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Downtown's First Food Truck Rally A Success

This past weekend, thousands swarmed downtown Jacksonville to attend the Jax Truckies presented by Metrojacksonville.com gourmet food truck rally to stamp out hunger at Burrito Gallery. Benefitting Second Harvest Food Bank. This demonstration project proved that food trucks can be a cost effective economic benefit for existing businesses and generating additional foot traffic on downtown's streets. Today, scenes from the rally to stamp out hunger.

Published June 11, 2012 in Dining & Nightlife      25 Comments    Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article


feature

Food trucks from all over North Florida served up unique, gourmet food to the hungry masses of Jacksonville in this first of its kind event.  Offering tremendous and affordable variety of hand-crafted, artisan foods, the hungry masses came out in full force to support ten trucks currently operating all over North Florida.











Thank you for all that you do for Jacksonville's Food Trucks! Glad to have you leading the charge for small business! You guys are the Best!!
Diftwood BBQ














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25 Comments

marksjax

June 11, 2012, 06:21:46 AM
Congratulations to MJ and all organizers & participants on this tremendous success!
The city council now needs to have any and all restrictions on food trucks lifted.
These trucks need to be able to park on public property and/or public parking spaces (including meters) without worry of a citation. We want them to feel welcomed, not run them off.
The city needs to act quickly on this.
The citizen's of Duval have spoken, food trucks are here to stay!
This issue (and the new Landing parking garage poor design) are turning points to see if we can change our ways in this town.
No point getting a survey done. Saturday was the survey (done at no charge).
City leaders: The ball is in your court and the clock is ticking.
Don't fight this activity, embrace it, this is a simple and cheap way to start the process of fixing Downtown.
What more can you ask for? Make it legal and do it now.
Thank you MJ, you rock!

BridgeTroll

June 11, 2012, 06:51:19 AM
Quote
For those in attendance, what did you like best about the rally and what do you think should be done to improve future events?

Who could have anticipated the turnout?  My only suggestion would be more room.  Finding a spot to actually eat and enjoy the food took some effort.  My thanks to Burrito Gallery for their back patio tables! 8)

aaapolito

June 11, 2012, 07:27:50 AM
"For example, with the event adjacent to Burrito Gallery, a popular downtown brick and mortar restaurant, a few felt the restaurant would have a slow day of sales.  However, as predicted by Metro Jacksonville, the complete opposite happened.  With some truck lines featuring waits of over an hour, Burrito Gallery's exposure to many new downtown visitors, directly led to long lines of their own and double the sales of a regular day.  In addition to Burrito Gallery, others in the crowd took the opportunity of their trip to downtown to visit places like the main public library, Chamblin's Uptown and the Jacksonville Landing."

I could not agree more.  After the food truck event, my wife and 3 of our friends, who also attended, went to the landing.  We all went to Fionn McCool's. For me, the landing is not a place that I usually go on the weekend, not because I don't like it, but simply because I work downtown, but live near the beach.  However, like many others, I was drawn downtown by the food truck event.  Thanks to the food trucks, not only did we enjoy some good food, but we enjoyed the landing, just as others did.

I do spend some time downtown on the weekends, and the streets were noticeably more crowded this Saturday.  The ripple effect of this event was clear and throughout downtown.  Thanks again to all who helped make this happen.

I am forwarding this article to my council-person and others that I know at COJ.   

Noone

June 11, 2012, 07:36:59 AM
Obviously parking was not an issue for anyone.
2010-856 The transient vendor ban. Active legislation that was withdrawn. Allow the free market to work.
Amendments are being attached to legislation that is in the process of creating a new Downtown Authority.
Public, Private, Partnership.
I can only imagine how big the next one will be especially when the weather cooperates.
MJ another marketing success.

fsujax

June 11, 2012, 08:09:55 AM
It was a great event. One idea I have is to spread it out a little more. I think it would be cool to either have the trucks lining Laura St, with it closed of course, or as has been suggested before around Hemming Park. We could also create a permament food truck trailer park with tables, chairs, umbrellas, etc. somewhere in the moonscape near the new courthouse. Great job to everyone involved!

aubureck

June 11, 2012, 08:35:41 AM
I forgot all about this.  Man, I wish I had remembered I had wanted to go.  It looks like an amazing turnout and I hope these events continue.  What about doing them in the different areas around town to raise awareness to those who might not be smart enough to read MetroJax?

