Cirque Cuisine Food Truck Closing because it is too “hard to do business in the city”

Line for Cirque today

“Dear PoPville,

I was really upset to see this. This is EASILY the best food truck I’ve ever been to, they are consistently awesome. I’m not sure what D.C. policies are driving this, but whatever they are, seems worthy of a public discussion. From Cirque Cuisine‘s FB page”

“Good morning Franklin Park!!! We are heart broken to say that today is our last day here. Can we all say thank you to Vincent Grey and the restaurant association for making it soo hard to do business in the city? Not only are three years of incredibly hard work, passion and love going away but now our five employees have to find new work. With all of that said please come out and enjoy your last meal from Cirque Cuisine Food Truck. We love you guys!!'”

47 Comment

  • Yet, dozens of other food trucks seem to be able to do business in the city. Whaaaaa. We’re taking our ball and going home.

    • +1 but making money is soooo hard!

    • Well…they are apparently leaving because of the *new* regulations going into effect on Dec. 1 creating “vending zones.” Whether closing up is a reasonable reaction to the new regs or an overreaction, I don’t know.
      But your statement “dozens of other food trucks seem to be able to do business in the city” isn’t really applicable to what the effect the new regs will have on them. But, hey, snark +1 +1

      • “Whether closing up is a reasonable reaction to the new regs or an overreaction, I don’t know.”
        Neither do they, if they haven’t even gone into effect. Quitting without seeing if the regs have a negative impact on their business seems a little premature.

  • Too bad. I met the owners before they launched their truck and they seemed like nice people. Unfortunately food trucks don’t come to the part of DC that I work in, so I never got to try their food. I wonder what, specifically, made it hard for them to do business here?

  • Yeah, was gonna say… how come there are literally over a hundred other food trucks still operating? There were ten out at Navy Yard alone today. More like they just couldn’t cut the business mustard. Either that or they got sick of using the pee bucket.

  • Looks like a good menu. Not sure how I missed them, unless they just don’t come by our neighborhood.

    And I’m seconding that “it’s hard to make money in DC” is a suspicious statement. The food truck market is definitely crowded and I don’t know what the profit margin is for a business like that. But plenty of other companies seem to be making it work.

    • The food truck market is far from crowded. I work in an office park in DC, with few lunch options within walking distance, and none of them are that great or that easy to get to so everyone brings their lunch. If a single food truck showed up here they’d certainly have a lot of customers, even if the food isn’t exceptional and/ or the prices are too high.

      • This. Food trucks stake out in like three areas of the entire city and totally ignore everything else — and then bitch that the market is too crowded. I have never understood this.

      • This and other (legitimate) complaints that there is plenty of room for more food trucks, and that trucks would make money if they simply showed up at certain places, is pretty good evidence that it *is* in fact difficult to do business as a food truck in DC. If there is an obvious market that needs servicing, and if you’d clearly make money by entering that market and simply opening your doors, it’s usually a good sign that there are some serious barriers to entry.

        The fact is that there’s just not enough *stuff* in a lot of DC. Hence any decent place being completely jam-packed immediately upon opening. In a properly functioning market, that wouldn’t happen.

        • Do you think it’s the market or that a lot of these guys don’t have a solid business background?

          • justinbc

            Part of it is incumbent upon those complaining to take action and tweet out to the food trucks regularly that there is nobody parked nearby (assuming the facility allows it) and masses of people willing to give them business. It’s easy to sit back and complain that nobody is bringing you food, but Pizza Hut doesn’t just show up on your doorstep either and ask if you would like a hot pie, you gotta call.

          • I’ve tried. But you’d think they could do a little research on their own like brick and mortars do.

          • justinbc

            There are definitely some that fail at market research. They take the lazy money. Many of them make a twitter page and then never even update it. I have a feeling those folks don’t last too long though.

      • I hate to rain on your pity party, but there are over 200 food trucks in DC and a few more that operate in the ‘burbs. That is what I mean by a “crowded market.” I would imagine that it can be hard to get a following with so much competition.

        Could they branch out to serve different areas? Sure. But they can lose money doing so if there is not a big crowd at the new place. Plus some trucks will serve multiple places in one day, which I would imagine is why the more central locations get them so often.

  • That’s their goodbye message? A vague statement that single-handedly puts the blame on other entities? Decent food but, given this message, it doesn’t mean they get a sympathy card in my book.

  • There’s a lot more explained here, including the back story:

    “The trucks have already entered a lottery system to determine which parking spaces they’re allowed to vend from for the month. That’s where the worries started for Swartz and Shields: two of the five days of the week, they were assigned to locations (Farragut and the State Department area) where they had never really gone to and had never built a following. Fridays, they didn’t even get a spot in the assigned vending zones, meaning they have to stay at least 200 feet away from the zones.”

