Food trucks have been the darling of the City of Boston since the Pilot Food Truck Initiative launch last spring, but it’s not all grilled cheese and cupcakes for local food truck operators. Last week, Adam Gendreau, co -owner and -operator at Staff Meal formed the Greater Boston Mobile Food Truck Collective to address issues with mobile food vending in Boston. Composed of other area vendors such as Roxy’s Gourmet Grilled Cheese, Green Street Vault and Grillo’s Pickles, the GBMFTC is free and encourages sharing information and solutions about vending in Boston.
“The goal of the Collective that we’ve started is to aid in the communication of operators who spend most of their time on the road. In order to form a consensus opinion of the problems that need to be solved, we need active communication,” Gendreau told BostInno in an email.
On Saturday, Gendreau posted an Open Letter to the City of Boston, calling for a change in the structure of the food truck system. “The inspiration to write this letter stemmed from frustration with the city over some decisions that were made over the last six months,” said Gendreau, pointing to the removal of City Hall, Government Center and Post Office Square spots. “The goal of the letter was to help publicly generate and display that consensus opinion, as well as to make transparent, relevant industry information. Now that we’re actively forming our consensus opinion, we’ll be able to work better with the city in order to solve these problems.”
The letter has earned over 34 comments from consumers and food truck operators alike, including BonMe and Roxy’s. Check out the full text below.
To whom it may concern:
My name is Adam Gendreau. I am the co-owner and co-operator of the Staff Meal food truck. For the past 6 months, my partner Patrick Gilmartin and I have been allowed to vend food in the public way. While the Pilot Food Truck Initiative has had many successes, I’m writing this post to address some obstacles the industry faces and to offer some solutions.
Pat and I serve some pretty unique food to be had off of a truck and we’ve gotten some pretty incredible feedback about what we’re trying to do. Yet we’re struggling to get enough meal periods and survive as a small business.
Despite the media portrayal that the food truck industry in Boston is thriving, the reality is that the city hasn’t implemented a system that will allow food trucks to succeed.
The problem, as I see it, is a cultural one. There has never been a street food culture in this city; we’re building one from the ground up. With that in mind, there’s a reasonable expectation that the city would shine a spotlight on this burgeoning industry in order to aid the cultural adoption on the part of both vendors and customers. The model of deciding where food trucks would be successful isn’t currently working well.
I believe what’s needed is a focus on highly populated areas of Boston, at first, and not the entire city at once. In taking the position of a city that wants to please everyone, everywhere with this program, I think we’re actually damaging the awareness of the industry by not centralizing it immediately.
Take a neighborhood like Bay Bay, for example. The Boylston Street spot next to the BPL, and the spot in front of 220 Clarendon are known to be the most desirable spots in the program. The reason for that seems pretty obvious to truck operators. Back Bay is a very cultured neighborhood, with incredible foot traffic. People would expect that they can find food trucks in Back Bay, and they seem to like the idea of ordering food off of a truck.
So why not open more spots in that neighborhood? Trends in Boston, more often than not, have their genesis in the Back Bay, so why not capitalize on that pre-existing cultural flow?
At the very least the city should allow multiple trucks to cluster in Back Bay. This would easily help all of us fill our schedules with spots that are known to be prosperous. It also provides multiple food options, which most people would see as being a good thing. Clustering would be a simple solution to help the food truck industry expand.
Also, the Financial District is one area that is known to have tremendous revenue opportunity during lunch. Why can’t new spots be added there? Why were the PO Square and Government Center spots taken off the table when the industry is just gaining momentum? I fear that if more spots aren’t made available, the industry will see 2012 with little to no cultural growth, if it sees much of anything at all.
I understand that the city is doing everything in its power to make sure this program succeeds, but let’s take a step back and find a way to get the mobile food culture to thrive.
My goal is not to come off sounding like what I’m claiming is representative of all the trucks in Boston. I’m just an operator who has a lot of conversations with others, and this is the general consensus that has been voiced to me.
ANY feedback on this is incredibly appreciated. Truck operators, customers, city folk …I want to hear what everyone has to say. That’s the whole point of this Collective and site. This is how I see the industry, so far. How do you think things are going for food trucks in Boston?
Mayor Menino’s State of the City address is tonight and we’ll be listening in to see if he mentions the food truck situation here in town. Stay tuned.