16 Jan Tasty Truckin’
Food Trucks are Here To Stay—What’s Your Plan?
A bar full of alcohol, and a truck full of food—sounds like a match made in heaven, yes? Imagine the patrons in your bar have just drunk their way through a multi-hour happy hour. Now they’re looking to change locations, mainly because your establishment doesn’t serve food, and the beer munchies are kicking in. A large group is headed for the door, when lo and behold, right in front of their slightly glazed eyes, a food truck pulls up outside. It’s a nice night, and the truck has a wide variety menu that seems to satisfy everyone, so they grab their food in the parking lot and come right back inside for round two. It’s a win, win, win.
Food trucks parking at venues like college campuses, music festivals, and even private parties have become a popular trend over the last few years. Now, bar establishments are catching on to the trend and the benefits of these kitchens on wheels. There are several ways bars are going about bringing food trucks to their businesses.
MacDinton’s Irish Pub, a Tampa, Florida bar and restaurant, has recently started its own on-site, food truck. You might be wondering, if it’s also a restaurant, why have a food truck? Well, MacDinton’s doesn’t necessarily want to maintain an entire kitchen for 4 1/2 more hours, but they also don’t want to eliminate food for their late night guests entirely, nor lose bar sales. The food truck, accessible from outside the bar, as well as from one of the bar decks, offers a quick and low cost menu with nothing pricing over $7. Menu items include: tacos, fried jalapeño cheese balls, a pressed BBQ pulled pork mac and cheese sandwich, and the classic burger. Bar manager Kevin Richardson says having an ATM built into the truck helps with business as well. “They stand there at the ATM right next to the window and you smell the BBQ sauce, the brats, and the tacos, it gets you hungry,” Richardson explained. The MacDinton’s food truck is mobile, but is open on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturday nights until 3 a.m.
Maybe your bar doesn’t have a kitchen, and you’re not ready to invest in one before seeing how your customers react to food being made available, if ever. An Austin, Texas bar, The Brixton (featured on an episode of Bar Rescue) decided, with the advice of Jon Taffer, that offering food to their patrons would be a smart business decision. Without having to build and staff a kitchen, the bar owners were able to bring in food with a popular trend, a food truck. The food truck parks outside of the bar. Customers can approach the truck or order right from the bar through a tablet based ordering system that sends the food order and payment out to the truck. A server then runs the order from the truck right to the customer. This keeps guests in the bar and ordering more drinks to go with their food.
While many bars are latching onto the food truck phenomenon, there are, of course, bar and restaurant owners who aren’t getting on board. Neighboring establishments of bars that are bringing in food trucks aren’t exactly keen on fresh competition in places they didn’t expect. It has become enough of an issue for these establishments that cities like Albuquerque, New Mexico are proposing ordinances that will prohibit food trucks from setting up outside of bars and restaurants without permission. They are also implementing fees, basically rent, which secure a certain location in the city, for a designated time, for a limited number of trucks. This “site cost” system is currently in place in Boston, allotting 18 different locations in the city to be “rented” by vendors. With cities instituting these laws and regulations, you can bet others are considering it. So it might be savvy to establish a positive relationship with surrounding businesses if you’re thinking about bringing a food truck around to your bar. —Amanda Webber