Some food truck owners say they are disappointed in the city’s new program that allows them to set up on downtown streets.
Raleigh launched a six-month pilot program in August in which food trucks can obtain a permit from the city and then serve food from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day in four locations. Previously, food trucks weren’t allowed to set up on public property.
Two months into the program, some say the locations don’t see enough foot traffic and many people don’t know to look for food trucks at the sites.
Tony Hudson, owner of Flattz, which sells flat bread sandwiches, said he recently stopped signing up to park his truck downtown because business was slow.
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“It’s not worth my while,” Hudson said. “On the days I don’t have anything planned, I go. It’s a filler, gas money.”
Once food truck owners pay the $150 permit fee, they can sign up to park at 100 E. Polk St., 300 S. Harrington St., 300 S. Bloodworth St. and South State Street.
The areas were selected because few restaurants are within walking distance, according to the city of Raleigh’s website.
Hudson said he has rarely sold half the orders needed to turn a profit on State Street, near the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles office. He said he’s had the least luck on Bloodworth Street in the southeast corner of downtown.
“People avoid Bloodworth like the plague,” Hudson said. “Foot traffic there is virtually nonexistent.”
Jared Plummer, owner of Two Roosters ice cream truck, said he tried to book several slots, mostly on weekends and for First Friday events. But only one truck can set up at each location, and the slots were already reserved.
“We’ve been able to stay busy with other events, but it seems like this is something the organizing group didn’t consider,” Plummer said.
He said since his business only serves dessert, he prefers to set up near other trucks that sell meals.
It’s tough to predict foot traffic, he said.
“I’ve been hesitant to pull the trigger and sign up for spots, because I don’t know what the outcome will be,” Plummer said. “It’s progress, but slow progress. The program needs to be revisited.”
Eleven trucks have signed up for the program, and the city has spread the word through its website and Twitter, said Travis Crane, assistant director of planning and zoning.
Customers can find out which trucks are set up at each location through the Raleigh Street Food Finder app.
“The food truck industry has always been adept at advertising,” Crane said, referring to social media. “I’m not sure why this would be any different.”
Food trucks have been a hot-button issue in Raleigh for years. Last year, the city increased the area food trucks are allowed to operate by several thousand acres and also allowed trucks to operate on private property.
Until the pilot program began, trucks could only set up on public streets during special events such as food truck rodeos.
In summer 2015, more than 1,000 people signed a petition asking the the city to loosen its rules. Some City Council members said they worried about noise generated from food trucks, but they ultimately approved a six-month program.
The council will reconsider the program and discuss any issues in January.
“It’s important to remember that this was new territory for us,” Crane said.
Some food truck owners say the program is working. Karl Hudson, who owns Rare Earth Farms, a local family-owned farm that sells grass-fed burgers from its food truck, said it has helped him increase sales.
“I’m really encouraged by it,” Karl Hudson said.
Tony Hudson, owner of Flattz, said he hopes the city makes some changes.
“It’s hard to go out there for two hours and not get any sales,” he said. “I’m glad for the program, but it definitely needs improvement.”
Madison Iszler: 919-836-4952; @madisoniszler