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Are Food Trucks Really Good for Roswell?

My perspective… a continuation of anti-business by the same cronies.

Food Trucks are gaining an increased presence in Roswell with advocacy and support of local government and local business associations. The very groups that should be advocating and looking out for local businesses appear to be caught up in the wave of what is trendy and cool versus what is wise and practical. This is disappointing.

Food Trucks are undoubtedly popular and a chíc dining choices across the nation. From coast-to-coast the food truck evolution is taking root; it is featured in competitions and shows on television. Years ago, long before the novelty of high end cuisine from a truck came about, food trucks provided inexpensive chow to blue collar workers that could not get out to restaurants during scheduled lunch breaks. These are not your grandpa’s food trucks.

As white-collar suburban families race to Don White Park and Founders Park where these mobile dining boxes set up, overlooked is the slap to the face of local business owners.

In March 2012 Roswell’s municipal leaders signed into code an ordinance that allows for mobile food vendors in the City. Roswell’s ordinance provides for an applicant to pay an annual $150 fee (and meet minimum requirements that any similar business owner would meet) for the privilege of being a mobile food operator. That is it, that is all… $150. Did you know when it is a “City Sponsored Event” such as Alive After 5 this license requirement and fee are waived? Zero investment in our community. 

Consider local business owners’ perspectives.

Having personally developed, constructed and operated both businesses and organizations in the City of Roswell, my firsthand experiences demonstrate $150 does not begin to scratch the surface of financial burdens placed on local residents being entrepreneurial in the local community. Where is consideration for local, brick and mortar businesses that employ residents, support the local tax base, fuel a neighborhood economy and support the charitable needs of this community?

The ridiculousness of the food trucks minimal license fee goes beyond its impact on local restaurants though, without question, these are our neighbor proprietors most severely impacted. Want to add patio seating at your local eatery? Need to upgrade electrical or plumbing to accommodate your guests? Do you need a simple sandwich board sign? It is these simple necessities that our local businesses face daily. Ask anyone that has done it. The hurdles, the over-reaching requirements and fees make doing business in Roswell a challenge at best. $150 will not get you anywhere.

Until the City gets serious about pro-development behavior towards local business owners, there is a way we, local residents, can make a difference.

Several years ago when our nation fell into its “economic crisis”, a company I owned began a consulting initiative to local business owners known as Keep It Local. Our plan was part collaborative marketing, part education and part community philanthropy. Our success in North America opened doors where the Keep It Local program grew to impact local businesses in South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Colombia and Peru. Would that program help Roswell businesses today? Absolutely.

Nevertheless, with or without a formal program in place, the key for success is advocacy and commitment by local folks like you and I. I’m not urging you to make a plea to local government or walk in a protest march. (History shows government wouldn’t listen anyhow.) The only thing we need of government is LESS.

Vote with your wallet Roswell! This is step one. It has been proven time and again that just because something is trendy and popular, it isn’t necessarily good for you. Instead of heading to Don White Park this weekend, visit one of Roswell’s locally owned and operated restaurants. Let’s make a conscious effort to support the local folks that we call neighbors and that make our community a better place.

Vote in November! This November Roswell’s mayor and several council seats are up for election. Let’s hold our elected officials accountable. Let’s ask tough questions and let’s elect candidates with a proven platform of pro-Roswell, pro-Local Business. Let’s walk away from rhetoric and look to action.

Keep it local Roswell! It begins with you. Make an impact!

Jason Boles, Roswell Resident and Business Owner

 

“The “Roswell River Food Truck Weekends” are sponsored by the city’s Parks and Recreation Department and the Food Movement, an Atlanta food truck company.”

