George Makris' increasingly popular Hip Pocket Deli food truck is building a following at a site that could be ripe for a food truck park. Photo credit: Shannon Nickinson
Big things have small beginnings, and no more so than Austin's massive food truck industry.
It all started in the mid-1990s in this sprawling Texas city with a single hot dog food trailer.
Today, at last count, the metro Austin area has more than 2,000 licensed food trucks, offering everyday customers and hard-core foodies a dizzying variety of culinary choices.
Pensacola City Council has struggled for three years to find a way to accommodate food trucks — which represent up-and-coming entrepreneurs and established restaurateurs — which represent small businesses that have invested in the city and its burgeoning revitalization.
Escambia County officials may be the next to tackle the issue as Commissioner Doug Underhill has proposed a pilot food truck program be set up in Warrington near Barrancas and Live Oak avenues.
There is a food truck already there — George Makris’ Hip Pocket Deli, which does steady lunchtime business.
The Hip Pocket was a brick-and-mortar Warrington fixture from more than 20 years until February, when it was closed and demolished under eminent domain by the Florida Department of Transportation for a road widening project.
The Pensacola News Journal’s Julio Diaz suggests a compromise that would make Palafox north of Garden Street the epicenter of food trucks.
How the Austin area economy has accommodated what became a huge and rapidly growing food truck industry is perhaps best illustrated by Round Rock, a suburb a few miles north of the city's downtown commercial core.
The Round Rock City Council recently passed an ordinance that allows existing, brick-and-mortar businesses to sponsor food trucks on their properties.
The idea behind the new ordinance is to make it easier for food trucks to do business in certain designated parts of the city, said Jenny Steward, a spokesperson for the Austin Chamber of Commerce.
To obtain a license to have a food truck operate on site, a brick-and-mortar business must pay an annual fee of $150.
The new ordinance also allows food trucks to operate in city parks for special events, on university and college campuses, as well as in the parking lots of brick-and-mortar businesses.
The ordinance does not allow food trucks to operate in vacant lots or park and operate along side streets in commercial areas or residential neighborhoods.
Food truck operators must have a county-issued food operator's permits and be inspected by the local fire department.
Moreover, food trucks can only operate during the time the business that invited is operating.
In other words, if a business hosting a food truck closes at 5 p.m., the food truck operator must also shut down its operations at that same time.