Food Trucks in Asheville
Just curious of local hounds' opinions on this. Am guessing most are in favor of more food options. ?? I think they would be a great quick eats choice.
The naysayers think it isn't fair for existing brick and mortar, but I don't think it's the same target audience. ?? Many people working downtown don't have time for a sit down lunch, the trucks would offer a high quality quick lunch option.
I don't know much about the taxes/fees/etc side of things and agree that should be handled so it's fair to all (meaning trucks shouldn't have a huge advantage). Also, I don't really want to see them on every corner or clogging the streets, but would love to see them in a few designated areas perhaps? Or in parking lots of businesses they might partner with.
I'm definitely pro-food truck, mostly for the reasons you've already articulated. Still, you're right, I don't want to see them just anywhere and everywhere. I know that in Austin, TX, to cite just one example, they are regulated and must be clustered together in parking and vacant lots and other open spaces rather than being allowed to obstruct busy city streets. This seems like a compromise Asheville's City Council should explore.
The ordinance, as written, doesn't allow them to park on the street and limits the number of trucks to be licensed at any one time to ten. It requires them to hook up on a private lot which will have to provide an electrical hookup so they cannot use generators. If someone operates a food truck without a license, it's a criminal offense.
I support the food trucks and agree that their target market, for the most part, isn't the same as the brick and mortar restaurants. Certainly it isn't for those who seem to be protesting the loudest at any rate.
So I'm not against food trucks, but I think saying they do not have the same target audience is untrue. For example, there's a coffee truck. Same exact audience as all the coffee shops downtown. Also, there are several taco trucks. I know Mamacitas consistently places in the best cheap and fast lunch category in the Mountain Express. That is exactly the same target audience.
Also, I think the issue of the size of our downtown is never addressed. Most cities with food trucks have a significantly larger urban area. (like the Austin Texas example) Our downtown is tiny is comparison! And the potential customer base is much smaller as well.
Again, I'm not against it. I enjoy the food trucks, I think I'm slightly addicted to Gypsy Queen's chicken shwarma! But, a lot of the restaurants and cafes downtown did invest in Asheville at a time when it wasn't quite the sure bet to be downtown as it is now. And as for parking the trucks in private lots, there's not a lot of them downtown as it is, and how many can you name that aren't directly next to or across the street from one or two (or more) restaurants? It will affect the restaurant business downtown.
And trucks do have an advantage, they don't have to pay downtown rent.
77 Biltmore Ave, Asheville, NC 28801
re: mags delicious
A couple of things to point out. Yes, the trucks will have to rent their spaces on the parking lots where they set up. Perhaps, not as much as a brick and mortar pays, but still they will have to pay. And probably, looking at the overall business model of a food truck vs. a restaurant, it will be a larger percentage of their take as a business than for the restaurant. As for the target market thing... in my comment I mentioned those restaurants whose owners had gone on record as having objected to the food trucks (specifically Bouchon and Vinchenzo's) don't really have the same target market as the food trucks. And many restaurateurs have come out in support of the food trucks, too. Don't hear much about that. Also, keep in mind that the food trucks won't be able to serve alcohol which is also a big income producer for the restaurants. Another strike against them as well. I'm not saying they should be able to, but we need to keep all these things in perspective when we do comparisons.
One of the things that was brought up in the City Council meeting - and yes, I did see it - was requiring them not to be within 200 feet of any restaurant. Hmmmm, is there currently an ordinance not to allow like businesses to be within a certain number of feet from one another? Can brick and mortar restaurants be next to one another. Yes, it's done all the time. Why should this be any different? Are the number of restaurants in the downtown area capped to a certain number? How can the City limit the number of like businesses of any type in a certain area. Let's say someone wants to open up a tire store next to Jan Davis' store. Does the City have the right to tell them they can't do that? Should it have that right? I don't see why restaurants should be treated differently from any other kind of business. We don't limit the copy shops, art supply stores, banks, clothing stores, etc.
Very good points Leepa.
Yes, trucks will have to pay rent on spaces, I don't know what percentage of business that will be, but it will definitely be a factor.
As for target market, I think Vincenzo's has been the most vocal, and yes it's easy to say that the customer choosing to grab something from a food truck probably wouldn't have opted to sit down at Vincenzo's if the truck wasn't there. Bouchon, however, has Bouchon street food, I would say that is aimed at the exact same market as the food trucks.
As for alcohol, you're not taking into account a lot of places that rely on lunch business (not nearly as many alcohol sales, and a huge market for food trucks) or don't sell alcohol at all. Off the top of my head I would say this list may include Bouchon street food (I imagine they do a lot of lunch) Laurey's, City Bakery, Green Sage, Twisted Crepe, I'm sure Mamacitas lunch would take a hit, what about Rosetta's and Loretta's? If you throw in coffee places, with the addition of a coffee truck, you can add Izzy's and World Coffee. And I'm sure I'm forgetting a ton. And what about breakfast? Nothing to stop trucks from offering breakfast wraps, donuts, croissant sandwiches, etc. I believe that would affect Early Girl, Tupelo, Over Easy, again Green Sage, City Bakery, Laurey's. And what about ice cream trucks? So yes, alcohol is a factor, but not necessarily a major one.
And I agree, businesses can set up whatever they want, even directly next to a competitor. That is slightly different. It comes back to investment. Most business owners wouldn't invest a ton of money into opening a tire store next to Jan Davis. However, if I could park my car in front of Jan Davis and sell tires out of the back I might. The food truck's investment is in a mobile business. If that spot doesn't work, they can theoretically move. The business they're potentially hurting can't.
And I have no knowledge on the subject, but has anyone done any research on food trucks in smaller urban areas? Asheville's population is like 83,000. I keep hearing comparisons to Austin (790,000) Charlotte (731,00) and other places that to be don't seem to be a fair and honest comparison.
62 N Lexington Ave, Asheville, NC 28801
77 Biltmore Ave, Asheville, NC 28801
all really good points and comments. am happy to see pros and cons being talked about rationally and intelligently. :)
UPDATE for anyone who missed the news this morning: Asheville City Council voted 5-2 last night to approve food trucks downtown ten permits at a time.