By Art Morris Jr. | NapaValleyRegister.com
I’ve followed much of the controversy regarding the food trucks in Napa and want to say to the leadership of Napa, “catch up to the ‘90s.”
Cities around the nation have embraced food trucks as a means to providing food to residents and visitors at a reasonable cost. With the high cost of commercial brick and mortar real estate in Napa, food trucks are a very logical alternative for the low-wage, blue collar workers here who cannot afford to eat at the trendy, high-cost tourist traps.
In a sense, food trucks helped make Napa in recent history. Napans who worked at Mare Island enjoyed food trucks on their breaks. Workers would hear their melodic horns announce that hot food had arrived. Similarly, workers at Travis Air Force Base had food trucks patrolling the flight line and industrial buildings for airmen and civilians to enjoy hot food and snacks to keep them working. Food trucks were a morale booster to these workers, as they are to the workers of Napa. Aside from fast food places, some standard national franchises like Denny’s, Applebee’s, IHOP and a handful of good local eateries, Napa has very few reasonably priced alternatives for food. The vast majority of restaurants (other than fast food) are expensive and cater to either the tourist or the wealthy in our area. Food trucks provide good food at a good price because they don’t have the same overhead costs of a commercial building. Since they don’t have to pay for rent or mortgage, electricity, heat, seating and fixtures and a load of staff, food trucks can keep prices down and still make livable margins.
Napa has the opportunity to create a comprehensive plan for providing food to the residents and visitors of Napa and expand the tax base. There is room here for all: Expensive and inexpensive, sit-down served and walk-up take-out. Napa got its name for its humble fine wines in a snobbish industry. Now it is Napa who has become snobbish by doing everything in its power to prevent or make it almost impossible for Napa’s blue collar workers from getting good and fine dining, quality food at low prices. Food trucks can provide variety from burgers, sandwiches, ethnic, healthy salads and wraps to high-end professionally trained chefs who make wonderful presentations in a cardboard box. You can get everything from food trucks.
Portland, Ore. has embraced food trucks as part of its trendy places to eat. Many towns depend on them to feed their blue-collar work force for all meals. It’s fine that the white- collar professionals can take time for a three-martini lunch, but many of the people who keep this city running get only a 30-minute break to eat. Most city and county government employees get only about a 40-minute lunch. Where can they go get a fast, quality hot meal on their small paychecks and short breaks?
Recently, the History Channel aired a program called Modern Marvels about the food truck boom in the United States. In it, they spoke of the origins of the food truck as the chuck wagon on the cattle drives. Food trucks continue that tradition of following the hard-working people who make this nation what it is. When there is a natural disaster, like a flood or earthquake, food trucks can move to where the food is needed and don’t need electricity from the grid. Food trucks are owned by locals, not national franchises, big corporations, or out of town celebrities.
Napa has become known for is innovations in the wine and food industry by breaking from the established traditions of the world. Why should that innovation be limited to traditional restaurants? The people of Napa deserve to have the very best available to them. The city leaders need to drop their good-old boy traditions and embrace what the rest of the nation has already adopted by allowing the food trucks to provide for the citizens and working force of Napa. It’s time to benchmark off the other communities who have found that the food truck is a valuable part of the community.