Sarasota, FL: Food Trucks Plan for Loss of Picnic Site

By David Conway  |  Your Observer


The Suncoast Food Truck Picnic has called 242 S. Washington Blvd. home since 2012. The local food truck collective has grown since this flagship event was established, but the gathering along U.S. 301 seems destined to come to an end soon.

Mark Kauffman, owner of the South Washington Boulevard property, is in the process of developing the land. Kauffman said Capstan Financial Consulting Group will occupy about 6,000 square feet of the two-story Payne Park Plaza, while a law firm is in discussions to use the other 2,200 square feet. The plaza is slated to be built sometime next year.

If the city approves construction of Payne Park Plaza in the coming weeks, as staff has recommended, the trucks that frequent the picnic will have to find a new place to park during the lunchtime hours.

Andrew Seely, owner of Suncoast Food Trucks, said he appreciated the chance to use the land to begin with. Mindy Kauffman, Kauffman’s daughter, helped start the organization and developed the idea for the food truck picnic in 2011.

Seely, whose Flying Sliders truck was one of the first members, said Suncoast Food Trucks grew from four trucks to more than 20 over the past 20 months. He credited the picnic as a major factor in that growth.

“The picnic was an amazing opportunity,” Seely said. “Suncoast Food Trucks cannot thank Mindy enough for all the work she did to get our foot in the door.”

Although Seely said the picnic was an important growth opportunity, it wasn’t much of a moneymaker.

“It was always a stepping stone for us,” Seely said. “We learned a lot, and we were able to make a lot of good networking connections.”

Now, Seely said, vendors can team up with local businesses and events — like the Sarasota Chalk Festival, where Suncoast Food Trucks will have a presence — for more lucrative outings.

Seely is scouting new locations for a new Sarasota food-truck hub, although he couldn’t say anything definitive because the permitting process is still ongoing. Saying goodbye to the current picnic site might be difficult, he said, but it’s part of the nature of the business.

“We’re going to have to move on,” Seely said. “That’s the whole point of food trucks, in general. We find a spot we can park in, and then we move on to the next stop.”