TPC

June 11, 2012, 08:42:33 AM
I was really looking forward to this event since I missed the last one but I honestly have to say It was disappointing.

I showed up a little after 1 and the one food truck I was really looking forward to trying (Sprokets) was already sold out. OK, a little bummed out so I begin to look and the menus of the truck still serving and I run into some friends who say the lines are horrible. They had a 20 minuet wait in line, then waited another 40 minutes for their food. Still undeterred I continue my scouting mission and realize all the line are just too long to wait in and get a text from a friend who I was supposed to meet down there and he said he's been waiting in line forever so we decide to skip the food truck and head to Burrito Gallery.

While the line to the front register in Burrito Gallery was extremely long, we made our way to the back bar, placed an order and grabbed a cold beer while waiting on our food which arrived in under 10 minuets. All the while I kept running into some people I knew who were saying the same thing about the rally, lines too long, food took too long and/or running out.

I really wanted to support the food trucks but there is a limit to the amount of time I'll wait for food I've never tried. I don't want my post to seem like a negative rant but I just want to explain my experience.

Below are some suggestions:
1. Host it at a bigger space that is more spread out.
2. Inform the trucks to be overly prepared for an abundance of orders and suggest they have back up supplies.
3. A display board with all the food truck menus (it was crowded and you had to walk through a sea of people to look at menus)

On a side note, I don't understand why Burro Bar and Chomp Chomp weren't open. I think they would have done well with the overflow.

thelakelander

June 11, 2012, 09:02:10 AM
TPC, nothing wrong with being honest.  Honesty is what's needed to improve and take Jacksonville by storm.

I have a question for you and others who attended.  At the first event, the total number of attendees was capped at 300.  In addition, the first hour was a "VIP" hour to keep lines manageable.  This time, there was no cap or charge for VIP.  The crowd that came out was beyond our wildest dreams and considering it rained the first couple of hours, it would have been larger with better weather.  Do you think it makes sense to include a VIP hour that includes a cap on number of people to keep lines low before opening it up to the masses? 

As for spaces, part of the issue is that these events are pretty difficult to pull off on public property, due to city regulations.  Originally, the idea was to have the first rally at Hemming, where trucks would have lined the streets and the Hemming would have been a full square block for attendees roam around and eat in.

thelakelander

June 11, 2012, 09:09:49 AM

Below are some suggestions:

1. Host it at a bigger space that is more spread out.
2. Inform the trucks to be overly prepared for an abundance of orders and suggest they have back up supplies.
3. A display board with all the food truck menus (it was crowded and you had to walk through a sea of people to look at menus)

Thanks.  I think a menu display board and map would work great in the check in area.

Quote
On a side note, I don't understand why Burro Bar and Chomp Chomp weren't open. I think they would have done well with the overflow.

They probably thought the trucks would take away from their sales.  However, rallys tend to draw large crowds and long lines, which leads to crowds trickling over to nearby brick & mortar businesses.  That's the economic benefit of having these things in pedestrian scale settings, such as downtown on a regular basis.

Non-RedNeck Westsider

June 11, 2012, 09:49:33 AM
I've been to both events and I think that the one at Bold City ran smoother and I do believe that it was tied directly to the cap number, but I think there are some things to be learned by everyone from each event.

I honestly don't think anyone anticipated the turnout this past weekend, but I'll throw in my $.02 for what I think are some decent suggestions for the next one.

I'm assuming that on a daily basis, these trucks are set up to serve somewhere between 200-300 servings (not people) a day and they really just didn't seem to be ready to handle twice that much in such a short period of time.  Especially since most are still cooking to order.  This is why I think there definitely needs to be someway to track the anticipated crowd via pre-sales, VIPs, etc..  Everyone wants to run out of food at the end of the day, just not 2 hours in.

Charging a cover until the new-ness wears off.   I realize that you were only 'asking' for a $1 donation, but for these special events, I think that you should 'require' a donation of $5 - $10.  I don't think the dropoff from attendees would be that great, plus you would increase the impact of the event, thus making it easier to garner more support from other groups which would only increase the awareness of the food truck craze.  And also with the pre-sales, it would be a more accurate tracking device to determine the true attendance numbers prior to the event starting.

