Food Trucks to Cement Their Presence in New England


Food Trucks to Cement Their Presence in New England- Kandessa Media

Recent regulatory moves in Boston, spearheaded by City Councilor Mike Ross, have led to a more permissive attitude in the city, opening up commerce for a plethora of mobile food operations that will hit Boston's neighborhoods, and are already debuting at the Rose F. Kennedy Greenway and City Hall Plaza, within the next few days.

Timing is everything. Boston residents and visitors alike, enjoying the onset of summer and making their way through the city, will soon see changes in Boston, Mass. that usher  in the food truck movement, and nearly guarantee additional buzz to the culinary-on-wheels craze in the east.

The Boston City Council passed an ordinance on April 6 to expand food trucks beyond the confines of the downtown area and open up virtually all neighborhoods to the mobile business.

(Update July 12: Boston earmarks 15 city spots for food trucks to start operating July 13.)

"Sometimes being first isn't the best. Boston wasn't first," says Ross. Boston, indeed, ends up being one of the last metropolises to welcome the culinary innovation that food carts bring. But the city has adopted recommendations from Ross, who traveled westward and met with Morris Appel, chefs, and other L.A. officials.

Appel is one of the original food truck movers and shakers. He leased the first vehicle to Kogi BBQ, the pioneer in the L.A. food truck movement. He is a partner in Road Stoves, a Calif.-based company that provides mobile trucks and truck fulfillment services, such as commissary services, insurance, permitting, maintenance, digital assets, event planning, and staffing and operations.

A recent education session at the National Restaurant Association's (NRA) Restaurant, Hotel and Motel Show 2011 in Chicago revealed that food trucks appeal to consumers on many sensory and psychological levels. The recession has cut travel options for many, and consumers are increasingly eager to experience global cuisine at home, notes Forensics Expert Suzy Badaracco, the speaker at the recent NRA Show food truck session.

The food truck movement also addresses the basic—and long dormant—need to forage.

The City of Boston follows Cambridge, Mass. in creating a more open and welcoming arena for the food truck movement. Boston Mayor Menino and Councilor Ross were both influenced by initial prevalence of food trucks at the SOWA open market. The open market congregates arts and craft vendors, designers, food truck vendors, and organic and sustainable suppliers.

What spurred this culinary phenomenon, which has moved from west to east (more predominantly in D.C. and New York) in just a few short years? Badaracco tells Quick Serve Leader, "...during this time rock star chefs were out, the humble gourmet was in, and there was a need to see and know who was preparing the food. [Food Trucks] give consumers a feeling of safety, security, and trust to see the chef in action and not have him up on a pedestal."

"Mike and Sal from Boston were by far the most forward thinking council members in terms of taking the time and effort to research, inquire and take preventative steps to launch this industry in a thoughtful manner," says Josh Hiller, co-owner of Road Stoves.

Ross thought it best to fast track the learning curve and learn first-hand what worked well for L.A. Although there are a few food trucks with permits to operate currently, like Clover Food Lab, serving up vegetarian delights like the Chickpea Fritter and Soy BLT, in both the Boston and Cambridge markets, the city needed a clearly defined plan, policy and stance on food trucks, and Bon Me Truck.

Bon Me is a food truck focusing a locally-sourced Vietnamese-style food.

Ross says there was an opportunity to learn from the pioneers of the movement and the lessons that L.A.'s food truck scene created. The city's application process involves several agencies, including the department of the Mayor's Office, Department of Public Works, Department of Transportation, Inspectional Services, and Fire Department; however, the agencies work in unison to approve and regulate mobile vehicle food vending permits.

The city's streamlined process and the councilor's work also relied on lessons drawn here in Boston from the Clover Food Lab and Food Truck Nation.

"We worked with Ayr Muir from Clover Food Trucks and Todd Saunders and Ron Sarni of Food Truck Nation to get their thoughts on what Boston could do to make it easier for these businesses to get permitted."

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