Food carts are everywhere, their numbers growing; Jimmy’s Fresh Food is at 72nd and Columbus, my neighbourhood. Where I grew up, the local fair had a joint called Jimmy’s Lunch. Good karma name, I guess.
It’s a workingman’s lunch spot—no seats, no tables, no roof, low prices, hot food, long line=good value. No one says ‘no smoking’. Two guys work this 4’x10’ trailer. It comes and goes, every day. That’s the rule, if you run a lunch trailer and if you do, be strong.
Nobody is going to tell you what these guys really make but this will give you an idea: for the right to sell on the street, the guy outside the Met Museum pays yearly $400,000, the guy at 72 and CPW sells around 15 cases of water a day and 200 hot dogs, and pays more than a $250,000 for the right to do so. These are city fees.
How can this be? Well, the Met Museum has 5 million visitors a year and Central Park has 40 million. That’s a lot of stomachs with a lot of money.
Who gets the best spots? Vendors mostly police themselves—no encroaching. If they do, something bad usually happens.
USA military veterans get a break—their fee is waived under a 20th century law, so they are valuable employees of cart owners who are not veterans. A lot of money changes hands both outside and inside those carts.