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City reviewing food truck plan, opportunities

Posted by Johanna Kaiser  January 19, 2012 04:59 PM

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While some food truck owners are calling on the city to centralize and grow Boston’s mobile food industry, city officials say they are in the process of considering changes to its system to give vendors more opportunities to do business on city streets and private sites.

“The city has worked very hard at creating the infrastructure for food trucks to be able to succeed,” Edith Murnane, director of the city’s food initiative program, said in a phone interview discussing the city’s plans to grow itsfood truck industry.

The city, Murnane said, is in the midst of abroad evaluation of its food truck initiative and will likely close some of the less successful food truck locations while finding new spots, but must consider the needs of all residents before making any changes.

Last week, Adam Gendreau, co-owner and co-operator of the Staff Meal food truck wrote an open letter to the city of Boston in which he said he was worried about the growth and viability of Boston’s new food truck industry if the city does not retool its current system to add more locations in highly populated and profitable areas, such as Back Bay or the Financial District.

The city’s current model has about 20 food truck sites across the city for 15 licensed businesses.

In order to add a food truck spot the city must remove a metered parking spot--a spot that could be used by someone visiting brick-and-mortar restaurants or shops.

“It’s a balancing act,” Murnane said. “Would putting a food truck in a particular area be an economic win for that area versus taking away from another vendor?”

Gendreau, and others who commented on his letter, said there are few opportunities to capitalize on the high demand for a quick lunch in the Financial District besides the
Rose F. Kennedy Greenway, where trucks can set up in clusters near South Station, the Aquarium, and Chinatown.

A private site on Batterymarch Street also hosts a food truck. Murnane said the City Hall Plaza food truck location, which was originally part of the city's food truck challenge, will return in the spring with a new permit.

“Why should we have to rely on the privatized Greenway program when we have a city program?” Gendreau said in an interview.

Putting food trucks on private sites, which must the city approve beforehand, provides another venue for vendors to serve up meals to paying customers, Murnane said.

“We go out to our partners to encourage them to open up to food trucks and sort of create the opportunity,” she said. “The city is creating the opportunity. It’s the food trucks who are here in Boston and New York and other cities--they are the ones creating the market.”

Email Kaiser at johanna.yourtown@gmail.com or follow her on Twitter @JohannaKaiser

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