If 2010 was the year that food trucks gained momentum in the Triangle, then 2011 looks like it will bring an explosion of new trucks to the region.
Already, plans have been announced for several new food trucks, including trucks from Crook’s Corner and Will and Pops in Carrborro, and Ko Kyu and Pie Pushers in Durham, among others.
Granted, not everyone likes having food trucks on the streets. There have been complaints from Raleigh (and Durham) restaurateurs that food trucks undercut traditional restaurants with a lower capital investment and no need to provide seating and bathrooms.
Food trucks are starting to get regulatory attention from all corners of the Triangle. Raleigh is currently revising their food truck laws, which has brought heated public hearings that pit truck lovers against restaurant owners. Chapel Hill has also been requested to create an information source for aspiring four-wheeled entrepreneurs, in order to provide clarity to their current regulations.
These moves in Raleigh and Chapel Hill grow out of what truck owners see as a disadvantage to operating in these towns versus Durham -- even as brick-and-mortar establishments in both cities fret about competition on rubber tires.
Outside of the downtown zone, Durham food trucks can only operate with temporary permits, which can last no more than a total of 90 days. These rules have caused problems for some Durham food carts, including Joey D’s NY Dogs.
Joe Scarfo was told his position near LaSalle and Erwin, near Duke Hospital, would need both the temporary use permit and a bathroom for patron’s use.
Limits on the number of hours per day that a truck can operate in a single spot also exist outside of downtown.
There has been some talk in Durham about re-visiting food truck rules; since the beginning of the year, at least two citizens have submitted petitions asking the city to re-examine food truck rules.
Food trucks are also getting an academic treatment as well, with Lindsay Moriarty, a City & Regional Planning student at UNC Chapel Hill, looking at the impact of food trucks on economic and community development in the Triangle.
Despite the huge upswing in food truck popularity across the US, no one has actually tried to inventory the effect of food trucks on downtown communities, says Moriarty. As cities both locally and across the US look to revise laws surrounding food trucks, it helps for these cities to have a complete picture of food trucks effects on entrepreneurship, city image, street activation, and the larger food economy.
Moriarty’s been busy interviewing food truck owners, restaurateurs, food truck patrons, and city officials. She’s also set up an online survey for Triangle residents to weigh in with their opinions on food trucks.
As it is research, a standard warning must be given:
Are you interested in the emergence and popularity of food trucks in the triangle area? If so, please consider filling out this brief online survey on the issue. Lindsay Moriarty, a graduate student at UNC Chapel Hill in the Department of City and Regional Planning, will be using this data in her master’s research paper (IRB # 11- 0080), which explores the roles food trucks might play in community and economic development, and the related policy implications. The survey will take no longer than 5 minutes to complete, and your responses will be completely anonymous. Participation in this research is completely voluntary, and you may skip any question that you do not want to answer. Additionally, you can withdraw at any time.
And another disclaimer: Ms. Moriarty is the author's girlfriend. To take the survey, follow this link.
New rules in Raleigh and Chapel Hill are expected by this summer, with the public hearing schedules in both of these towns already under way. At last check, Durham has yet to start a revision of its food truck regulations.