The ripple effects of the food truck boom in northern Utah have been remarkable, creating new business opportunities and creating gathering places for residents in Wasatch Front communities.
There are currently 77 food trucks with Salt Lake County Health Department permits and 90-100 applications pending, according to Nicholas Rupp, a spokesperson for the SLCHD. This means Salt Lake County will likely be seeing many more food trucks in the months to come.
The coordination among the food trucks, food truck associations, industry agencies and municipalities is helping the mobile dining option spread like wildfire. One such agency playing a role in getting food trucks known throughout Utah (although the agency is headquartered in Los Angeles) is Roaming Hunger, a directory service and agency that markets food trucks.
Its purpose is to connect food trucks to private and public events, corporate events and weddings. Among the companies it has helped provide with food truck service are Google, Apple, Nike, NBC and others. It also offers marketing campaigns and promotions. One of its most impressive options is the mobile app that connects patrons to food trucks. The app allows customers to find the nearest food truck.
When asked how Roaming Hunger makes a profit, Alexis Evans, director of media relations, said, “We charge a small booking fee for completed food truck bookings.” This seems to be the typical protocol for services of this kind.
“The best way to describe what we do, is that we provide logistics for food trucks,” said Haley Tolzmann, CEO of Food Truck Underground. Part of its services is to work with municipalities on public areas for food trucks to service. Cities often call FTU, according to Tolzmann, if they want to invite food trucks to areas of their city, such parks, to bring traffic to that area. FTU also coordinates special events and catering for business parks, according to Tolzmann.
Tolzmann said any food truck can be a part of the program. All a food truck proprietor needs to do is fill out a form with vendor information and Tolzmann will contact them for events.
Tolzmann doesn’t charge any fees to be a part of the FTU, but does ask for a 10 percent cut of their earnings at each event coordinated by FTU. Typically, there is only a charge of $30 for a lunch event.
The Food Truck League is another association that is used by food trucks in Utah. It is located at 2230 S. Highland Drive, Salt Lake City, and forms markets with food trucks and live music every Monday from 6-10 p.m.
“Food Truck Thursdays at the Gallivan Center (a lineup of food trucks from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. each Thursday) has been going on for about three years now,” said Kristen Young, marketing and advertising event manager for the venue in downtown Salt Lake City. “Our motive is to provide a great city event.” The food trucks don’t pay fees to participate in this event, said Young.
According to Young, if food trucks want to get involved, participants are chosen by a lottery system. Owners must send an email at midnight on Sunday and if they are among the first seven to do so, they get to be a part of it the following Thursday’s lineup. “We get new food trucks every week. The competition is stiff,” said Young. As to why only seven trucks are invited each week, Young explained, “When we first started it, some of the brick-and- mortar restaurants weren’t very happy, so we agreed to limit it to a certain amount of trucks.”
The Gallivan Center also offers musicians an opportunity for exposure as part of the “Lunch Bunch Concert Series” Monday through Friday. On Thursdays, the musicians perform near the food trucks.
Jerry Basford, associate vice president of student affairs at the University of Utah, currently allows only eight food trucks on campus. Food trucks park in the library plaza and between the Union Building and Student Services Building. The rent for the food trucks, under an annual contract, is $250 monthly. A sidewalk pass to park on the sidewalk is also required, which costs $72.50 monthly. This allows the food trucks to be in these spots on campus for as long as they’d like. Basford said he is willing to look into adding more food trucks on other parts of the UofU campus if he can get approval.
Soho (named for south Holladay) is the only full-time, permanent food truck park in Utah, located at 4747 S. Holladay Blvd., Holladay, according to co-owner Shelly Olsen. Her food park is unique because it has seating available for more than 100 “foodies” and power available in each food truck stall so trucks won’t have to use their generators for electricity. The food park is currently open six days a week, excluding Sundays, from 5-10 p.m.
Olsen said she takes a small percentage of the actual food truck sales each visit so if there is a rainout the trucks won’t lose money. While the food trucks don’t have to pay any parking fees because she and her husband own the property, they do need to be registered annually with the city of Holladay. The food park will be open all year with heated areas during cold weather. “There is a real sense of community; people come and they stay,” remarked Olsen. To create ambiance, Olsen also has live music some nights and selected playlists for her on-site public address system.
When asked about the food truck scene in Utah, Adam Terry, the owner of Waffle Love, who recently competed on the Food Network’s reality show, “The Great Food Truck Race,” said, “The food truck scene has grown more diverse.” He said he started as the only food truck in Utah County three years ago and now has more than 40,000 followers on Instagram. “The best food trucks are good at one or two things,” he said.