By Ryan Pinkard | Daily Camera
Children yelled and cavorted on the playground, an elderly couple logged laps around the pond, a father taught his son how to cast a fly rod. It was lunchtime on an idyllic day at East Boulder Community Park, and the first day mobile food trucks were allowed to do business there.
The problem? There were no trucks to be found.
Boulder’s pilot food truck program didn’t exactly roar from the starting gate on its first Saturday allowing mobile food vendors in select city parks.
As of early Saturday afternoon, no food trucks were spotted at Harlow Platts Community Park, East Boulder Community Park or Foothills Community Park, each of which now allows between two and five food trucks to do business in defined areas. Two vendors were at North Boulder Park, however both were privately hired to show up for a company barbecue.
“It’s awesome the pilot program is happening,” said Tyler Martini of The Wandering Cow frozen yogurt truck, “but it may need to go further.”
Martini, who opened Wandering Cow just over a year ago, said it’s not worth any truck vendor’s time to show up in a park. Despite now having the freedom to do so, Martini doesn’t expect most food trucks to rely on the walk-up business of visitors at a neighborhood park.
“Even on a day like today, a Saturday with perfect weather, we wouldn’t be able to make a profit if we were to just show up,” said Martini.
He suggested the creation of designated events where food trucks show up and people know to come, such as a farmers’ market or Prospect Eats in Longmont, where vendors and citizens gather every Monday night in summer to eat listen to live music.
Such an assembly of food trucks, called “podding”, is also part of the pilot program which occurs Sundays at the municipal campus parking lot, west of Broadway and south of Canyon Boulevard, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
There will also be late-night food service from three lottery-selected vendors 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, on the corner of Broadway and Arapahoe Avenue.
Martini foresees more success with these events, while he doesn’t necessarily plan on using his late-night slots to sell frozen yogurt.
Pizzeria Basta, which operates a mobile pizza oven as an extension of its brick-and-mortar restaurant, was also at North Boulder Park for a private event. Owner Kelly Whitaker said he rarely takes the traveling oven to “drop and go” events for the same reason — not enough customers — despite already having all the required mobile food vending permits.
Nonetheless, he thinks the pilot program is a move in the right direction.
“Boulder’s laws have been so tricky that trucks have reached out to surrounding areas like Longmont,” Whitaker said.
It seems some believe the ideal regulations for food trucks would be no regulations at all. Lindsey Mandel, co-owner of the RollinGreens food truck, told the Camera in April that she estimates her sales could triple if allowed to move freely in areas such as downtown Boulder.
While brick-and-mortar restaurants are currently protected from food truck competition, Basta’s Whitaker said they should embrace them.
“If 10 food trucks pulled in front of my business, I would be ecstatic,” said Whitaker, “more people equates to more business.”
Whitaker added, “It’s such a fun way to eat food. We want to see the culture boom.”