Keep on Trucking
Love food trucks? Thank the New Orleans Food Truck Coalition.
While business is by nature competitive, the spirit of collaboration runs through much of the entrepreneurial movement in New Orleans. Mentoring, sharing office space, collective resources – clearly, many local entrepreneurs ascribe to the “grow the pie” theory.
Speaking of pie, collaborative entrepreneurism is typified by the emergence of food trucks in New Orleans – since it took forming the New Orleans Food Truck Coalition for any one of these new businesses to succeed.
“I was at a food truck conference in August 2011,” recalls Rachel Billow, founder of the coalition and a proud new food truck owner at that time, “and in discussing food truck laws, New Orleans was mentioned as being very restrictive.”
When she and her partner, Benoit Angulo, attempted to get permits for their truck, La Cocinita, no one mentioned that no permits were actually available.
“The legislation covering food trucks dated from 1956, and included produce vendors, Lucky Dog carts, snowballs, you name it,” says Billow. “In reality, there was no opportunity for food trucks.”
Billow joined with fellow food truck entrepreneurs to form the coalition in spring 2012. They then worked with the administration and City Council to change the legislation. While they had to agree to certain restrictions, they scored a key victory in removing limits regarding proximity to restaurants.
Most importantly, food trucks now have a separate designation, with 100 permits set aside just for them.
“Food trucks and restaurants coexist happily in many other cities,” she says. “They create the cluster effect that restaurants themselves ascribe to.”
Food trucks also create very distinct dining experiences: when several food trucks set up in the same area, it creates something like an outdoor food court. A sit-down meal with friends or business associates is entirely different than grabbing a bite to go sit in a park or bring back to the office.
“Food trucks also help fill the late-night food niche,” adds Billow, who cites the famous Calle de Hambre in her husband’s native Caracas, Venezuela, as a prime example of La Cocinita’s inspiration. “People in New Orleans definitely want late-night eating options.”
The Food Truck Variety Show
More than 20 food trucks are licensed in New Orleans. From New Orleans soul and comfort food to Vietnamese banh mi and Latin American to Middle Eastern cuisine, there’s something for every taste bud to love.
Those looking to satisfy a sweet tooth are also in luck; additional food truck offerings include crepes, ice cream and other desserts. There’s even Food Drunk, a truck that offers “alcohol-influenced cuisine.”
For a complete listing of food trucks, as well as how you can book one for your next event, check out the Food Truck Coalition website, NolaFoodTrucks.com.