-ajc.com, July 1

 

Other links for reference:

http://www.ajc.com/news/business/food-trucks-coming-to-roswell-park/nYbJK/

 

http://roswell.patch.com/groups/politics-and-elections/p/food-truck-weekends-comes-to-roswell

 

https://www.facebook.com/RoswellRiverFoodTruckWeekends

 

http://www.roswellgov.com/documentcenter/view/2492

Scummy Al K July 19, 2013 at 01:46 PM
As somebody who was able to stop working for the man because technology made it possible for the little guy to compete against big companies, I am so glad that chefs can now start a business with minimal investment too. As an entrepreneur, I welcome food trucks in Roswell and Alpharetta. How ironic Slate linked to this post. Perhaps if they were more worried about a wait staff that loves to assemble in the kitchen and socialize rather than doing their job, they wouldn’t feel so threatened by the competition. If a food truck’s service was as clockwork incompetent as Slate’s, I’d stop patronizing them too.
Jason D Boles July 19, 2013 at 03:36 PM
Thanks for your perspective Scummy Al K! Opinion is what makes social medias such as this patch.com forum so great. I too am an entrepreneur. Just to be clear... the food trucks do not encounter or deal with near what a brick and mortar restaurant has to but I hardly call the local joints along Canton and Hwy 92, started and operated by locals as "big business"! That's my perspective. For full disclosure, SLATE is a client and owned/managed by good friends. I work with a lot of restaurants (have even been in the business). If you ask around, most local brick and mortar dining establishments come down on my side of the debate. As for your opinion of SLATE, I hate to hear you don't like the place. They are a client and one of my favorite places too. And, Roswell owned and Roswell managed, SLATE does a ton of great, philanthropic things for our local community. As for the dining experience, SLATE is going through some transition. It is about behind us. I hope you will come back in and give us a shot to show you what we are capable of! Again, thanks for weighing in!
Susanne Baskin July 19, 2013 at 03:58 PM
As a Roswell resident & long-time patron of the monthly Alive After 5 event, I support the presence of food trucks. Having waited for over an hour with two small children to get a seat at any of the participating restaurants, the food trucks offer a nice alternative for a quick & affordable meal on the go. There is plenty of business for everyone during this festival. We love the downtown restaurants & don't wish for any negative impact on them, but the addition of these trucks adds more options for the consumer & may foster some positive competition among the food providers. Again, there is plenty of business, and I'm thrilled that I can actually enjoy a fast meal with my two young children on these nights. Way to go Roswell for allowing more options for your residents, and fostering an atmosphere where all are welcome!
Scummy Al K July 19, 2013 at 04:02 PM
I was a huge early fan of Slate. But in addition to the apathetic, if not incompetent service, they eliminated all of their best items: cheesesteak, chorizo burger, and now I hear the lamb Rueben. The bar area is cool, nice craft beer selection, and unlike the waitstaff, the night bartender guy that everyone loves does a great job. You may want to look into the charity work that Happy Belly does and they are in charge of the food truck movement. He won a very prestigious award from the United Way for crying out loud. Not sure what went down with Todd Hogan but his leaving seemed to coincide with the downfall. I’ll still go there for a cold one, but I’ve eaten my last meal there. There are too many better options food and service wise.
Nathan Sears July 21, 2013 at 01:19 AM
First, if the issue is how expensive it is to be a local B&M restaurant in Roswell, then it seems we should be able to address this without having to disparage alternative options in the process. Second, I disagree with what seems to be the general assumption that if I dine at a food truck I am giving them money that would have otherwise been spent at a B&M restaurant. The reality is these are two totally different experiences and on a night where I want to eat at a food truck there was probably little chance that I was going to eat at a sit down restaurant. I am far more likely to opt for a food truck as a replacement for Fast food, take out, a hoagie and some snacks from Publix or simply eating at home. I personally do not see them as direct competition to B&M restaurants and the traditional dining experience, and ESPECIALLY not local restaurants like those on Canton St. Third, and specifically in regards to the Don White setup, my wife and I have often discussed how frustrating it is to have such a great path along the river that doesn't connect to any businesses, particularly for food. We live in walking distance to the path and I think it is fantastic that residents will now be able to enjoy a nice walk or bike along the path and then grab some food before heading home. In an area where creating a physical commercial space is likely impossible, at least in the near term and not without potential long term impacts to the parks, having food trucks service an area with ZERO competition nearby seems like a win-win for everyone, or at the very least an acceptable compromise. I plan on continuing to support food trucks and those who support them and would like to see a little less local business NIMBY and a little more focus on how we can continue to make this a positive future for all the people and businesses of Roswell.
