Austin, TX: Food trucks finding their place

Austin, TX: Food trucks finding their place

Food trucks were a part of Austin’s culture long before sprawling growth took over the city.

By Paige Lambert  |  Hays Free Press

Brandon Alarcon passes along a coffee during the morning rush. 911 Donuts and Diner has been in its current location since January and has doubled its profits since they first started. (Photo by Paige Lambert)
Brandon Alarcon passes along a coffee during the morning rush.
911 Donuts and Diner has been in its current location since
January and has doubled its profits since they first started.
(Photo by Paige Lambert)

Food trucks were a part of Austin’s culture long before sprawling growth took over the city.

As trends and ideas funnel down Interstate 35, food trucks may soon become an integrated part of Kyle’s culture as well. 

“It’s a trend that’s started all over the country,” Dave Sims Jr., Down South Railhouse co-founder, said. “There’s not a lot of overhead, so it’s a good business model.”

According to Sims, the food truck model helped Down South when it was obtaining approval from the city to sell food inside the business.  

Response to the food truck was so great, the owners decided to create a food trailer park on-site. 

“It began the extension of our outdoor phases,” he said. “We wanted more of an outdoor venue and this would be a great way to do it.”

Since the city allowed food trucks in 2011, more mobile businesses, such as Most Wanted Smoker and 911 Donuts & Diner, have made Kyle their home.

Even with the increase in the number of food trucks, some Kyle residents and officials aren’t sure if food trucks will have a lasting effect.

Assistant City Manager James Earp said provisions were included in a 2011 ordinance to keep Kyle from reflecting Austin in regards to food trucks. 

Earp said only two food trucks can be at the same location, and must be located by a brick and mortar business. 

“Despite their success in Austin, there are a lot of people who have invested in this community,” Earp said, referring to brick and mortar business owners. “It’s more about what the community wants to do.”

Earp said the city also had concerns of food trailer parks not having accessible restrooms if it isn’t by a business.

“Food trucks are more about finding several locations that will work for you and circulating between those,” Earp said. “It’s always going to be limited to if businesses want that in their parking lot.”

But according to city ordinance, food trucks are also required to change locations every nine months. 

Brandon Alarcon, owner of 911 Donuts & Diner, said he hoped the city would not require food trucks to move locations so frequently.

“You spend nine months building up your business and then you have to move it somewhere else,” Alarcon said. “I want to stay here in one place so people know where I’m at.”

While the ordinance requires food trucks to be by a business, Alarcon said he has no aspirations of moving to a dedicated food truck park.

Stationing at a food truck park would cost him four times more than his current location, which is near the intersection of Center Street and FM 150 

“This is one of the busiest spots in Kyle and there’s nothing really to eat around here, especially in the morning,” Alarcon said. “I wanted to open a place with comfort food and other offerings.”

Kyle Chamber of Commerce CEO Julie Snyder said she didn’t think Kyle is a place where food trucks could thrive.

“We want to support entrepreneurs, but they seem to thrive in only a high density area,” Snyder said. “It’s all about making sure you are eating a quality product just like you would get at a restaurant.”

Even so, Alarcon’s business has doubled since he moved in January. 

Since he doesn’t have a brick-and-mortar lease to strap him in, Alarcon has the flexibility to change menu items based on customer’s requests.

He said people like the personalization, and expects more people will become regulars to his business. 

“If someone suggests a change I can do that as well and I think people around here really like that,” Alarcon said. “If it stays busy I would like to open a restaurant but I’ll have to see in the next six months.”

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