Looking Ahead to Spring Food Truck Season

Stoked PizzaNo better time to think about the new food truck season as temperatures jump from -9 up into the 50s in a couple days. As mentioned before, the lottery for the sites in the City of Boston will be on March 14th. New vendors have until February 16th to apply, returning trucks until March 1st. There have been changes to the lottery, including the ability of older trucks (more than a year) to squat on 2 spots they had last year. City sites have now been set as Zones 1, 2 and 3. Only Zone 1 will be part of the lottery, except dinner and weekend shifts on some of those sites. Those exceptions and zones 2 and 3 are being offered on a “first come, first served” basis. I use quotes because the meaning of that is undefined. I’d guess there is a point where, a truck can say, “I want a dinner shift on Clarendon”, and hope they are the first ones that ask.

In addition, rates for city sites have increased, depending on how many shifts you are doing. For example, a single Zone 1 shift will cost $125/month. Most months, that means 4 shifts, for $31.25/day, up from $25. But if you have 5 Zone 1’s, the cost is $525 There is also no difference whether it is a breakfast, lunch or dinner shift, which, intentional or not, is a disincentive to the non-lunch shifts.

Today is the last day a new truck has to have their paperwork in the city, in order to qualify for the lottery. I last heard there were 6 new trucks interested. That seems fewer than in past years, even with the later deadline. When you also factor in trucks that are no ;longer on the road, the number of trucks are pretty much flat for the first time. I’ve said before, lack of change from the city will result in the slow death of that program. There are no new sites in this year’s lottery. There are no changes in policy. While much of the blame falls on the city, the lack of a cohesive body representing the food trucks is also a factor.

Another part of the new season is the Sunday situation for food trucks, with 2 competing markets, both offering food trucks opportunities. There is the existing SoWa market, with the food truck program now being operated by the site owner. And a few blocks away on Harrison Ave, you will have New England Open Market. They previously ran the food truck program at SoWa. I asked some owners what their plan is and the responses ranged from, no idea to trying to do both sites. The fees for trucks have been reduced. SoWa is asking $300/day, New England Open Market is asking $225. If you do just 1, your cost is down. If you have multiple trucks and want to do both, your cost is up. There is a lot of uncertainty as to which site will be worthwhile. It’s a fluid situation. Much more on this to come, once they both start up on Sunday, May 1’st.

Congrats to the Chicken & Rice Guys on opening their first sit down location in Medford! WOW Bbq will soon be opening their second location at 320 Washington St in Brookline. Work continues on Stoked Pizza’s restaurant in Brookline also, fingers crossed on a Spring opening. All these are evidence that food trucks can be another piece in growing jobs and opportunities. I hope more cities and towns work to configure programs that will lead to more successes.

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