Someone needs to be up-front with DVI about the benefit of these types of events and the true impact that occurs.  I love the idea of circling Hemming plaza, but what if you were to get permission to close off Hogan street at the turnabout beside the Landing?  That same overflow of hundreds if not thousands of people would be wandering around the Landing and generating more revenue and more interest.  Again, with the money going to a good cause, increasing the awareness and generating foot traffic in an otherwise dead area of town.

Lastly, QUIT PLANNING THESE EVENTS IN THE RAIN!   ;D  You need to be talking with Tim Deegan and letting him help you plan these things out.  Imagine what the turnout would be if these 'uncapped' events were held on a Chamber of Commerce day....

tufsu1

June 11, 2012, 10:36:16 AM
I love the idea of circling Hemming plaza, but what if you were to get permission to close off Hogan street at the turnabout beside the Landing? 

I had the same idea NRW.....I think the food trucks next to the "largest" concentration of retail and restaurants in our downtown would be a good next test for what happens to brick & mortar establishments during these events....other best downtown event location is of course Hemming Plaza

As for allowing food trucks on a regular basis, the City should look into areas that are currently underserved by restaurants....first one that comes to mind is the new courthouse area....nothing wrong with permitting a few trucks on Adams Street (in fact it likely adds some life to the park in front of the courthouse).

btw, for those who had to wait in long lines Saturday, here's a suggestion....come early (there were no lines before 11:30)!

TPC

June 11, 2012, 11:26:25 AM
thelakelander, I like the idea of a VIP hour. It could help the vendors gauge the turn out and hopefully give them a buffer before the big general rush.

simonsays

June 11, 2012, 12:21:54 PM
Great fun. When''s the next one?

thelakelander

June 11, 2012, 04:06:52 PM
Great food shots from the rally, on Jacksonville.com:

http://jacksonville.com/opinion/blog/512296/denise-reagan/2012-06-10/what-you-saw-and-ate-jacksonville-food-truck-rally

WmNussbaum

June 11, 2012, 07:51:18 PM
Random observations:

I see no posts from the vendors. Why is that? Can someone solicit input from them?

The rallies would be fun in the area was big enough - it wasn't - but the "big idea" is not rallies is it? The big idea is a presence of a truck or two in a location or two around downtown on a continuous day-to-day basis. Right?

A rally on a weekday would not have nearly the attendance I saw on Saturday. 

A food truck at a strategic location during the week might do okay, but not on the "sold out"scale we saw Saturday. Remember that on weekdays folks have to get back to offices and wearing your lunch on your tie isn't all that cool.

Tacachale

June 11, 2012, 08:37:48 PM
^The "big idea" is more rallies and more food trucks regularly and anything and everything else that can make downtown vibrant.

A rally during a workday might have issues, but a rally during a weeknight may be even bigger than this was.

This thing shattered expectations, and hopefully opened a lot of eyes to something that can have a hugely positive effect on downtown if we let it.

dougskiles

June 11, 2012, 08:49:25 PM
^Not to mention that downtown suffers from the reputation that there is nothing to do on the weekend.  Events like this bring people downtown.  I would be curious to know how many of the people who came for the food truck event stayed and did other things while they were there.

fieldafm

June 12, 2012, 01:10:36 PM
Quote
Below are some suggestions:
1. Host it at a bigger space that is more spread out.
2. Inform the trucks to be overly prepared for an abundance of orders and suggest they have back up supplies.
3. A display board with all the food truck menus (it was crowded and you had to walk through a sea of people to look at menus)

On a side note, I don't understand why Burro Bar and Chomp Chomp weren't open. I think they would have done well with the overflow.

Thank you for your comments and observations.  All were suggested (including peripheral businesses being open) except #1.  The lot the event was held in was the lot we had to work with(the adjacent lot is not Burrito Gallery).  I am very grateful for BG stepping up to the plate and doing something positive for Downtown. 

We did say on this site and on our facebook feed that long lines and selling out of food were to be expected, however I didn't think the trucks would run out as early as they did.  In future events, the plan would be to have a larger space and therefore more trucks (two really nice ones are almost complete and there are a few others in town that didnt participate-mainly b/c of space issues).

