The food truck industry has exploded in major cities across the country, and Montgomery is no exception. The City of Montgomery is very supportive of the food truck movement, and those who live and work in the area are excited to have more dining options available here. Some of the trucks currently operating in Montgomery are Southern Smoke Shack, On a Roll, NYC Gyro and Fire Meats Wood, among others. There are even plans in the works by Lomar Benson of Fire Meats Wood to create an app that allows people to see where each food truck is every day. Steve Jones, director of general services for the mayor’s office, graciously agreed to answer questions about the food truck movement.
How did the food truck movement begin in Montgomery?
SJ: Through studies within our development and planning organizations, we saw that cities of our size and demographic around the Southeast were having success with food trucks. We put together an ad hoc group of both City of Montgomery employees and local business owners and younger, millennial types in the area and took a look at the feasibility of bringing a food truck ordinance to Montgomery. The community was very receptive to the idea and we got the ball rolling.
What food trucks are currently operating in Montgomery?
SJ: I don’t know the exact number of food trucks that are operating in Montgomery currently, but I would say the number is north of 20. There are food trucks all over Montgomery on private property. They tend to migrate toward areas where there are large amounts of people employed that don't have easy access to brick and mortar restaurants. We have only had about five to purchase the food vendor’s license to operate on city right of ways. We hope that number increases as the demand grows.
How has the city supported the food truck movement here?
SJ: Let me be clear about what we as the City of Montgomery did with our food truck ordinance. We have always allowed mobile food vendors in Montgomery to operate on private property. If you have the permission of the owner of a piece of property, have met all of the business license requirements from the City of Montgomery, and have met all the set regulations from the Health Department, you have been able to operate a food truck. What we put into an ordinance for the first time was the ability for a mobile food vendor to operate on City of Montgomery right of ways. This allows the food truck to park and do business in designated spots on City of Montgomery streets for the first time.
What current locations have been approved, and are there plans to authorize more locations in the future?
SJ: As of today, we have five spots that are available for food truck vendors to use. Three are located in the parking lot of the old State House Inn on Madison Avenue next to the Armory and the Farmers Market, and the other two are in designated spots on North Ripley Street in front of the parking lot for the State House and the Gordon Persons Building. We will grow the spots and locations as the needs arise. I didn’t want to start out big and not get any participation. I would much rather start small, and as we get more traction, adjust accordingly. The locations we chose are centered near areas where we have large amounts of employees that may not have time to get to a brick and mortar establishment for lunch. We are hoping this is a convenience for the employees and also a business opportunity for the vendors.
Is there any other information you would like readers to know about the food truck movement or even the food/entertainment scene in Montgomery as a whole?
SJ: I think this is a prime example of government listening to the citizens of Montgomery and making a good reaction to their request. We cannot fulfill or act upon every request that is brought to the mayor’s office—that is just not possible—but we honestly review all requests we receive, vet them and make our decisions about what serves the public in the best possible way that we can. This is a great example of one of those successes.