for mobile vendors to siphon business from existing restaurants in an already competitive market.
Support: Not all York restaurant owners oppose the idea, however.
Rob McGrath, owner of Roburrito's in York, said he supports the city's effort to loosen its food-cart regulations because there's "no reason not to."
"Some of the best food I've ever had has come out of a truck or a cart," McGrath said.
McGrath, whose burrito chain includes a stand in Central Market that resembles a food truck, said he signed up to support the new mobile food association. But, McGrath said, he remains skeptical of York's ability to support an expansion of mobile food businesses.
"I would have a hard time believing anyone could make a living doing it," he said.
Regional: Pfautz said the association is loosely comprised of about 20 vendors in seven Pennsylvania counties, including York.
The numbers of regional food-cart and food-truck operators continues to grow, Pfautz said.
"Probably every month I'm hearing of two, three or four new trucks," he said.
Councilman Henry Nixon, who's been the proposal's primary proponent on the council, said he plans to suggest at Tuesday's meeting that the council table its vote and move the proposal back to committee. Nixon said he's interested in creating a committee of stakeholders to further study the issue and make a recommendation within a year.
"I believe it's something that is useful to the downtown," Nixon said. "But I don't want to do anything that would jeopardize the current fragile businesses that we have."
Perhaps, Nixon said, the committee should consider adding food trucks to the proposal.
Coincidentally, a group that organized a successful food-truck rally in October announced Monday that it will host a second event in York on April 11.
Philip Given, one of FoodStruck's organizers, said the April event will offer an even more diverse menu.
"It's hard for us to say 'bigger and better' because it was so amazing the first time," Given said. "We're hoping that we can double the number of attendees this time."
-- Reach Erin James at firstname.lastname@example.org.