    • Sorry for not reading the article but I’m getting close to my free article limit for the month… So the city forces them to go certain places? Why can’t they force some to come to where I work?

    • justinbc

      I don’t know about State Department, but if you can’t sell in Farragut you can’t sell anywhere. There are hundreds if not thousands of people passing through and eating in that park every single business day.

      • There is a lot more to it than just having to go to Farragut and State Department, but I work right by Farragut and with the number of people who go there to get food trucks, it is not something that I would consider a problem.

      • Good food trucks get lots of business at State. There are *no* restaurants near that stretch of Virginia Ave, and plenty of office buildings with lots of folks who get hungry for something other than cafeteria food (if their buildings even have them). It’s too bad Cirque didn’t even try a single day over that way before throwing in the towel – their menus look great – but with prices significantly higher than many other trucks, I do question whether they would have been able to do enough consistent business to cover their costs.

        • Agreed, there have always been a bunch of food trucks down near State when I have made the trip. It’s not a central location, but it is well traveled and they could have done good business there.

    • It’s a food truck. They aren’t mobile? That is — they can’t go elsewhere and build beyond their current “following”)? Sounds like a brick-and-mortar model to me. And I agree with Justinbc: If you can’t sell in Farragut, you can’t sell.

  • justinbc

    This guy is the single most obnoxious food truck operator I have ever encountered. And quite frankly, one of the most obnoxious people in any fashion. I won’t go into all the details of our interactions here, but if you’re curious I already wrote them out before:
    I had to block the guy from contacting me because it was on a daily (multiple times per day) basis.

  • Cirque and CapMac are my 2 favorites. Boo!

  • Gotta say, the new food truck regulations starting now, as the slow season starts for food trucks, can’t help but push a bunch of food trucks to go out of business. Expect this trend to continue over the course of the winter.

  • I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, Cirque Cuisine had the best cooking and the best-looking dishes of any of the 40 or so DC food trucks I have patronized in the past three years. On the other, they also had by far the highest prices (particularly per bite) — I’ve had cheaper carryout meals from upscale places such as G Sandwich Shop or Cork Market than I’ve had from Cirque Cuisine. They also had an odd policy of serving fairly few places (it appears they were at Franklin Square twice a week most weeks) that ultimately contributed to their demise. I always perceived the truck as the gateway to a brick and mortar operation in a young, affluent, and food-conscious neighborhood. Perhaps this is what the operators will be doing next.

  • These guys are missing the point, they have wheels! Think of the new clients you could get by serving the new locations you were assigned! You never know until you try! And the days you don’t have a spot assigned, crank the key and drive to some other jurisdiction where there is business. IF DC is being difficult do whatever possible to be able to also operate in VA or MD. Just a wasted opportunity in my opinion. It’s easier to throw in the towel and blame others, than actually try to make it work. I just wonder if there is something more to this than they are admitting (ugly books).

    • That’s easy to say, but these guys don’t exactly run with giant cash reserves. If they try, and the customers don’t come out in sufficient numbers, they lose money.

      • Ok so using that logic, how did they start the business to begin with? They didn’t start with a set clientele.

        They entered uncharted waters in the food truck scene, enjoyed while it was smooth sailing and now are ready to jump ship at the sign of a slight chop?!

        Oh well, more business for the others.

    • Dude, there are obviously some higher volume places and they need to hit those so that they can earn enough to cover their costs.

      They can go to Cleveland Park if they were assigned that zone. But no one will probably be there.

  • It’s always someone else’s fault.


    Reminds me of this email from the Chef behind Mayfair and Pine – blamed the local patrons for not having the taste preferences for her food.

  • I spoke to one of the ladies who runs one of the food trucks. She informed me that per new DC regulations, they are given space and can only come there at certain times of the year. For example: They cannot come back to my corner for the whole month of December.

    This place is run like a Banana Republic. Regulatory overreach? Uh yeah.

  • So are food trucks now allowed only in certain areas? Or is it just that they’re restricted to certain areas within the busiest neighborhoods?
    I work between Federal Center SW and L’Enfant Plaza. The food options are pretty limited, and while there are a whole bunch of food trucks outside L’Enfant Plaza, I never see any of the better-known ones. I would love to see some good food trucks, but maybe they’re spurning areas like mine in favor of the midtown office-building ones.

  • Just went their food truck today for the first time. I tried them because Woodland Vegan Bistro wasn’t out at L’Enfant Plaza as I expected. I tried their veggie burger. It was good. Yes, they were expensive; but they were fast- much faster than Woodland tends to be. Sorry to see them go.

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