Thanks for coming out TPC and I definately appreciate your support and honesty.  Maybe we'll see you again next time... come introduce yourself.

On a side note I really want to thank (in no particular order):
*927 Events for the last minute help on tables/chairs when the first plan fell through.
*Eddie Farrah (the parking lot is his, you might have seen him there on Saturday)
*Burrito Gallery (for being such great ambassadors for downtown)
*Winn Dixie (who was very helpful when we ran out of one dollar bills within the first 45 minutes-had a stack of 200 one dollar bills which proved inadequate)
*Advanced Disposal (for providing trash bins)
*Everyone that helped taking money throughout the day... there were a lot of you.
*Second Harvest for the (unfortunately) necessary services they provide to our community.

If you would like to learn more about Second Harvest or perhaps lend a helping hand in their wharehouse on Jessie Street one day, check out www.wenourishhope.org

fieldafm

June 12, 2012, 01:13:09 PM
http://www.bizjournals.com/jacksonville/blog/2012/06/could-food-trucks-restaurants.html

I know for a fact that Chamblins and several Landing merchants saw customers from the food truck rally as I talked to them all Sunday. 

http://www.bizjournals.com/jacksonville/poll/poll/8297182

Debbie Thompson

June 12, 2012, 01:49:58 PM
Paul also mentions in the Business Journal article he would not want to see a food truck pull up outside Burrito Gallery during a weekday lunch rush.  So there is the consideration for existing brick & mortar restaurants...until we have enough workers downtown to support them, at any rate.  Like most things, it's a balancing act, isn't it?

thelakelander

June 12, 2012, 02:02:20 PM
^The solution is a simple one that can be found in a google search.  Here is an example of how a similarly sized peer city has resolved the food truck/brick & mortar restaurant situation in their community:

Quote
New Food Truck Regulations Help Cut Red Tape

With the increased popularity of food trucks and recognizing the vibrant street life they bring with them, Mayor Fischer and the Metro Council have revised several regulatory rules, making it easier for the small businesses to operate.

A new section was added to the existing Vendors, Peddlers, and Solicitors ordinance, to address mobile food units (i.e., food trucks), which was sponsored by Councilwoman Madonna Flood. Mobile food units are just one of four different street vendors regulated by Louisville Metro. The changes went into effect October 14.

“Food trucks add a new element of energy on the street and we needed to relax the regulations to encourage more of them,” said Fischer. “This is a win-win for the community and for these budding entrepreneurs.”

Prior to the ordinance addition, food truck owners found it very difficult, and sometimes cost prohibitive, to navigate and satisfy state and local regulations through the Departments of Health and Inspections, Permits and Licenses, as well as find locations that met the letter of the law.

With the changes in place, food trucks can now legally exist, owners need secure only one permit per vehicle, rather than one permit per location, and buffer zones were reduced by half – to 200 feet from residentially zoned properties, and to 150 feet from bricks and mortar establishments with similar products.

Councilwoman Flood added that “these changes will preserve public safety concerns and also allow these food trucks to conduct business in a less costly and more efficient manner.”

A new service for the mobile food unit owners has been added to the Louisville website, which is a one-stop shop for all changes, regulatory standards and requirements, and fee information.

Louisville's food truck page: http://www.louisvilleky.gov/Business/foodtrucks/

Dreads0518

June 13, 2012, 09:39:32 AM
Great Rally!!!
Here's a suggestion.
Jax Food Truck Park.
Its being done in San Fran and Atlanta.  Maybe more cities.
Take a look
http://www.atlantafoodtruckpark.com/
http://www.somastreatfoodpark.com/

I have no idea why Im giving a suggestion that makes sense.
Jacksonville is always one of the last city to want to do something right.  ::)

fieldafm

June 13, 2012, 09:51:10 AM
Add Orlando, LA, San Antonio, Fort Worth, Miami, Winter Park, Austin... well, you get the picture.

Everyone who wants action: write your City Council representatives about your thoughts on the issue.

Non-RedNeck Westsider

July 30, 2012, 02:55:24 PM
Mike,

Visited these guys in Tampa over the weekend, conveniently parked in the parking lot of Cigar City Brewing, and they said they'll travle up to 500 miles for a rally - maybe give them a call for the next one. 

The menu is a little pricey, but they're serving some stuff that you may never see anywhere else.



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