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Dayton foodies enjoying food truck option

October 1, 2018

The city of Dayton has entered its eighth week of Food Truck Fridays and the variety of fare continues to attract foodies from across the county and beyond to the area.

Officials estimate there was between 150 and 200 people who came out to sample the various offerings of specialties and they weren’t disappointed.

“Food Truck Friday is an opportunity to give back to the community and to those who have food trucks,” said Kimberly Judge, assistant city manager of development services for the city of Dayton.

“One of the things we’ve tried to do with this event is to provide a gathering place for our citizens and people who may be visiting the town to come and eat. We have great food and music,” she said.

One of the fastest growing trends in the food service industry continues to be food trucks. Serving food from a truck, or any other vehicle likened to it, is nothing new. It’s been a proven model for decades with many of them serving at fairs, carnivals, music festivals, and sporting events.

What is new, however, is the more innovative and gourmet type of foods that are being offered.

According to FoodTruckEmpire, the business is a simpler model for new entrepreneurs who are navigating away from the high cost of owning a brick and mortar restaurant and see it as a transitional way into that market years down the road.

With less employees, less overhead, no leasing terms for a site, and locating a good site to conduct business, food truck owners can find themselves with less stress and more cash flow, depending on their time investment.

For Judge and the city of Dayton, there’s more. With the downtown revitalization efforts already underway, Judge said the city is creating venues to bring people into the downtown area to shop and eat.

“By having it on the corner of Highway 90 and Church Street, one of the key openings to our area, it has been a perfect location to bring people to for food and fun,” she said.

If it seemed there might be some resistance from local business, it’s been very little.

“One of the things we’ve done with our local businesses is to offer them first to participate in Food Truck Friday,” Judge said. Some do, she said, but others are unable because of conflicting schedules.

Judge said she doesn’t see it as infringing on local business.

“It’s once a week on Fridays for three hours,” she said, “and local business can capture some of that business if they participate.”

Most of the vendors are local, Judge said.

The event is open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Friday now because of its popularity.

“We’ve had so much success with it that the public has requested it be every Friday. And our vendors have said they would like to do it every Friday as well,” she said.

Food Truck Friday began on a much smaller scale eight weeks ago and, at the time, was only every other Friday.

Now, the city has made it much more inviting by providing music, seating areas with umbrellas and tents and chairs.

“The tents, tables, and chairs were something we already had,” she said, “so the investment has been small.”

The growth isn’t only in customers who are likely to stop by and check out what’s going on, but in regulars who have come every week they had the event and vendors who are wanting to participate.

There were eight on Friday and Judge sees the expansion coming in the near future.

“If it continues, we will request to shut down the block between Church and 90 to open up more space,” she said.

Right now, Judge says they alternate vendors who have similar foods so that there’s not too many of one particular food group on any given Friday, such as five barbecue trucks or three fish trucks.

With the advent of the program also raises some concerns about food control and quality.

“The person who regulates the food trucks would be the Planning Department staff. We don’t have a health department here, but we do make sure that they have a food management certification,” she said.

Occasionally, a food inspector does come out from Harris county for surprise inspections for local restaurants, but nothing for the food trucks yet.

“We’re working to partner with the city of Cleveland, Liberty and the county to get a sanitarian on staff,” she said.

Most of the food is being prepared fresh for waiting customers and food-borne illnesses are reduced.

Amy Ripkowski visited the Food Truck Friday for the second time and had high praise for the food.

“So far, I’ve had the fish and now the tacos today and they were wonderful,” she said.

Her co-workers have been more often and also enjoyed the food and the atmosphere.

For more information on Food Truck Fridays, please contact Judge at Dayton City Hall at 936-258-2642.

dtaylor@hcnonline.com

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