Food Trucks in ProvoWith much recent discussion regarding food trucks in downtown Provo, I have been asked frequently for my opinion of food trucks and whether I support the idea of making a place for them in the downtown. I have mixed feelings on the subject. On the one hand, I love food trucks for their entrepreneurial spirit, their ability to fill odd niches, and the somewhat anarchist, take-back-the-streets sort of vibe they bring to a place.
However, as a brick & mortar restaurant owner, I'm also concerned about their impact. Food trucks are somewhat like an "online store" in the sense that they can roll in and out of areas, take what they need and leave to the next hotspot. I think we can all agree that brick & mortar businesses are essential in certain settings and the absence of them carries a heavy cost. No matter how great a deal that book is on Amazon, we still have to face the fact that in our search for great deals we've put local retailers out of business all over the world.
Brick & mortar businesses are directly invested in their communities. They pay more tax, they improve and provide value to the district they are located in and in general their overhead far exceeds that of a food truck. All of which makes trucks seem more attractive. That would be true, IF you didn't care about the health and vitality of the commercial districts in your community. A food truck parked in front of a restaurant is a recipe for disaster. However, food trucks can reach areas that are remote, inaccessible to brick & mortar, and blighted areas that cannot support a physical location, but exhibit a demand nonetheless.
The answer then is a hybrid approach. Food trucks must be zoned appropriately to accent & compliment the existing services provided. There's a relatively new concept in community development and planning called "Placemaking", that would be useful in planning exactly where and how food trucks might be integrated in to a community.
"Placemaking is a multi-faceted approach to the planning, design and management of public spaces. Placemaking capitalizes on a local community’s assets, inspiration, and potential, ultimately creating good public spaces that promote people’s health, happiness, and well being." http://www.pps.org/reference/what_is_placemaking/
In a nutshell, the basic idea is that the ideal environment for a retail truck is not the same as the ideal environment for a brick & mortar retailer. They both have bring value, but they are different kinds of value and shouldn't be confused simply because they both serve food. (Or other retail goods) In the case of brick & mortar, the value is permanent, sometimes historic, and contributes to the built environment of a community, such as this image of Pearl Street in downtown Boulder, CO. While it might appear to be an ideal environment for a food truck, it likely isn't simply because if the finances of the property owners and business owners are stressed, the quality and appearance of the area is likely to show signs of stress also.
|Downtown Boulder, CO. Source: Unknown|
However, check out the photo below, of the Soma Streatfood Park in San Francisco. I had the pleasure of visiting there a couple times this year and it was totally awesome in every conceivable way. Best of all, it took over an empty parking lot in a relatively dead and underperforming part of the city and turned it into a vibrant hotspot that gets used every day by the many employees in the area, as well as attracting visitors from elsewhere. Arguably, it competes on a very minimal scale with restaurants in the area and it exists where no restaurant owner would have been crazy enough to located. WIN-WIN.
If Provo were to zone food trucks with all this in mind, it is likely that the two business models could coexist peacefully and both contribute to building a vitality in the food scene that would enhance the value of every business, regardless of their location. So, whattaya think? How's a Provo Food Truck Park sound?
Please let us know your thoughts in the comments on our Old Adobe blog. If you're in the mood for some real American food, please visit our restaurant, Station 22 Cafe, located at 22 W Center Street in Historic Downtown Provo. We offer sit-down, catering & delivery.
For more information, please visit:
Old Adobe Catering Co. <http://www.oldadobe.com>
Station 22 Cafe <http://www.station22cafe.com>