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What’s holding back Atlanta’s food trucks—and what’s being done about it – Atlanta, Georgia

Atlanta, Georgia 2022-06-20 08:00:17 –

Ali Morradi, which owns the gyro chef Mediterranean

Photo by Growl

In 2016, Ali Moradi decided to sell its six-year-owned Mediterranean restaurant in Alpharetta to focus on his food truck. After spending a lot of time in his physical store, he timed and still always came to mind. The truck provided greater flexibility. He looked more at his family and shrank in late seasons and rested for weeks without harming his business.

Gyro chef Mediterranean first appeared on the streets in 2014 and offered the restaurant’s favorite dishes (Greek salads, Mediterranean platters, pita sandwiches) at the weekly 12th and Peachtree events. However, it was not until Moradi began to expand the footprint of the food truck that he encountered the annoyance familiar to full-time operators. For each county he pitched, he needed a permit for a different mobile food unit. In each city he needed a new business license. Today, in order to do business around Metro Atlanta, Moradi must have a 7-county license and a 13-city business license. There is a lot to track.

In addition to cost and bureaucratic formalism, strict local government regulations on where food trucks can do business collude to keep trucks around the dining scene and curb industrial growth in the Atlanta region. I’ve done it. Some operators find it easier to go ahead and open a restaurant. For example, Howard Sue launched Sweet Auburn BBQ as a food truck with his sister Anita over a decade ago, but due to regulations, unpredictability and cost, the business is the fruit of Ponsey Highlands. Let’s change it to a store. “If you’re not going to make it accessible, you’re really limiting the industry for our city,” he said. Sue, who currently uses trucks for catering, said he does not see mobile vending machines as a viable long-term business model in Atlanta. However, some relief is imminent.

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In theory, the benefits of driving a food truck are simple. Since such businesses require less capital than physical stores, entrepreneurs can enter the dining landscape at a more affordable level, and trucks can be a kind of dry run for them permanently. A person who is looking at a typical space. However, when it began to appear in Atlanta around 2010, food trucks could only get permission to drive on private land, not on the streets of the city. In 2014, the city council opened the door by creating a four-block area near the city hall and allowing operators to sell with public right of way. There, they competed for the attention of a relatively narrow customer base of civil servants and downtown workers (and competed with cars for parking).

Ali Moradi, who launched the gyro chef Mediterranean in 2014, faced high costs and various parking restrictions. His new guidelines allow him to expand his reach.

Photo by Growl

What's blocking Atlanta's food truck and what's happening about it

Photo by Growl

Since its introduction in the modern US dining scene around 2008, food trucks across the country have faced regulatory inequality and stringent restrictions. But other cities have found a way to deal with them. Known for its vibrant food truck scene, Austin has an estimated 1,200 mobile food vendors scattered throughout the city and concentrated in multiple food truck parks. Another shelter, Portland, is always served by about 500 trucks throughout the city. They gather in “pods” throughout the city to create hubs with different options, but individual vendors are also in the city.

“A city as big as Atlanta is less developed than other markets,” said Tony Harrison, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Georgia Food Trucks Association (FTAG). “In a market that is a fraction of Atlanta’s size, there are two, three, five, or ten times as many food trucks as we do.” Instead, Atlanta’s emerging chefs look at the pop-up, take-out, and delivery businesses. Is facing. Instead of finding the truck on the street, I had to look for it at an event such as a concert in a park or private land. Specially created food truck parks such as breweries, office buildings and triton yards with capitol views.

When the pandemic occurred, many of those opportunities evaporated, revealing to city planners the long-standing inconvenience faced by food truck operators. Joshua Humphreys, director of the Housing and Community Development Department, which is part of Atlanta’s City Planning Department, said: DCP has begun a meeting with food truck owners to see how to extend public right-of-way sales opportunities beyond downtown. Last year, we helped create an ordinance to update the city’s guidelines. The city council passed it in April 2021.

The new approach eliminates strict geographic restrictions and allows you to specify new sales locations. Not all public parking spaces are a fair game, but they do provide a formal way to convert a particular public street parking area into a food truck zone. So far, six locations requested by either community improvement districts or neighborhoods and business groups are online, and more are in the works. Now, you might find a food truck serving cheesesteak on Peach Tree Street, opposite the High School Museum, or Caribbean food outside MARTA Midtown Station.

The updated program also helps food trucks do business, for example by creating designated spots and creating a booking platform to request them. This ensures that the food truck does not compete with the car in the parking lot. This is a relief for operators like Moradi, who previously orbited a particular area until space was available. He also sees the potential in new places. “In most cases, the city hall will be provided to city officials,” he said. “But in Midtown, it’s both a resident and an office, making it more attractive to food trucks.”

Corinna Jones, which operates two trucks, Love at WurstSight and Sofishticated, is primarily focused on private property vending machines and corporate catering. Due to her limited options, she has never been serious about selling in the city. But now that more office workers are working from home, the pandemic is reducing demand. She said the new rules could offer new opportunities. And for all the people there. “

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Still, that’s just one hurdle. In Georgia, food trucks all follow the same state guidelines, but require the permission of a mobile food service unit from the health committee of each county they operate. “This presents a significant competitive disadvantage compared to traditional physical stores,” said Harrison of FTAG, which owns a food truck and two restaurants. Advocates, and individual operators like Jones, are seeking a single state-wide permit. “You have one test,” Jones said. “After all, each county needs the same thing.”

What's blocking Atlanta's food truck and what's happening about it
Triton Yards is one of two specially created food truck parks that have emerged in Atlanta in recent years.

Photo by Growl

Founded in 2016, FTAG worked with legislators to develop a bill to make it happen and was introduced as HB 1443 in Congress this year. The bill was passed with bipartisan support and support from the Georgia Restaurant Association and the Public Health Service. Both rooms in March. At the press conference, I was waiting for the Governor’s signature. “It’s clearly a game changer for our industry,” Harrison said. “This will make the lives of food truck owners much better and easier.” The next focus of FTAG is to streamline other redundant procedures, such as individual fire inspections by city, and the city of Atlanta. Is to advocate a change in the authorization process.

By making Atlanta more friendly to food trucks, you can bring the Atlanta food scene to life in a variety of ways. Supporters say it may even have the effect of attracting businesses to existing businesses by promoting walking traffic and a vibrant cityscape, as well as offering an expanded menu of options for those who eat. .. restaurant. “I think food trucks are a great community builder,” Sue said. “This is a great way to grow small businesses, small restaurants, chefs and pop-ups.”

This article appeared in the June 2022 issue.

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