Bethany Flowers July 22, 2013 at 05:23 PM
I don't really understand the attack on Slate as these issues aren't specific to Slate. It is difficult to understand why anyone would want to bash a merchant relentlessly, knowing that 30 families are dependent upon this 1 restaurant. That's another issue in and of itself and I'd be happy to discuss your personal frustrations with our menu outside this thread about food trucks and restaurants in general.
Bethany Flowers July 22, 2013 at 05:35 PM
It is difficult to understand why anyone would want to bash a merchant relentlessly, knowing that 30 families are dependent upon this 1 restaurant. That's another issue in and of itself and I'd be happy to discuss your personal frustrations with our menu outside this thread about food trucks and restaurants in general.
Jason D Boles July 23, 2013 at 10:26 AM
It seems a lot of people are missing the point. The point is double standards effecting business owners -- one group working diligently to invest in community and the other taking money from the community. (It almost sounds like the nation's immigration debate at times!) We are all very pleased with the success of Roswell. At SLATE, we have a strong love for our community which in part, is shown in the charity work we continue to be involved in, personally and professionally. My wife and I run a local street ministry, Audacious Faith, and partner with numerous local groups to assist Roswell neighbors. What does not make sense, is how Roswell residents have a tremendous amount of red tape, fees and costs to get through in order to be in business (if you've ever started one in Roswell, you understand) while the food trucks, using the subject matter of this original post, simply drive in, cherry-pick the best days, and leave, with no accountability to the city or its residents; and, our local government is actually sponsoring them (using tax dollars from residents)! We deal with so much as "fixtures". Most recently, we have the police giving grief over a single table being positioned outside of a designated chain link during Alive After 5 (still on property), so guests have an additional place to sit and still be a part of the festivities. Where are the food trucks designated eating areas? Some things just don't add up. Bring on the food trucks and any honest business - make it honest, fair, and beneficial to our community. For now, I stand by my post --- Keep It Local.
Martin Howell July 25, 2013 at 08:47 AM
Who, other than a shill for Canton St, would gripe about new and exciting food options coming to Roswell in locations with zero other dining options?
Jason D Boles July 25, 2013 at 02:28 PM
Martin, a shill is someone that is not transparent. I am quite the contrary. It is great for you to hold a different perspective and share a different opinion, but please be accurate in your facts as I have been. I make no bones about having clients on Canton Street or owning a business on Canton Street. I own several businesses in Roswell. Further, you have misconstrued statements I have written. I love seeing exciting, new food options coming to Roswell. Heck, along with business partners, I too am exploring ways to bring dining options into our community. There is vast difference in building a local business, restaurant or otherwise, and being a vendor that solicits on a frequency of their choosing without accountability and negligible cost. I respect all opinions "pro" and "con" food truck. I am "con". I am against because they are not subject to the same local regulatory environment brick and mortar businesses are subject and because they do not reinvest in our local community. Careful with your choice of words! Misstating facts can make your perspective incredulous.
Martin Howell July 27, 2013 at 01:38 PM
So you're a paid propagandist and not a shill. Congratulations.
Jeff July 27, 2013 at 07:55 PM
Martin - you sound like a big ole grouch. I think Jason laid out a very thoughtful analysis and perspective. Jeff bridges
Martin Howell July 27, 2013 at 08:18 PM
Jeff your post lacks logic necessary for a good discussion, as a grouch wouldn't be the one arguing for more dining options in Roswell. That term might apply, however, to the one arguing for less options for the Roswell diners specifically to financially benefit his clients on Canton St.
Bethany Flowers July 28, 2013 at 05:34 PM
No one has "argued for less dining options." Further, Jason's original written opinion gives legitimate reasons as to why he is "con" food trucks, none of which have anything to do with trying to undercut food trucks or "benefit clients." In fact, his main point was in regards to supporting and giving back to our community. It is absurd to believe that anyone would want to argue with someone trying to promote ways to ensure our community remains the amazing one that most of us know and love. As several people have already pointed out, it's not about competition between food trucks and restaurants. There is definitely room for new businesses. I agree with his former comment that the one "misstating facts should be careful with his words." Those "facts" are nothing more than uninformed, incorrect statements, thus the perspective is becoming incredulous.
