Rebecca D. Thomas

A global impact blog, searching for innovative & forward-thinking ideas in business, design, travel, food, & fashion. Promoting a Circular Economy. Let's make learning fun!

The State of the Food Truck Nation

Hello, friends! I hope you are doing well. Have you entered the spring thaw? I need to check in with my brother, because, as of my last post, he definitely had not!

This post is divided into three parts: First, my visit to my hometown Food Truck Thursday. Next, three mini-food truck industry book reviews. Last, I highlight Rosebud Continuum, and Bio-Digesters as a potential fuel instrument for food trucks. Let’s go!

My Food Truck Thursday is lots of fun! It started out on a busy street corner, but became so popular, that it needed more space – Enter Lake Ella, a lovely park close to downtown, surrounded by local shops. Between the lake and the shops sits a broad strip of under-utilized, privately-owned greenspace. After some discussions with community organizers, the landowner agreed to lend the space to the Tallahassee Food Truck Association, as the new spot for Food Truck Thursday. The landowner paid for the installation of a stage, and an electricity pole.

During my outing, I spoke with Wendy Halleck, owner of Quarter Moon Imports, and Paula Lucas, with Lucy and Leo’s Cupcakery. As a business owner, with a shop next to the event, Wendy noticed that there were no on-site recycling stations. She took it upon herself to provide this. She would also like to see the Association initiate a styrofoam phase-out plan, and actual silverware offered at the truck path head. Wendy told me about the Oregon Country Fair, where there are many food vendors, but no plastic ware. The fair provides reusable silverware, and volunteers manage the washing stations, providing a steady flow of clean silverware for attendees.

Paula explained that the trucks are regulated by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, though, Paula’s trailer is not, since it serves pre-made cupcakes only. The Association charges $10.00 per Thursday, per truck.  She told me about the walkway with a streetlight, crossing the main street, that was built because of this event. This speaks to the power of the event, considering the demand for city projects such as this. Now, patrons can park across the street from Lake Ella (parking is an issue) and use the crosswalk. This benefits not only Food Truck Thursday, but also local businesses surrounding Lake Ella.

Food Truck Thursday has brought our community together. It took a formerly unused space, and created it into a popular, family-friendly spot, where the vibe is total relaxation, with people from all different backgrounds and cultures coming together, children playing, and, there’s the food! That’s the power of the food truck phenomenon. There is a police officer on-site, but not much “policing” going on. The event is seven years strong, and according to Wendy, there has never been an unruly incident. This event is an example of the power of food trucks to positively impact a community. And, did I mention no cover fee, for excellent live music!
My friend Justine, getting us started on Food Truck Thursday!
My friend Daniel with his head stuck in the cupcake window :) I guess there are worse things in life! ;)

Thursday night site. More like a food mansion on wheels!
Stage, built by the property owner, just for us!
I see one can, with the food truck logo, and one of Wendy's donated cans!

Fun Food Truck Facts:

They help to promote tourism. They are considered an attraction, in many places!

They use social media a lot!! Social media is not going anywhere. Harley Davidson just posted a full-time job opportunity for someone to drive around the country on a Harley, take pictures, including Harley Selfies, and post them on social media!

They are mobile-friendly, in a mobile, fast-paced world. They use Street Food App to share their menus, and locations with maps pinpointing their locations for the week.

They have community, social, and even political influence, as demonstrated by the Lake Ella event.

Does anyone physically go to the public library anymore? I was happy to see that each book addressed sustainable practices, in some way.

Food Truck Handbook: A must-have, go-to resource, with all the nuts and bolts of the biz. This book offered the most information on an eco-friendly food truck. Great advice on fuel options and alternatives. NYC native knows his stuff!

Food Truck for Dummies: This book has a great section on public health and food-borne illnesses. Very easy-to-read, with example balance sheets, checklists, etc.

Food Truck Business: This is a really fun read, with little “lightbulb” and “beep beep” moments sprinkled throughout. This page views waste issues from a bottom line perspective, but it can certainly be expanded upon. I’ll take it!

The National Food Truck Industry lists propane and gas as major food truck expenses. Perhaps there is a way around this…The Rosebud Continuum is an outdoor laboratory and incubator of sorts, where people experience the hands-on wonder of learning in a world where power is plentiful, because food waste is fuel. It is home to the amazing biodigester (video, just over 1 min.) a device that turns organic matter into biogas. Do you know of a food truck that uses biogas to run their refrigerators, fans, and stoves?

Closing thoughts, for anyone thinking about going into the food truck biz:
Whether a food truck generates most of their waste through pre-event prep in an industrial-sized kitchen, or in the food truck itself, waste management practices should be included in the business plan. At the very least, a truck will have a few food scraps, egg shells, coffee grinds, etc.

Operations that support sustainability should be a significant part of your marketing plan. If you are renovating a truck, are there parts of the interior made with upcycled or re-used material? Are there opportunities for composting? If you are a part of an association, does it support these efforts? Can you set up a mug-sharing library at your events? This would be a great opportunity to display your logo (Mug library, sponsored by…). People love transparency, and will appreciate the efforts.

Promoting and fostering community engagement works well in the food truck industry, and will help build a great following.

Has your city experienced a food truck takeover? Thank you for reading! 










4 comments

  1. your posts are really different wit useful info. Thanks for sharing. Have a nice weekend
    =)

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    1. Hi Pilar, thank you, and thank you for visiting!! Rosebud is having an Open House on May 12, if you, or someone you know, is in the Tampa area. I hope you have a wonderful weekend, full of rest and fun,
      http://rosebudcontinuum.org

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  2. Food trucks are the best! They foster a sense of community as well as giving you the opportunity to sample different types of food. You are so fortunate to have Food Truck Thursdays in Tallahassee. Thank you for a great blog!

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    1. Thank you for stopping by! Yes, I agree, I love the food truck culture! And, they help people to enjoy the outdoors, and be social. Especially with live music! :)

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