Martin Howell July 28, 2013 at 06:48 PM
Just finished a very exciting meal at 2 of the 3 "controversial" food trucks at Don White Park. I enjoyed a great Philly sandwich and the kids shared an empanada with a side of herb potatoes. Completely different trucks and variety from when we went there last Sunday. Funny thing though, not a single Roswell restaurant had a presence down there. Good thing some of our City leaders appreciate exciting and often exotic eating opportunities where zero previously existed.
Bill Solomon July 29, 2013 at 12:39 AM
Food trucks in Riverside parks fill a much needed niche that has nothing to do with local Roswell restaurants or they would have fulfilled that need with food carts by now. I say allow food trucks at East Roswell Park and Roswell Area Parks, too, in fulfillment of a niche not being met. I love the restaurants in the greater historical area (Canton St. is NOT the only location for local dining-the lack of more parking has limited Canton St. eateries to its current state for the most part). The food trucks on Alive at Five days fill a need the restaurants cannot - being seated and served food within a reasonable time frame. The food trucks are only allowed on those specific days, so what's the real problem? Canton St. has to a degree become a victim of its own success. Enough of the whining already.
Jackie Irish July 30, 2013 at 10:02 AM
Permanent restaurants complaining about food trucks seems a lot like 7-11 complaining that Joann Fabrics is allowed to sell snacks: unnecessarily and unfairly territorial. The fact is food trucks are simply not viable competitors to permanent establishments. For one, food truck schedules are erratic and dependent upon large gatherings of potential customers, whereas restaurants rely on prime locations and developed reputations. Only extraordinarily and unusually popular mobile food providers could ever hope to attract customers solely based on their reputation and then, only if customers can locate the truck wherever it may be on any particular day. More commonly, trucks have to seek out areas where large numbers of people will congregate with the hope that those people will be hungry and want the food offered. Those options themselves are limited to gatherings where food trucks can find the space (legally and physically) to occupy and those events are rarely in the same areas that permanent restaurants occupy. The fact is there are no prepared food options within a mile or more of Don White park, so any complaint from local restaurants that there are simply ANY food trucks operating ANYwhere in the entire city of Roswell are spurious. And regarding Alive After Five, the presence of food trucks on the periphery of Canton street could not by any reasonable measure be described as hurting the permanent restaurant business on those nights. As for parity in licensing fees and other costs comparisons between food trucks vs. brick & mortar locations, it is true that one costs more to own/operate than than the other. Mercedes cost more than Fords. Which one do you want/can you afford? It's not up to the government nor the populace to make permanent restaurants less expensive to operate so that there is some illusory parity with other, less expensive businesses. If food trucks are held to less stringent standards regarding food handling, safety or operations then they those standards should be enforced as the laws were written -but not simply for the sake of parity. And any restaurateur who envies the low cost of running a food truck is free to enter the marketplace with a truck or trucks of their own.
George Smith July 30, 2013 at 10:48 AM
Thanks for the food truck heads up - I'll be heading down there this weekend both days - hopefully the Indian one will be there
Scummy Al K July 30, 2013 at 12:15 PM
George, will say in all fairness, "the Indian" food truck isn't among the best and the Riverside event does not include the blue ribbon trucks. For a good breakdown of the pros and cons of the the local events, check out http://285foodies.com/forum/metro-atlanta/food-trucks-carts-and-stands-street-food/105/ It's a breakdown of which trucks put out quality food and service much like a certain Canton Street restaurant was slated to do.
Some dude who lives in Roswell July 31, 2013 at 10:05 AM
"It's a breakdown of which trucks put out quality food and service much like a certain Canton Street restaurant was SLATED to do." Oh man. Shots fired!
Morris Devereaux August 20, 2013 at 08:54 AM
As just a resident without ANY ties to any particular restaurant, I just want to throw in my two cents about this .... debate. On one hand, I'm a firm believer in competition. If our B&M restaurants choose not to provide convenient food at the parks (and they never have), then they have no grounds to complain when someone else fills the niche they have ignored for years. BUT, on the other hand, there is absolutely no reason our B&M restaurants should have to endure more regulation and governmental paperwork than food trucks do. Both are food providers and should have identical requirements. Charging food trucks $150 and our B&M Restaurants hundreds more plus a great deal more regulation does nothing more than drive off B&M businesses. That's all I have. Let the fight continue again without interruption!

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